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Ozair
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cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 3:53 am

The Mitchell Institute has released another study, this one covering their proposal that weapons systems be judged and financially reviewed based on the cost they have to effect an outcome against a more vanilla unit cost or cost per flight hour,.

US think-tank proposes cost-per-effect metric for better weapon system cost analysis

The US Air Force (USAF) should adopt a cost-per-effect metric for weapon systems to maximise mission value instead of relying on simplistic metrics such as unit cost or cost per flying hour, according to a Washington, DC, think-tank.

...

Cost-per-effect includes mission aircraft to execute the actual task and direct supporting assets, including aerial refuelling tankers, electronic jamming platforms, and surface-to-air missile suppression efforts. It also includes aircrews and requisite infrastructure such as basing and related maintenance support.

For example, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) and Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long-range strike bombers and other advanced weapon systems may appear more costly on a per-unit basis than less capable legacy aircraft designs. The think-tank argues enterprise assessments illustrate the potential of these modern aircraft to complete mission objectives more efficiently and capably, thereby lowering their overall operational expense. This would make them a more cost-effective option.

..

https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news ... t-analysis

For example the study cites the use of the F-117 during Desert Storm where the aircraft, the result of a very expensive development and security program and having a higher cost per flight hour than many other airframes at the time, was able to make a massive impact on fixed targets across Iraq. The first night is an illustrative example,

Image

FlightGlobal has a similar article here, https://www.flightglobal.com/fixed-wing ... 09.article

While the actual study is available here, https://a2dd917a-65ab-41f1-ab11-5f1897e ... 49d024.pdf
And there are some slides associated with the report here, https://www.mitchellaerospacepower.org/ ... t-Analysis

The report covers not just the F-35 but the advantages that stealth and more importantly information fuzed platforms provide. As with their other recent study on the bomber fleet there is some cost references to precision weapons and their impact on targets.

I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on it? I still think there is a place for a unit cost and cost per hour metric because you could develop and build the greatest weapon system ever but afford so few of them that their effect is negated and an adversaries ability to wholly negate that platform improves the fewer that exist. Still, comparing a 4th gen fighter aircraft that has a heavy reliance on support assets to a 5th gen platform that can largely go it alone is sound.
 
JayinKitsap
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:25 am

Recent news out of Iran are reporting an aerial attack occurred. It could have been done with just a couple of F-35's that only revealed their location for a moment, via a lot of fireworks, only to steal away.
 
mxaxai
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:15 am

Ozair wrote:
The Mitchell Institute has released another study, this one covering their proposal that weapons systems be judged and financially reviewed based on the cost they have to effect an outcome against a more vanilla unit cost or cost per flight hour,.
I still think there is a place for a unit cost and cost per hour metric because you could develop and build the greatest weapon system ever but afford so few of them that their effect is negated and an adversaries ability to wholly negate that platform improves the fewer that exist.

Somebody once said "quantity has a quality of its own". The B-2 fleet is probably a great contemporary example of such a highly advanced but ridiculously expensive weapon system. Small fleets also make every loss hit hard, so you might not want to use the asset in the risky operations it was designed for.

Cost per hour is still important, since the majority of flying nowadays is training. It also matters when you're not just flying pre-planned strike missions but also missions with lots of loitering, e. g. CAP or CAS.

Finally, cost per effect is highly dependent on the target. The F-35 is great at attacking protected high-value targets. The B-52 is great at carpet bombing cities, industrial sites and terrorist camps. UAV are probably the best at killing unsuspecting people anywhere in the world (and other low-profile attacks). Cost per hour is a much simple metric.
 
Ozair
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 12:22 pm

mxaxai wrote:
Somebody once said "quantity has a quality of its own". The B-2 fleet is probably a great contemporary example of such a highly advanced but ridiculously expensive weapon system. Small fleets also make every loss hit hard, so you might not want to use the asset in the risky operations it was designed for.

Agree although that hasn't stopped the USAF from using them.

mxaxai wrote:
Cost per hour is still important, since the majority of flying nowadays is training. It also matters when you're not just flying pre-planned strike missions but also missions with lots of loitering, e. g. CAP or CAS.

A lot of that training is moving to sims though. F-35 projections are less flights and more sims due to flights not being able to really exercise the aircraft and aircrew to the threat level required but even that is a misnomer. Irrespective of what a single fighter might cost to train the 4th gen aircraft is still going to need to train and all the associated assets it needs will also all need to train, as well as all train together to coordiante, so the cost additions of those support assets remain.

mxaxai wrote:
Finally, cost per effect is highly dependent on the target. The F-35 is great at attacking protected high-value targets. The B-52 is great at carpet bombing cities, industrial sites and terrorist camps. UAV are probably the best at killing unsuspecting people anywhere in the world (and other low-profile attacks). Cost per hour is a much simple metric.

