Plane Crash Begets Military Budget 'Booster-Baloney'

News reports on a March 25 F-22 crash in Mojave, Calif., that "contained some strange assertions about the cost of the F-22" have budget myth-buster Winslow Wheeler (, 3/28/09) decrying the "utter hogwash" that reporters printed "possibly based on the price asserted in the Air Force's 'fact' sheet on the F-22 that was linked to a Pentagon 'news' story on the crash." Wheeler demonstrates how the uncritical dissemination of the assertion therein–that "the cost per aircraft was typically described in many media articles as about $140 million"–means that "the tragic event was apparently used to disseminate some booster-baloney":

The latest "Selected Acquisition Report" from the Defense Department is the most definitive data available on the costs for the F-22. The SAR shows a "Current Estimate" for the F-22 program in "Then-Year" dollars of $64.540 billion, which includes both R&D and procurement. That $64.5 billion has bought a grand total of 184 aircraft.

Do the arithmetic: $64.540/184 = $350.1. Total program unit price for one F-22, what approximates the "sticker price," is $350 million per copy.

So, where does the bogus $143 million per copy come from? Most will recognize that as the "flyaway" cost: the amount we pay today, just for the current production costs of an F-22. (Note, however, the "flyaway" cost does not include the gas, pilot etc. needed to fly the aircraft away.)

Striking at the heart of such military budget propaganda, Wheeler responds to credulous reporters: "OK, so the F-22 is really pricey and the Air Force and its boosters are full of baloney on the cost, but it's a great airplane, a real war winner, right? Oh, please. Consider the source."