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USAF concerned that the Army is poaching again


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As the Army gets back into Long Range / Intermediate Range / Medium Range missiles again the USAF is starting to get shirty. Problems of Strategic Air Command, Redstone Arsenal and Bombers vs Missiles all over again. But now USAF is also bracketed by the US Space Force.

The arguments of the third article need to be considered carefully.

It states that the Air Force can respond more speedily, and cheaper to a surface threat than a missile.

But it seems to presuppose that a Zero Cost B2 magically appears over the battlefield and loiters indefinitely. Thus only the cost of the $25,000 munition is considered vice the cost of a missile launcher and missile.
Got to considering that magical, loitering B2, with the help of Wikipedia....

There are 20x B2s. They were introduced into service in 1997 - 24 years ago.

The total program cost projected through 2004 was US$44.75 billion in 1997 dollars. This includes development, procurement, facilities, construction, and spare parts. The total program cost averaged US$2.13 billion per aircraft.[4]

In 2021 dollars the projected cost per aircraft to 2004 would be $3.67 BUSD per aircraft.

Lets assume that the capital cost is written down by 2004 and that for the last 17 years the USAF has been flying a Zero Cost aircraft.

The cost of flying a single aircraft for an hour was estimated at

up to $135,000 per flight hour to operate in 2010

A single 24 hour sortie from CONUS to Target would cost $3,240,000 at that 2010 rate, or $3,909,060 in 2021 dollars.

That rate is exclusive of actual operational costs (weapons and support supplied under separate operational budget).

In addition, with only 20 aircraft, and aging, a significant number of hours will be required between flights for maintenance and more hours between campaigns for reset.

It would surprise me if the B2 fleet could sustain a 24/7 CAP of 2 aircraft for more than an month or two.

The USAF could also argue that it can sustain a CAP with fighters but one of the arguments against the Army's LRPFs was that they need friendly ground in close proximity to the enemy. So do the USAF's fighters. So they are a wash.

For reference and comparison lets assume, in 2021, a single B2 has a sunk cost of 3.67 BUSD and an operating cost of 3.909 MUSD per sortie.

The USN's Sub Launched Trident D5 missile costs 30.9 MUSD. 8x B2 Sorties per missile. 119 missiles per B2.

The USAF's Minuteman III missile costs 7 MUSD. 2x B2 Sorties per missile. 524 missiles per B2

The USN's Standard SM missile costs 12 MUSD. 3x B2 Sorties per missile. 305 missiles per B2

The USN's Tomahawk Maritime Strike Missile costs 1.5 MUSD. 2.6 missiles per B2 sortie. 2446 missiles per B2

The USN's new Naval Strike Missile costs 2.2 MUSD. 1.8 missiles per B2 sortie. 1668 missiles per B2

The Army's obsolete ATACMs Unitary costs about 1 MUSD. 3.9 missiles per B2 sortie. 3670 missiles per B2.

Not quite apples to apples as the Trident requires a boomer and even the lowly NSM requires a launcher - either a JLTV for 2 missiles or a static box with 4 to 12 missiles.

But as a local area commander I think I would much prefer a few thousand missiles at my finger tips than the promise of a couple of B2s delivering the next time they are in the area.

Why does the B2 bomber cost $130,000 an hour to fly?

The cost you quote is a fully allocated annual average unit cost of the total B-2 fleets’ operations and maintenance activities, not the marginal cost of flying one additional hour with one B-2 aircraft.

What does that cost include? Naturally, it does include all the marginal flying costs one imagines like fuel, training munitions, consumable spare parts, and off-site maintenance of repairable spare parts. In addition, it includes all the fixed costs attributable to the fleet even if there were no flying activities, including:

  • personnel (flying crews, maintenance crews, administrative personnel) directly assigned to the aircraft fleet
  • additional military and civilian support personnel assigned to each base to support the personnel above (e.g., family support personnel, firemen, military police)
  • schools and other training for replacements for all personnel above (e.g., initial operations and maintenance training prior to initial assignment to an operational unit) based on annual discharge and retirement rates
  • annual retirement costs for all personnel above that will reach retirement each year
  • depot or contractor inspection and maintenance of the overall fleet, including engineering support
  • annual modification and upgrade of the aircraft fleet (includes both fixing problems and adding new capabilities)
  • annual software modification costs (an increasing cost factor in modern fleets)
Overall these expenses cover training and maintaining the fleet to assure they are ready to employ in future or current combat operations. They do not include the costs of those operations as they are budgeted separately.

