Twilight of the Bone — revisited

Twilight of the Bone — revisited

Last week, we told you about opposition to the Air Force’s plan to slowly begin paring back its fleet of B-1B Lancers. One lawmaker, Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer, argued that because the Bone is so much cheaper per hour to fly than its bomber counterparts, it represents a good deal for the Air Force. Not so fast, many of you said — in fact, so many people fired back about this that it’s worth its own follow-up.

First, a quick caveat: As Homer Simpson once observed, you can get statistics to prove anything — “Forfty percent of all people know that.” So it’s possible to slice up the same set of numbers to support different conclusions, or to get one’s own set of numbers, etc. With that said, take a look at this: According to fiscal year 2009 budget numbers from defense analyst Winslow Wheeler, the Air Force paid $32,490.81 per hour to fly its B-1s; it paid $21,490.02 per hour to fly its B-2s; and  $18,555.62 per hour to fly its B-52. Those costs include depot maintenance, fuel and all other expenses. When you slice the numbers this way, the BUFF is the cheapest bomber in the fleet, not the B-1.

However, Wheeler’s numbers also can help you draw a different conclusion. In FY09, the total overall price tag to operate a bomber, called the primary aircraft authorization costs, broke down like this: The B-1 was $2.19 million; the B-2 was $9.67 million; and the B-52 was $2.75 million. So if you want to look at that number, the B-1 is the cheapest of the big birds.

On Friday we asked Neugebauer’s office for more details on the information he cited when he appeared before the House Armed Services Committee, and we’ll update as we hear more.

UPDATE 4–18: A spokesman for Neugebauer’s office says the numbers in his testimony came from research prepared by the military affairs committee of the Abilene, Texas, chamber of commerce, which had help from Boeing. So that answers that question.

Fun facts: The bombers are by far the Air Force’s most expensive aircraft to fly per hour, according to this data set. Its most expensive fighter per hour is the F-15A at $17,189; and its most expensive cargo aircraft per hour is the C-5B at $19,773 per hour. And the Air Force’s VC-25As, aka Air Force One, cost $10,165 per hour, although its PAA expense evidently doesn’t come out of the blue Air Force budget. That field is $0.00.

Join the Conversation

Thanks for digging into this, Phil. So why is the PAA so much lower for a B-1?

How much more was the B1, or not, used than the B2 and B52? I would think a higher use rate would mean more wear and tear and more need for maintenance. Not saying that’s the case but I ‘d think that would be something that would have to be looked at when looking at those numbers.

It’s so low because they hardly flew at all.

Going by the numbers in this post, B-1 flight hours were 67, B-2 flight hours were 450, and B-52 flight hours were 148. B-1 PAA was almost four-fifths of the B-52 PAA, for less than half the actual flight hours!

It’s worth asking what exactly is making the B-1 so expensive–or, maybe, what makes the B-52 so cheap.

Part 1 / 2

According to this article,

1) the “budget numbers”, which include “depot maintenance, fuel and all other expenses” , say that the B-1 “Lancer” is the MOST EXPENSIVE of the three bombers, at 32.490,81 per flight hour,

but according to exactly this same article,

2) the “total overall price tag to operate a bomber, called the primary aircraft authorization costs” says that the B-1 “Lancer” is the CHEAPEST bomber of the three to operate, at 2,19 million $ (per what? Per year? Per bananas?).

And each of these two balance-sheet criteria above is even even backed by impressively precise figures, right down to single cents.


Part 2 / 2

While this contradiction is sure to delight the majority of “D.o.D. Buzz” readers, can anybody (for example Mr. Winslow Wheeler) please explain to me why the two final conclusions point in such opposite directions? In simple words: Which bomber is the cheapest after all? Or are conclusions not important for painstaking accountants?

For example: What’s included in a “total overall price tag” that’s still missing in the “budget numbers” (which already “include depot maintenance, fuel and all other expenses”) ?

Not funny. Total waste of time! If this article was a Business and Economy exam, at least it would contain the correct answer somewhere among the 4 multiple choices, and I would have a “clue”.

After I finally know what’s going on, THEN I can really start discussing the B-1 !

I see how you got those numbers, but are you sure that’s the right way to calculate them?

According to the post, both the PAA and Wheeler’s per-flight-hour numbers included all the costs of operation, so you ought to be able to directly compare the two.

the only way to get a close ideal of the cost diff of these birds would be to look at the annual budget of the UIC’s responsible for them in whole (i.e. Whitemans B1 units annual budget total VS the others) There is too much money transfer between programs within a unit to account 100% — need to look at unit total cost for year to include personnel — maintenance — infrastructure — etc.)

Homer Simpson has a lot more sense than Randy Neugebauer. The case to slowly start slimming down the B-1B fleet is not based upon a cost per flying hour basis of each aircraft. The case for USAF’s position is that it is in the best interest of the Nation. These aircraft are ancient — they all need to be replaced. The B-1 and B-52 have served the Nation well. Let the fleets gracefully retire and develop a replacement aircraft that carries on their proud tradition, and avoids repeating the mistakes of past development, especially the B-1’s. Rep Neugebauer’s myopic position on national defense is symbolic of the selfish, rotten core of America.

