What does it cost to operate F-22s, CV-22s and Air Force One?

On Friday, we compared the actual operational costs of four different fleets in the US Air Force inventory over the past decade, with data supplied by the Center for Defense Information’s sources. The charts revealed some startling trends among the USAF’s aging and most mature combat aircraft.

Now it’s going to get a little weird.

We are turning our focus today to less mature or less numerous aircraft types in the USAF inventory. Remember we are using a metric called operational cost per flight hour (CPFH) This excludes only modifications funded by procurement accounts. The operational CPFH includes the costs of fuel, manpower, spares and maintenance. It also adds in the cost of building new hangars and standing up new bases, which tends to skew the data especially as new aircraft types come on line.

It’s unfair to compare new aircraft that have entered service in the last 10 years to previous models that have spent decades already in the fleet. But it may be worthwhile to compare them to each other. The USAF has introduced two all-new aircraft in the last decade — the Lockheed Martin F-22 and the Bell Boeing CV-22. In the first year each was introduced, they yielded an operational CPFH of $2,855,132 and $24,463,579, respectively. These numbers are so wildly off the mean that we deleted from the chart below. Both sets of numbers can fluctuate wildly as production deliveries are completed and supply chains mature.



Another category that produces some spectacularly pricey operational CPFH metrics are fleets of highly specialised aircraft. These include such well-known aircraft as the VC-25 (better known as “Air Force One” when the President is on board) and the E-4B national airborne operations center. There are only two of the former and four of the latter, so all manpower, fuel and maintenance costs are borne by a very small sample size. Even more specialised, and less well-known, are the WC-135 Constant Phoenix fleet, which sniffs for nuclear radiation. There is only one WC-135W, which has thrust reversers, and one WC-135C, which doesn’t. The WC-135W is the USAF’s most expensive CPFH, but that’s less meaningful since there is only one of them.



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6 Responses to What does it cost to operate F-22s, CV-22s and Air Force One?

  1. ChuckL 29 August, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    I should find the “out-the-door” cost and the “hourly cost of operation” to be a much better analysis system. The inclusion of the base costs makes the false assumption that there is no base cost involved with other craft and that each item must be charged for anything that it uses even when the same thing is used by other craft.

    The system used for this report appears to include multi-use infrastructure. There is also apparently no method used to determine the effectiveness of each craft when the assigned duties are comparable.

    As a case in point, compare the F-22 and the F-35.
    The 22 carries 8 internal air to air weapons.
    The 35 carries only 4 internal a-a weapons
    The protected area is almost twice as large for the 22 as for the 35.
    This indicates that it would take 4 F-35s to do the same job of protection as 1 (one) F-22.

    I have never seen a cost comparison that takes this disparity into account. Nor one that even attempts to take the better stealth capabilities of the F-22 into account, nor one that compares the cost to protect a given area.

  2. Justin 30 August, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    You won’t see a break down like that because people would then question the insane decision to cancel the F-22 and push forward with the F-35.

  3. Torstein Tobiassen 30 August, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    In the September 2011 issue of Air Forces Monthly there is a 24 page JSF supplement. On page 60 it states: “Lockheed Martin is currently redesigning the weapons bays and doors to allow the carriage of up to three AMRAAMs in each bay, thereby increasing air-to-air combat persistence by 50%.”

  4. Grau Eric 30 August, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    To Torstein Tobiassen:

    What will be the cost of this redesign and the later fleet-wide retrofit, and who will account and pay for this not insignifant addition?

  5. cc 1 September, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Where does the F-18 fit in to all of this?

  6. G Whelton 5 September, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Just plain silly (silly) to include buildings and bases in P/H costs. It must be one of those statistics to support a point of view, but with no actual value. Every aircraft needs a hanger, a place to park, maybe a runway, and a base with fence, guards, lawnmowers, and there is no way to compare this auxillary expense. Silly people! GW

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