Economics is the most boring science. But everything changes when it comes to the cost of modern aviation complexes.
Is it true that the Raptor superbounder stands like an ingot of gold of the same mass?
How are things with the F-35 program? A lightweight fighter, created as an “Air Force workhorse,” gradually outperforms its F-22 “older brother” in value. Or is it all just an illusion?
The cost of an hour of flight "Eurofighter Typhoon", according to various estimates, ranges from 15 to 40 thousand dollars - what caused such a wide range of results?
Which of the combat aircraft is considered the most expensive in the world?
What determines the cost of aircraft?
How do the products of the domestic aviation industry look against their western counterparts?
Iron bird stands on the ground. Ambient temperature + 20 ° С. A gentle breeze tickles the grass on the airfield of the airfield, filling the soul with peace and serenity.
After 10 minutes, the plane will take a train at an altitude of 10 000 meters, where the temperature behind will drop below minus 50 ° and the atmospheric pressure will be five times lower than that of the Earth’s surface. Any of the Earth "Mercedes" is guaranteed to stall in such conditions - and the plane has yet to fly thousands of kilometers and complete the task. Supersonic speeds, maneuvers in both planes, dangerous overloads - turbulent blades burn in a raging blue flame, but turbine blades do not burn, drives and hydraulics buzz hard, and necessary climatic conditions are maintained in the avionics avionics.
Aviation is a true triumph of the human mind over the forces of nature. An edge of progress where the best developments in the field of materials science, microelectronics, engine-building and all related fields of science and technology are realized.
The winged ship is able to control the space for tens and hundreds of kilometers around. Modern optoelectronic systems allow a pilot to distinguish an armed person from an unarmed person from a great height, detect the embers of an extinct fire or the trail of a passing car, direct bomb and rocket weapon accurate to one meter. Super-maneuverability, thrust-to-weight ratio, close to 1, controlled thrust vector, radar with active phased antenna array (AFAR), technology for reducing visibility. In view of its transcendental characteristics, modern combat aviation is not a cheap “toy”.
Sighting system fighter F-35
I risk killing the intrigue of the whole story, but the situation looks unequivocal: all modern combat aircraft from the “first line” (Su-35 fighters, Su-34 tactical bombers, F-15E export versions - with a maximum take-off weight over 30 tons and full compliance 4 + generation requirements have approximately equal cost.
With the same method of counting, a fully equipped machine of such a level (excluding the cost of R & D, additional sets of spare parts and weapons) will cost the customer about 100 million dollars for one aircraft. Regardless of the developer, manufacturer and country in which this magnificent winged machine was created.
The light multipurpose Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and modern F-16 modifications are not lagging behind their “senior brethren” - their value in the global arms market is on average 80 ... 100 million. Even the small Swedish Gripen is unlikely will give cheaper. The only thing that saves the customer when choosing these machines is the complexity of maintenance and operating costs of the F-16 and the Company are significantly lower than those of the "heavy class" interceptors and fighter-bombers.
Multi-functional lightweight fighter F-16
Separately, there is a question on the "fifth generation". With a similar method of counting, the cost of the F-22 Interceptor Fighter "Raptor" is ≈200 million dollars per unit. Of course, this figure does not include the cost of research and development work on the theme “fifth-generation fighter”.
The lighter F-35 basic modification "A" tends to get into the "price niche" to the generation of fighters "4 +". Otherwise, it doesn’t have so many advantages to successfully compete with modern modifications of the F-15E and 15SE, Silent Hornet, Rafale and Typhoon. It is expected that in the case of the start of large-scale production, the cost of the F-35A will not exceed 100 million. Deck modification and "verticalization" will be 20 percent more expensive - however, these versions did not find interest in the global arms market.
It is not possible to make an exact comparison of the cost of Russian and foreign aircraft, due to the absence of any detailed information on pricing methods and insider features of the domestic aircraft industry. The only thing that is possible in this situation is to draw a number of general conclusions based on information from open sources and the obvious conditions of Russian reality.
Factors affecting the reduction in the cost of Russian combat aircraft:
- relatively low level of labor remuneration of aviation industry specialists - compared to their European and overseas counterparts;
- relative scarcity of onboard radio-electronic equipment (avionics). Whatever the manufacturers of domestic radio electronics reiterated, today none of the aircraft in service with the Russian Air Force (or exported by Russia) have a radar with an active HEADLIGHT. The remarkable H035 “Irbis” (radar Su-35) in fact is a radar with PPAR on a gimbal, i.e. with mechanical scanning in azimuth. Also, there are no domestic analogues of universal outboard sighting and navigation containers like the LANTIRN, LITENING or SNIPER used on all types of combat aircraft of the United States and NATO countries. The range of domestic air-to-surface guided munitions is significantly limited.
