Bradley Geyer, former Staff Sergeant USAF/Wisconsin Air National Guard | 20 Nov 2019
Why would the US government spend $100 Million to purchase on a F-35 fighter/bomber jet aircraft when a Reaper drone costs around $10 Million? The operating and maintenance costs for the F-35 are over $100 Million in addition to the purchase price. Add on the costs involved with training and compensating the F-35 pilot.
Of course, the drone requires a ground flight crew.
I could see manned aircraft being phased out very soon, but then who will be as cool as Goose and the Maverick as they bomb the evildoers in the nations with lots of oil around the world. With the drone, they can’t seem to find operators who last in the long run. It seems as though human beings don’t like to watch as they SEE other humans smashed to bits. They deal with their trauma and their addictions.
note: In this article, I have included the result of a drone strike, this one in Pakistan. Pictures of the result are almost never included in articles on the Air Force or aircraft or unmanned vehicles.
Again, it would valuable to have a more significant discussion in the media and in the political sphere concerning what the priorities of Americans are. It seems that some people just assume we need as much of these weapons and military as the Air Force tells us that we need. I, on the other hand, believe that we are supposed to have a republic where government of the people, for the people, by the people is the way we run things. Instead we have a Pentagon that rolls over the people because it is controlled by a handful of war profiteers like Lockheed Martin.
Drones are cheap
These basic principals are visible in the emergence of drones. For example, according to the American Security Project, unclassified reports show that the MQ-9 Reaper drone used for attacks in Pakistan has a single unit cost of US$6.48 million and an operational cost of close to US$3 million.
This latter figure is deceptive, however, as a full drone “system” requires a larger infrastructure to operate. Therefore, a typical reaper drone in a group of four on an active mission requires two active pilots, a ground station, and a secured data link. However, even with this significant infrastructure requirement the end cost is US$3250 per hour of flight time.
In contrast, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – which the Australian government recently announced it will buy 58 more of – costs nearly US$91 million per unit, almost US$5 million per year to operate and $16,500 per hour of flight…
A significant factor in the US Government’s expansion of its drone programs is the cost advantage the technology holds over more conventional military equipment, forces, and operations. While drones are unmanned, their operation still requires a ground flight crew, maintenance crew, and extensive networks of systems and people to provide the intelligence used and legal authorization to conduct lethal strikes. Opponents of US drone programs, taking into account this requisite human support as well as a significantly higher mishap rate, assert that drones are more expensive to operate, and the backlash caused by their use threatens to be even more costly to the US in the long-term.
From a high-level examination, drones are slightly more cost effective to acquire and operate than conventional manned aircraft. The question of cost effectiveness should instead be one of operational advantage: whether the strategic advantage and human protection afforded by the use of drones in overseas operations outweighs the potential security threat posed by higher crash rates and growing backlash in target environments…
What can the human body handle?
A news release by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force said the pilot’s last radio transmission, 15 seconds before the time of the crash, indicated he was conscious at the time, making it unlikely that a loss of consciousness due to G-forces was responsible for the crash.
…Hosomi, who was the leader of the flight of four F-35As, called “knock it off,” indicating the end of the training exercise. He meanwhile continued his descent, which ended when the F-35A crashed into the Pacific Ocean not more than a minute after the order to descend was given. He had been traveling at an estimated speed of 690 MPH.
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