I think the crux of the issue is not being addressed. In an environment of high and higher fuel prices and in anticipation of fuel shortages, it only makes sense to keep such an aircraft as the B1 in service. Consider the hugely higher costs of basing and support for using fighter/bomber aircraft for missions the B1 is fully capable of handling. The savings accrued for reduced need for refueling aircraft probably tips the balance in favor of the B1 over F15, F16, F/A 18EF type aircraft alone.
The U.S. military is seriously backing itself into a corner by investing in very large numbers of short range, small payload aircraft such as F35s. At this juncture it is probably too late to change course, but the folly of depending of such aircraft for strike operations will be apparent in the near future, if not now.
The B1 is not the aircraft one would want for the scenarios we can anticipate in the near future, much less further out, but it is a **** of a lot better than what we are enthusiastically transitioning to.
All the Services have produced serious studies indicating that fuel constraints and access to overseas basing is extremely problematic, and yet, there is very little or no response to the issue on a practical level, by any of the Services.
The controversy over the B1 is a case in point.

Good Afternoon Folks,

Good try Editor Ewing only under fun facts you neglected to factoring how may Bones are in fact uses by the USAF which is about six in recent years and how many missions a week the Bone was flown. The Bone is a well known hanger queen. It was a waste of money when President Reagan revived it from the B-1A. It is all to typical of buying a platform that really has no mission, in the case of the Bone no unique mission was ever found for it.

No Editor Ewing you can pull another post of mine on this topic.

Byron Skinner

OK B2 — should had caught that myself (worked out of there for a while and saw the birds often).

B-1s never carry that much (actually 134k lbs max load is internal + external, internal alone is 75k, external was for ALCMs which are not carried by treaty). What’s more, their unrefueled combat radius is about 1300 miles less than a B-52H. How do you suppose all that tanker support to get a B-1 to the target figures on the cost/ weapon delivered?

tanker is probably going to need to be there anyway to fuel the rest of the package. fly the bone out of diego and you got all the combat radius, loiter, ‘roving linebacker’ capability that everybody loves that you need. don’t get me wrong i love the b-52. both bombers provide amazing capability to the nation, it’s a shame for us to get into platform vs platform debates. there’s situations where b-1 is better than b-52, and situations where b-52 is better than b-1, and likewise the costs to employ could go either way.

need to keep the figures in perspective. for comparison:

“Master Sergeant Jeff Capenos, the Public Affairs Superintendent of the 89th Airlift Wing, told NTUF that, “The cost per flight hour [(CPFH)] of the US Air Force’s VC-25 (Air Force One) is $181,757. This CPFH figure includes fuel, flight consumables, depot level repairables, aircraft overhaul and engine overhaul.”

Platform vs platform– …yeah, I hear you. I know, I just did it too, but really Rep. Neugebauer started it.

To make it more confusing, the numbers I gave are max load unrefueled radius for those types, but the B-1s haven’t been carrying anywhere near that many JDAMs, and B-52s apparently carry even fewer. It’s just an example of what you’re talking about. How do you normalize the capabilities to get a fair comparison, and doesn’t that just go to show how silly Neugebauer’s testimony was?

Keep the B-1, and B-52H. Crap Can the Following: B-2 (Air-Condition Wonder of the World), NGB, JSF and F-22. Stealth is Dead (See information below) and there is simply no reason to have a manned aircraft flying over any target anywhere in the World under any circumstances. We have Stand-Off Strike Weapons as well as Unmanned Strikers that can eliminate any Target including Grass Huts and Camel Factories. The S-400 better known as the SA-21 Triumf has the following characteristics for all you home gamers:

The S-400 SA-21 is capable of destroying stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) per second.

Continued: Defeating threats at low and very low flight altitudes;
Dealing with the overall reduction of target signatures resulting from the pervasive use of stealth technology;
Dealing with the increase in target quantities resulting from the widespread use of UAVs;
Applying all means to defeat advanced jammers employed by opponents;
Surviving in an environment where PGMs are used widely;
Accommodating an environment where an increasing number of nations are deploying TBMs and IRBMs.
An open system architecture with a high level of modularity, intended to permit follow-on capability growth in the design; Multirole capabilities and the capacity for integration with legacy IADS technologies;
Suitability for the air defense of fixed infrastructure targets, as well as maneuver forces;
Suitability for integration with naval surface combatants;

Continued part 3.…The ability to exploit legacy missile rounds already in operational use;
High operational mobility and deployability;
High lethality and jam resistance;
Did you really think after we lost the F-117 in 1999 that our enemies would not exploit this data and find a WAY TO DEFETE STEALTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where have you people Been. WE are flogging a DEAD Horse and SPENDING Billions and TRILLION on outdated Technology… e.g. JSF, B-2, and NGB. For what??? Grass Huts and Camel Farms. Fire Gates, Mullins and Air Force Leadership We are wasting time and funding on outdated crap..!!!!!

So you seem to be saying we need to resurrect the B-17 and the P-51. Interesting rant, you go on like your Chairman of Joint Chiefs or maybe you run the Skunk Works and I’m all wrong. Little hare to take a blogger on the internet as the deciding factor on the defense plan for the United States. Try coming on a little less self important next time.

WOW… Bronco 46. You cannot read very well. You have your facts confused. Your the one ripping off the Defense Department. I see it each and everyday. Crawl back in your hole and go back to work at LMCO or Boeing. Whenever you can justify JSF, NGB, KC-X, F-22 etc… etc… please let us know. However, a dead Stealth or I can fly around bad things manned platform is worthless even if it cannot pass OT & DT at $150,000,000.00 Dollars Each.

My on cent wuestion on this is : why do we have to Air Force paid $32,490.81 per hour to fly its B-1s; it paid $21,490.02 per hour to fly its B-2s; and $18,555.62 per hour to fly its B-52? Test it on clean fuel.

My one cent question on this is : why do we have to Air Force paid $32,490.81 per hour to fly its B-1s; it paid $21,490.02 per hour to fly its B-2s; and $18,555.62 per hour to fly its B-52? Test it on clean fuel.

Sorry for the typo.


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