The only thing that brightens gray days is the T-50 aircraft with the tail number 55. The fifth flight prototype of the Russian fighter "fifth generation", which has a full set of the latest avionics, including Radar with AFAR NXXX and four additional AFAR placed in slats - there are no analogues of this system in the world. As, however, while there are no serial T-036.
Radar with AFU Zhuk-AE (export). It is assumed that these radars will be equipped with MiG-35 fighters.
- lack of desire / need to create new production lines and update funds. It is no secret that domestic aircraft are mostly assembled in workshops and on production lines built back in Soviet times. The management of the United Aircraft Building Corporation (UAC) would consider it unreasonable luxury to build a new plant for each type of aircraft - like the production complex in Fort Worth (pc. Texas), where the final assembly of the F-35 is performed. The one-and-a-half-kilometer conveyor to Fort Worth allows you to assemble fighter jets on 360 per year (this is the estimated delivery rate of the F-35 since the 2017 year). Such capacity is simply useless to the Russian aviation industry - such production will never pay off. The assembly of 10-20 fighters a year is easier to master in piece mode, in production facilities left over from Soviet times - only partially replacing equipment and tools.
Factors affecting the increase in the cost of domestic aircraft:
- corruption. The low wages of specialists are completely “compensated” by the greed of individuals in the leadership of the KLA. However, the top management of the company Lockheed-Martin or the French “Dassault Aviation” is also not distinguished by disinterestedness. All of them, one way or another, use their official position for personal purposes. Ultimately, the exact amount of the contract depends on who, with whom and about what was able to agree.
- small-scale (piece) production. In this case, the effect of scale disappears (reducing the cost per unit of production while increasing the scale of its production), which negatively affects the final cost of the product. Complicated, high-tech production is particularly affected - the cost of an AFAR assembled in this way from thousands of individual receiving-transmitting modules takes off to the skies. No less expensive are hand-stamped carbon fiber wing parts.
- experiments with controlled thrust vectoring. Ensuring the forward movement of parts under considerable load, under conditions of extremely high temperatures and aggressive environments, while maintaining the high reliability of the entire system, is an extremely complex technical problem whose solution requires special approaches in the design and creation of new materials. The difficult and long period of R & D, production and testing of operational prototypes, flight tests of airplanes with UHT / OBT engines is a laborious and costly process. Not to mention the operation of such a system in combat units. Sometimes the question arises - was the game worth the candle?
MiG-29K on the deck of the aircraft carrier "Vikramaditya"
We do not know how much Russian combat aircraft cost - this information is classified. But we can guess this by using circumstantial evidence:
12 March 2010 was signed a contract to supply India with a second batch of 29 deck fighters MiG-29K. The contract value is 1,5 billion US dollars. Deliveries are scheduled to begin with 2012.
- from news reports for 2010 year
Approximately 50 million per plane. In this case, we are talking about a light class fighter (with a maximum take-off weight of 22,5 tons), not burdened with radars with AFAR and engines with UWT.
In such conditions, it will not be surprising if the cost of the most modern Su-35 interceptor is “over-the-top” for $ 100 million.
The tactical bomber Su-34 (also known as T-10В-1), built on the famous T-10 platform, which became the ancestor of the entire family of Su planes with 27 and 30 / 35 indices, is no cheaper. The maximum take-off weight within 45 tons and the presence of unique titanium armored capsules are unlikely to simplify production and reduce the cost of this powerful aircraft.
It is curious that the Wikipedia information resource continues to provide a link to news 8-year-old, according to which the cost of producing one “Duckling” was estimated at 1 billion rubles (≈32 million dollars - I am sure that even then the Su-34 plane was much more expensive).
Entrance to the cockpit of the Su-34
No less amusing are the messages in the media, when narrating the results of the outgoing year, the total number of combat aircraft received by the Air Force, including light YTS-YN-130 and highly powerful Su-34 aircraft complexes, is considered simultaneously. Moreover, the 35-tonne "Yak" is simply incomparable with aircraft from the "first line" - neither in cost nor in terms of combat capabilities.
Modern aviation - extremely expensive thing. And high-quality aviation systems are even more expensive.
How are things "they"?
With all the variety of designs and the exorbitant appetites of managers of American aircraft manufacturing corporations, the overseas approach to estimating the cost of aircraft is striking in its transparency (illusion?), Healthy logic and pragmatism.
