The Air Force's Global Hawk Spy Drone

  • 12:00 AM, March 14, 2012
  • 1812
In a recent Battleland post, Mark Thompson noted the cost of a crashed Global Hawk: $72.8 million according to the Air Force. Some will automatically think that price equates to the unit cost for the drone. As they say, that's not the half of it. Dark and sinister forces sent me a copy of the Pentagon's 2010 Selected Acquisition Report for the Global Hawk. See page 29: the total program unit cost (i.e. R&D and Procurement and Milcon, also known as Program Acquisition Unit Cost [PAUC] and counting the extensive ground control components) for the Global Hawk is $211.0 million in then-year dollars (i.e. the ones actually to be appropriated). Want to discount the R&D? That'll get you down to $140.9 million each, but that ain't the "sticker price." (Go to your local Chevy dealer and tell the salesman you'll only pay for factory assembly & materials costs, not GM and dealer overhead, product testing, transport, and a lot more [not any of it profit]; don't expect a polite answer.) See also the last page of the SAR where DOD estimates the O&S costs, add $29.2 billion, not counted above, to the total cost of the program. Air Force data on flying hour costs also is a little higher than drone advocates like to advertise. Each RQ-4B costs $31,052 to operate each hour in the air, a lot for a high-endurance drone, and annual flying costs are running at $16.8 million per year for each air vehicle. (This USAF data is available on request.)
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