F-22 Modernization: Breaking the Sound (Spending) Barrier

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Air Force / Sr. Airman John D. Strong II

The F-22 Raptor

The general thinking among the human race is that we get smarter, over time. But this chart, from a new Government Accountability Office report into the Air Force’s F-22 program, suggests otherwise. It contrasts differences between how the military used to buy warplanes, and how the Air Force bought the Raptor:

Each item drove up costs on the F-22, compared to the legacy aircraft – the F-15, F-16 and F-18 – the GAO examined.

Not to brag, but the GAO says it saw this coming nearly a decade ago:

This tale also carries an eye-watering bottom line: Modernizing the F-22 fleet will cost $9.7 billion, the GAO says. Spread across 178 fighters (one of the 179 operational warplanes has crashed), that works out to $54.5 million per copy. More than $50 million, per single-seat fighter, for upgrades.

That’s 96% of the total cost of a brand new Air Force F-15, in today’s dollars (in other words, removing inflation’s impact, allowing for an apples-to-apples comparison). And it’s nearly twice the full price of an Air Force F-16.

Incredible. One doesn’t know whether to laugh, or cry.