Murphy's Law: The High Price Of Peace

Archives

May 18, 2015: Britons are wondering why they have 611 military aircraft available for service while the United States, which has a defense budget nearly 12 times larger, has 23 times as many military aircraft available for service. Put another way, Britain has one military aircraft for every $83 million in annual defense spending while the Americans have one for every $42 million.

The main reason for the discrepancy is economies of scale (overhead and maintenance costs spread over a larger number of aircraft). For each aircraft type a nation has in service there has to be a maintenance infrastructure (spare parts, specialized equipment and personnel skilled in dealing with that aircraft) unique to the needs of that aircraft. Britain has been trying to address this with novel maintenance arrangements, like contracting civilian firms to deal with maintenance and upgrade work done outside the combat zone. But the military still has to use specialist troops and aircraft specific equipment to keep the aircraft flying in a combat zone. The outsourcing approach has saved a lot of money and Britain (and other nations) are seeking to make more use of this approach. But you cannot get away from the fact that nations with large fleets of military aircraft (like the United States, China, Russia and India) will always have the edge because of economies of scale.

Britain has other problems, like nearly constant annual cuts in the defense budget since the Cold War ended in 1991. This “peace dividend” was expected but some overhead is easier to quickly shrink than others. As is the case in most countries cuts in the defense budget are heavily influenced by political decisions. This often means there is always pressure to preserve civilian (and to a lesser extent uniformed military) jobs at the expense of everything else. The United States, even with its lower cost per aircraft, is still beset by this curse of excessive overhead and other politically motivated costs.

 


Article Archive

Murphy's Law: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close