Caveat: These statements have neither been reviewed nor approved by my previous employer (RAND). They are based solely on my recollections of cost estimation models I used while employed there. As a result, I alone am responsible for any errors or omissions above.
The thing is the systems are supposed to be complimentary. Having the US Army provide both shorebased AD and Anti-ship missiles is a good idea, along with base security and QRF. That frees up the USN and the USAF to focus on other attacks. How much does it cost to maintain 6 truck based Anti-ship missiles systems on standby 24hrs a day? A lot less than what the USN and USAF will costs. Also it acts as a area denial tool against the PLAN. It also means secure Forward bases to operate from.

This is the sort of thing the US Army needs
Or perhaps something like this?

A battery of Kratos Aerial Target drone ready for take off. One of the advantages of the low-cost Kratos drones are their ability to get into the air quickly

Kratos has been building runway independent recoverable target drones for decades.

A Kratos Aerial Target drone takes off

It is now using the same technology to build 1500 mile "Loyal Wingmen" capable of carrying a 500 lb payload at Mach 0.9 for about the same price as an NSM or a Tomahawk.


Their Valkyrie, on its 6th flight, just deployed an SUAS from its internal weapons bay.


Apparently the launch system can also be mounted on relatively small ships..... Which reminded me of this

The Rocket-Powered Hawker Hurricane Had A Major Flaw And It Showed | World War Wings Videos

Are these the new primary weapons systems?


130mm diameter - launcher for drones, uavs, rockets, mortar bombs. - Ships, Ground, Vehicle - reloadable under-cover.
The Army's counter-point to the USAF's view of the "stupid" Long Range Precision Fires strategy.

I'm glad to see such internecine military struggles appear in popular business journals.

It proves that the Armed Forces aren't too different from their civilian counterparts :)
More on the discussion from the same source

He makes the point about the Air Force evolving as a Strategic Bomber Force from the US Army in 1947 but now being squeezed between its "parent" and its "child", the Space Force. Kind of like the rest of the Boomers (and speaking of which the USN has always pressured them on that front as well).

He also brings another theater into play - the infantry/artillery discussion over "mortars"

But at least some people close to the Air Force have begun to worry what Army success might mean for Air Force dominance in striking remote targets.

This is not the only way, though, that new fires technology is threatening to tear down previously well-established boundaries between warfighting communities.

At the opposite end of the range continuum, research is revealing how the lowly mortar might be transformed into the practical equivalent of a howitzer through the introduction of pop-out wings and inexpensive GPS guidance.

Mortars are typically used in close proximity to enemy formations, lofting rounds in high parabolic trajectories that can then drop almost straight down on top of targets like entrenched infantry.

But testing by the Navy has shown that mortar rounds can actually glide dozens of miles to more distant targets and then hit within a meter or so of intended targets.

This presents a potential challenge to the traditional use of fires, because a 120mm mortar round has the same explosive power as a 155mm artillery round. Mortars typically are much easier to move around on a battlefield.

Of course, the potential for these innovations to disrupt the traditional ways of doing business, both at the high end and at the low end, depends on having prompt and precise data about targets.


with the infantry automatic rifle with improved optic.

"You have basically trained Marines hitting targets all day long at 500, 700, 800 meters that used to be the range of school-trained snipers," Smith said. "[They're] hitting them all day long because the weapon system and its heavier barrel and the optic that goes with it means basically trained Marines can pick it up and pop individual targets out at ranges that used to be the sole domain of a sniper."

Similarly, with the new Organic Precision Fires-Infantry loitering munitions, or OPR-I, Smith said Marines can strike targets "well beyond what a 60mm or 81mm mortar can do."

"You may not need that mortarman to do that," he said.
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant of Combat Development and Integration

Here's the OPR-I (aka Switchblade)


Meanwhile we have the Chinook/SeaStallion deployable big brothers


Loitering munitions with 40 km range and 2 hour endurance and NSMs with 185 km range

And further opening the questions of cab or no cab, onboard operator or remote, number of crew per launcher, or launchers per crew?

Personally I like a two man cab for convoying and dispersal with one person being the operator/driver and the other seat being for C4I personnel. The operator/driver could dismount and remotely manoeuver and fire the system by cable or wireless, perhaps from a common battery/troop command location.

Creative chaos.

In the face of the enemy.

And, while thinking of it

At the bottom end of the range there are these "meld-able" technologies

No launchers necessary.​

40mm Parachute Flare Illuminating​


(Under license from RWM for Canada)
The 40 mm hand held parachute illuminating flare is a pyrotechnic ammunition fired by hand that generates a bright yellow light to illuminate the battlefield.
It is spin-stabilized and uses a rocket equipped with a smokeless double base solid propellant to reach the required height for the illuminating flare to descend using a parachute. It is ignited by a rotating cap system.
Its range exceeds 600 meters and illumination time is over 30 seconds. The product is offered in two versions i.e. Visible or Infrared illumination.

Just like the para-flare, grab from the case and fire from the hand.