If you are measuring by cost per effect I expect targets would also have a value assigned to them. Cost per hour is still included in a cost per effect measurement though, it just means you are including all the assets needed to prosecute a target. I expect that works for low and high intensity conflicts and of course low intensity conflicts will favour lower cost per hour airframes. The thing is if you have to consider fighting both a low intensity and a high intensity conflict then maintaining one airframe that operates in both is probably going to be cheaper than having two and not being able to use one of them.
 
mxaxai
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 1:06 pm

Ozair wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Somebody once said "quantity has a quality of its own". The B-2 fleet is probably a great contemporary example of such a highly advanced but ridiculously expensive weapon system. Small fleets also make every loss hit hard, so you might not want to use the asset in the risky operations it was designed for.

Agree although that hasn't stopped the USAF from using them.

True, but lets take a look at the Kosovo War:
Wikipedia wrote:
The B-2's combat debut was in 1999, during the Kosovo War. It was responsible for destroying 33% of selected Serbian bombing targets in the first eight weeks of U.S. involvement in the War.[7] During this war, six B-2s flew non-stop to Yugoslavia from their home base in Missouri and back, totaling 30 hours. Although the bombers accounted 50 sorties out of a total of 34,000 NATO sorties, they dropped 11 percent of all bombs.

One could argue that 0.14% of sorties delivering 11% of all bombs and destroying 33% of all designated targets is extremely effective.

On the other hand, the small fleet and lack of forward bases meant that the B-2 could not provide the desired coverage and other assets had to fill the gap. NATO forces also operated with a very low enemy fighter threat. Letting the B-2s loiter to support ground troops and attack unplanned targets (e. g. tanks or artillery positions) would have been a "waste" of expensive flight hours - otherwise we might have seen much heavier use of it.

The B-1 is another example. It was originally designed to penetrate enemy airspace at high speed, bomb key targets, and return to base. Instead, it saw heavy use in the middle east with lots of low-speed loitering. Now it's facing fatigue problems that are too expensive to fix. If a cheaper bomber had been available, the high-value asset could have been saved for the high-value targets.

(Although it seems as if the B-1 was already the cheapest option per flight hour per bomb apart from the A-10 and UAV, which serve a different role in the USAF)
 
Planeflyer
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:24 pm

The B1 nor any 4 th gen AC could accomplish the mission carried out recently against Iran.

With a few F35’s, Israel achieved what they have never before accomplished; penetrated their prime enemy’s airspace, destroyed a strategic target at minimal cost.

If Israel had 3x the F15/16 they now possess, they couldn’t have achieved this level of deterrence.

Quantity having a quality all its own is only true in situations where there is minimal qualitative difference. It is no coincidence that the Soviet Union collapsed soon after stealth AC were introduced.
 
Planeflyer
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:24 pm

The B1 nor any 4 th gen AC could accomplish the mission carried out recently against Iran.

With a few F35’s, Israel achieved what they have never before accomplished; penetrated their prime enemy’s airspace, destroyed a strategic target at minimal cost.

If Israel had 3x the F15/16 they now possess, they couldn’t have achieved this level of deterrence.

Quantity having a quality all its own is only true in situations where there is minimal qualitative difference. It is no coincidence that the Soviet Union collapsed soon after stealth AC were introduced.
 
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SheikhDjibouti
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 10:53 pm

mxaxai wrote:
... lets take a look at the Kosovo War:
Wikipedia wrote:
The B-2's combat debut was in 1999, during the Kosovo War. It was responsible for destroying 33% of selected Serbian bombing targets in the first eight weeks of U.S. involvement in the War.[7] During this war, six B-2s flew non-stop to Yugoslavia from their home base in Missouri and back, totaling 30 hours. Although the bombers accounted 50 sorties out of a total of 34,000 NATO sorties, they dropped 11 percent of all bombs.

One could argue that 0.14% of sorties delivering 11% of all bombs and destroying 33% of all designated targets is extremely effective.
My motto is that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn't.
I've even tried following the original wikipedia links, but I haven't found an original source for that "11% of all bombs" yet.
However, I did find the following;
wikipedia wrote:
during Operation Allied Force ... B-2s launched 651 JDAMs with 96% reliability and hit 87% of intended targets..

