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May 07, 2008


Jim S

I wonder if it doesn't make more sense to look at the cost, not only adjusted for inflation, but normalized as a capability. In other words, how many P-80's were needed to support the mission now provided for by 184 F-22's? The aircraft are more expensive today, but they are also much more capable and consequently fewer of them are needed. That isn't to say that there aren't massive inefficiencies in today's system, but I don't think an airframe to airframe comparison is telling the whole story.


Remember that the bulk of the F-22's cost is in avionics and software - which just didn't count back in the days of the P80. Great read though - I am sure the ineffecienies related to defense aquisition could never be seen in a competitive industry like the car industry, you just won't survive.

Eric Hillmuth

The comparison to the older fighter is interesting but I wonder if planes are just more expensive period these days. The list price for an 777 or an A340 is pretty high, over 100 million (I think?) and that market is extremely competitive. Even with those 'deep' discounts everybody says airlines get that is still a lot of money and nobody is going to drive a better bargain than those cash strapped airlines. I wonder how the price of a P-80 compares with a top of the line 1945 era airliner like the Lockheed Constellation and how that relates to the difference between the price of an F-22/Eurofighter/Grippen/Rapheal and say an 777?

More generally though it does seem like if things keep going the way they are going we won't be able to afford to defend ourselves.

Finley Miller

We are buying F22s and not P38s. If you want to buy several hundred P38s you could probably get them at about their inflation adjusted cost. It is insane to compare a F22 to the cost of a P38. The factories could turn those planes out at a rate of 1 per hour. The F22 wing skins alone take 10s of thousands of man-hours labor.

Also, I think the winslow wheeler article is confusing the per unit price tag of the P38 with the total development cost of an F22. The per unit cost excluding development costs for the F22 is more in the neighborhood of half that figure. He should look at the development costs of the B29 the truly high-tech aircraft of the day, and compare that to the F22. Calculating the value of the planes based on max speed and service ceiling are novel ways to asses the value of an aircraft! I think Winslow should spend a little more time reading up on the "other special characteristics" of the aircraft.

Your points about dispersing the work all over the place so every senator has something to tell the folks at home is a good point. But competition will never arrise again unless you want to buy planes from other countries. We have so few new programs that there simply isn't enough work to support a large number of prime contractors. Companies can't just sit by twiddling their thumbs while they wait for the next competition they have to have a product to stay in business. I think the only way to really reign in waste is to only award fixed price contracts. If the contractor is only going to make money if they keep costs down, they might find a way to be better at it! It worked for the C17, which was fixed price...

One more thing... if you think our planes are expensive try going to Europe to buy a Grippen, Eurofighter, or Dassalt. Modern Jet fighters are expensive period, not just in the US.

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