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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rising Fighter Aircraft Costs

USAF Fighter Aircraft Cost over time 1945-2011

The dates listed are references to how much each aircraft was worth at that time followed by a; with the modern equivalent in 2011 dollars. The dates do not reflect when the aircraft went into service.

P-51 Mustang $50,000 (1945); $627,005.56 (2011)
F-86A Sabre $178,408 (1950); $1,670,979.69 (2011)
F-4C Phantom II $1,900,000 (1965); $13,614,977.78 (2011)
F-15A Eagle $27,900,000 (1998); $38,635,851.53 (2011)
F-22A Raptor $150,000,000 (2009); $157,820,329.36 (2011)
F-35A Lighting II $122,000,000 (2011)

BAF Fighter Aircraft Cost over time 1939-2011

Note: the following figures are already adjusted for inflation and converted from their original respective currencies i.e. pounds or euros. The dates after the arrow indicated when each aircraft went into service.

Supermarine Spitfire $800,971.69 (2011) ->1939
Harrier Jump Jet $23,000,000 (2011) -> 1969
Panavia Tornado $29,393,436.93 (2011) -> 1979
Eurofighter Typhoon $141,784,192.02 (2011) ->2003
F-35A Lighting II $122,000,000 (2011)

Russian Air force Fighter Aircraft Cost over time 1959-2010
Note: the following figures were not adjusted to 2011 dollars as references for these date of each dollar equivalent could not be found with the exception of the SU-35S and Pak FA T-50

Mig-21 $1,500,000 (2011) -> 1959
Mig-29 $29,000,000 (2011) -> 1982
SU-27 $30,000,000 (2011) -> 1984
SU-35S $65,000,000 (2011) -> 2005
PAK FA T-50 $100,000,000 (2011) -> 2010


Since their inception over the skies of Western Europe during World War I, fighter aircraft have become more technologically advanced and capable with each newer generation. But as a result of this increased capability comes an astronomical increase in cost. For the most part, the astronomical increase in price HAS been worth the near exponential increase in capabilities. During World War II, hundreds of B-29 Super Fortress' dropped thousands of bombs in a saturation attempt to often hit one factory. Today, a single B-2 Spirit can hit 16 different targets with JDAM 2,000 pound GPS guided munitions while remaining undetected by the enemy. The same increase in cost and lethality is true for fighter aircraft.

The F-15 Eagle is the most decorated fighter in modern history with an unparalleled 104 to ZERO kill ratio. Although the F-15 costs much more than its predecessor the F-4 Phantom II, its service record PROVES that its increased lethality justified its cost. In the same way, the latest generation of stealth aircraft will be justified. In mock dogfights, veteran F-15C and F-16C pilots are pitted against F-22A raptor pilots. Raptor pilots commonly fight 4 to 5 F-15Cs and "don't break a sweat" according to one pilot. This is one RAAF pilot who describes fighting F-22As during a Red Flag exercise in 2007.

"'I can’t see the [expletive deleted] thing,” said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. “It won’t let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me.'”- Austrian Exchange pilot, Red Flag 2007, from Defense Industry Daily

Currently, the F-22A holds a 144-1 kill ratio in simulated dogfights. Its cheaper less capable cousin the F-35, is "400%" more capable than any 4th generation fighter according to the USAF.

In conclusion, aircraft with continue to become more technologically advanced and as a result, become much more expensive. Despite what politicians say, this trend has been going on since the creation of fighter aircraft. And in my view, the increase in cost of these aircraft is worth their increase in capability (F-22A and F-35A not the Eurofighter, a separate article will discuss that in detail). It simply means that we require less aircraft to get the job done which is a major bonus for logistical support.

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