So.. 650 JDAMs over 50 sorties = 13 JDAMs per sortie. I'm not certain if that adds anything relevant.


Meanwhile, 34,000 NATO sorties (or 38,000 depending on your source) does not equate to 34,000 bombing missions.
One would hope that there were plenty of reconnaissance beforehand (and after), escort fighters, SEAD, E-3 AWACS, RC-135 Damage Assessment and...... who knows what else.
Hell - even the B-2s probably had a host of support a/c themselves. In fact, we know they did.
AP Online, May 7,1999 wrote:
During the epic battles over buying the B-2 bomber, contractors and lawmakers marched on Capitol Hill with charts showing how a pair of the radar-evading planes could do the work of 55 conventional aircraft.

The sales pitch: only four B-2 crewmen put in harm's way compared with as many as 116 in a standard bombing mission.

But in the real battle over Yugoslavia, it's not working out that way. The B-2 is relying on the full contingent of support and escort aircraft -- and their crews -- just like its non-stealth cousins.

I can see so many options for inflating the numbers to make things look good, for an event that only lasted 78 days. (average = 435 missions per day ??)
Something sure doesn't add up here. I blame the fog of war.


mxaxai wrote:
On the other hand, the small fleet and lack of forward bases meant that the B-2 could not ....

What "lack of forward bases"?
Is the B-2 so specialized that USAF are unable to deploy support crew to any of their existing overseas bases?
They didn't have a problem stationing 3 B-2s at RAF Fairford last year.
Or were Britain / Germany /Italy denying USAF access to all the USAF bases located in these countries in 1999? They didn't have any problem with squadrons of fighter-bombers.

FWIW Missouri-Kosovo = 5,500 miles, UK (USAF Mildenhall) - Kosovo = 1170 miles, Italy (Aviano AB) - Kosovo = 481 miles
Nothing to see here; move along please.
 
mxaxai
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 11:14 pm

SheikhDjibouti wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
On the other hand, the small fleet and lack of forward bases meant that the B-2 could not ....

What "lack of forward bases"?
Is the B-2 so specialized that USAF are unable to deploy support crew to any of their existing overseas bases?
They didn't have a problem stationing 3 B-2s at RAF Fairford last year.
Or were Britain / Germany /Italy denying USAF access to all the USAF bases located in these countries in 1999? They didn't have any problem with squadrons of fighter-bombers.

FWIW Missouri-Kosovo = 5,500 miles, UK (USAF Mildenhall) - Kosovo = 1170 miles, Italy (Aviano AB) - Kosovo = 481 miles

I don't know why but clearly they chose to keep the B-2 based in the US even though they could've based them in allied countries much closer to the battlefield. It's not a lack of airfields per se but a lack of airfields that the USAF felt comfortable with basing their most expensive and delicate aircraft at.

The "full support" required is also likely to minimize risk to their most valuable asset. They did lose an F-117 in '99. Even if stealth reduces risk, losing a B-2 would immediately raise questions "Why didn't you reduce risk even further? Why was it all alone while all these other assets were idle on the ground?"

And yes, the majority of these sorties probably didn't deploy weapons. Often, just the presence of fighter-bombers can be enough to deter the enemy. Again, for such missions cost-per-hour is the more important metric than cost-per-bomb.
 
texl1649
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Fri Jul 10, 2020 11:22 pm

This one’s a pretty good piece, from the AFA/Mitchell Institute. I agree largely, though I think they as one would expect simplify the budget reasons for the USAF over the past 20 years getting the DoD share they have.

The thing is, stealth isn’t a simple silver bullet, and the frames (cost to operate)/responses to 5th gen from sensors continue to evolve. So do legacy platforms, which is why the F-15, F-16, Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen etc. still sell frames today.

Finally, they do try to do a nuanced comparison of fighters vs. bomber costs, but again fail to incorporate (because they can’t yet) a detailed platform comparison as between a B-1 (with a relatively huge payload ability for JDAM), vs. the B-21. Until we really do have a stealth penetrating manned bomber with specs (range/payload/cost/reliability particularly) we can reliably use, it’s pointless to jump to too many conclusions. I noticed they didn’t work to justify the B-2 much by comparison.

Again a good piece though.
 
Ozair
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:03 am

mxaxai wrote:
And yes, the majority of these sorties probably didn't deploy weapons. Often, just the presence of fighter-bombers can be enough to deter the enemy. Again, for such missions cost-per-hour is the more important metric than cost-per-bomb.