Obviously, the cost of each system depends on the cost of its individual elements (WBS - Work Breakdown Structure), as well as the stages of manufacture and operation - if there is a need to calculate the cost of the entire system life cycle. From this moment begins the main thriller - the determining factor is the method of counting: how they thought and what they took into account in their calculations.
What determines the cost of the aircraft. Below is a detailed explanation of the table.
As a rule, the basic concept is “flyaway cost” - the cost of producing one aircraft, taking into account all the necessary materials, labor costs and the cost of the production line (spreads over all). This is the figure that prevails in many documents and official reports, since shows the minimum possible value, compared to other ways of counting.
The sum in the "flyaway cost" box caresses the eye and warms the soul, but the Pentagon buys the equipment at the "weapon cost" price (in a broader sense - "procurement cost") - the total cost of the combat system. Unlike the previous one, this method of calculation takes into account such specific and invisible factors with the naked eye as:
- the cost of auxiliary equipment and tools supplied with the aircraft;
- one-time costs under the contract (a course for pilots to manage a new car, install and configure software, etc.);
- consultations and technical support from the manufacturer, a basic set of spare parts.
As a result, the cost of the aviation complex increases by about 40% compared to the base part of the flyaway cost. The canonical example - the flyaway cost of the F / A-18E / F multipurpose fighter-bomber is 57,5 million, while its weapon cost is 80,4 million (data for the 2012 fiscal year).
F-15E hung with arms
But this is not the limit. There are much more serious numbers, for example, “program acquisition cost” - the total cost of developing and building an aviation complex, taking into account the cost of all R & D, the construction of prototypes and the costs of passing factory and government tests. It is clear that the development of a new aircraft is extremely difficult and time consuming, especially if we are talking about such innovative machines as stealth bombers and fifth generation fighters. Half of the funds allocated to the program are usually spent on research - later, this amount is divided into all, increasing the cost of each fighter almost doubled compared to the "weapon / procurement cost".
The total cost of the program (R & D + the cost of creating a production line + the cost of materials and labor for building each aircraft) is extremely popular in the media. That it is mentioned when in the next mock F-22 “invisible”. With this method of calculating the cost of "Raptor" is now 412 million dollars per each efficient aircraft - like an ingot of gold of the same mass!
However, R & D costs are subsequently returned in the form of new technologies in the field of aircraft manufacturing, microelectronics, and all related fields of science and technology. As they say the Yankees: Money spent on the brain is never spent in vain.
The final stage of the tragicomedy is "life cycle cost" - the cost of the entire life cycle of the system. Production costs, costs of R & D, upgrades, spare parts, fuel, preparation and maintenance of pilots, disposal at the end of life. They try not to utter a terrible figure out loud in order to avoid righteous anger from pacifists and other bona fide taxpayers.
Once such a figure "leaked" to the press - and the military had problems. This is an incredible bomber B-2 "Spirit", whose life-cycle cost exceeded 2 billion dollars in prices 17-year-old! (there is reason to believe that this amount did not include fuel)
However, at the same time, the “procurement cost” of a strategic stealth bomber was 929 million dollars - not so much for an innovative machine with a maximum take-off weight of 170 tons. For comparison, now the passenger Boeing-747 cost airlines ≈ 350 million dollars per unit. Of course, civil aircraft do not have radar with AFAR, no technology to reduce visibility, or sighting systems or EW equipment, similar to the onboard equipment of the Spirit.
The myth of the unjustified high cost of the B-2 does not stand up to meeting the real facts. Of course, a comparison of the full life cycle of a large strategic bomber with optimistic figures for the cost of lighter aircraft (as a rule, without taking into account their R & D) gave an incorrect result. B-2 has become a mockery.
As for the domestic aviation industry, open information about the cost of R & D, spare parts and the life cycle of combat aircraft does not exist. This information is a state secret, a trade secret of the KLA and, in principle, is not intended for the general public.
Of no less interest is the concept of “cost per flight hour”. This concept includes not only fuel consumption and standard hours after flight maintenance, but also the cost of building an aircraft — the car “works out” the funds invested in it from the design stage every hour of flight.
In this case, there are several reliable options at once - depending on the source data. The selected cost is divided by the estimated airframe resource (as a rule, for modern aircraft it is 4000 ... 8000 hours) - eventually, there can be a spread of data from 15 to 40 thousand dollars per flight hour, as happened in the Italian Air Force manual when discussing Perspectives fighter "Eurofighter Typhoon." And everyone will be right in their own way.
The cost of modern aviation is huge. But, as the old truth says - who does not want to feed his army, will feed someone else's. However, one should not forget that uncontrolled spending on “defense” is also capable of ruining any country. Measure in all - this is the key to success.