So that would still be cost per effect and not cost per bomb. If they only calculated when an airframe uses a weapon it wouldn’t be a very accurate assessment. For those fighter bombers to fly over Kosovo for instance they still needed EA-6 support, dedicated SEAD support, AWACS support etc. By tracking the effect you can understand the value that different assets bring to the battlespace and thereby assess a realistic cost to the impact that effect has on the battlefield. Clearly flying F-35s that don;t require EA-6 support, or SEAD support, or an AWACS protected by a CAP etc you are going to save money and still meet the effect you are intending to.

texl1649 wrote:
This one’s a pretty good piece, from the AFA/Mitchell Institute. I agree largely, though I think they as one would expect simplify the budget reasons for the USAF over the past 20 years getting the DoD share they have.

The thing is, stealth isn’t a simple silver bullet, and the frames (cost to operate)/responses to 5th gen from sensors continue to evolve. So do legacy platforms, which is why the F-15, F-16, Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen etc. still sell frames today.

Well mostly the 4th gen airframes sell to either nations who don’t have access to 5th gen for political/alliance reasons or to preserve national industry. Everyone knows Germany didn’t exclude the F-35 for technical reasons and Spain isn’t going with more Eurofighters because they are technically more capable than F-35s.

I do love the quote from Handley Page in the study,
“Nobody has ever won a war by trying to run it on the cheap. Nothing is so expensive as losing a war by saving money. If you want the cheapest possible Air Force today, it is very easy to standardize on a whole lot of aircraft that will be of no use when the war comes.”

I suggest that statement still stands and likely more so today compared to 75 years ago given the lead times for high performance combat aircraft.

texl1649 wrote:
Finally, they do try to do a nuanced comparison of fighters vs. bomber costs, but again fail to incorporate (because they can’t yet) a detailed platform comparison as between a B-1 (with a relatively huge payload ability for JDAM), vs. the B-21.

The B-2 and B-1 have a very similar JDAM load. While we don’t know the specific payload of the B-21 the study intimates it will be approx 2/3 of the current bombers and that likely increases when you start looking at using SDB sized weapons. While fighter aircraft will get the same additional increase with those weapon types the ability to deploy potentially 150+ SDBs from one airframe will be significant.

texl1649 wrote:
Until we really do have a stealth penetrating manned bomber with specs (range/payload/cost/reliability particularly) we can reliably use, it’s pointless to jump to too many conclusions. I noticed they didn’t work to justify the B-2 much by comparison.

Again a good piece though.

With the B-2 it is a factor of the peace dividend post cold war. Had the cold war continued you can be pretty certain that both the B-2 and F-22 would have seen their full complement of aircraft. The cost to operate those fleets would have been substantially different had the numbers arrived. To date the USAF is very keen to get as many B-21s as it can and there appears to be broad support and, with an aging fleet of bombers, reasonable justification to do so.

Agree we need some more details on the B-21 but those who selected and are building the aircraft have gone through this process as per again a quote from the study.
The B-21 program benefited from a front-end effects-based value and cost assessment across the long range strike “family of systems”— to include kinetic, non-kinetic, ISR, comms, etc. In the wake of canceling the next-generation bomber program, Secretary Gates ordered a capability analysis that evaluated various long-range strike options and scenarios based upon a capability-cost methodology. This involved looking at a wide variety of long-range strike options such as arsenal plane, surface based stand-off missiles, prompt global strike concepts, and various air-delivered options, including manned and unmanned. Analysis showed that the penetrating long range strike aircraft, which became the essential requirements of what is now the B-21 bomber, could deliver desired effects at lowest cost given specified mission parameters. But this was all derived from a holistic long-range strike family of systems analysis—with other capabilities also specified beyond the B-21.
 
Planeflyer
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:33 pm

Now if the DOD could go one step further and let competitors deliver the desired effects on a more commercial basis we’d get even more bang for the buck.
 
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trpmb6
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Re: cost-per-effect vs unit cost or flying hour cost

Wed Jul 15, 2020 8:48 pm

The procurement evaluation process goes a lot deeper than people think. Its not a simple comparison of simple metrics. If that were the case the airforce would have thousands of scorpion jets on the books.

The rubric sheets are complex and thorough. This isnt to say that the air force couldn't produce a better metric for congress, and thus the taxpayers, to better understand the usefulness of our money.

I think everyone from the top brass to the contractors understand the way programs were handled in the past wont work in the future.

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