Helicopter price comparison: Europe vs USA :(

Discussion in 'The Fleet Air Arm' started by stumpy, Feb 16, 2008.

Welcome to the Navy Net aka Rum Ration

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial RN website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. As we know British and European helicopters are expensive but I recently read the following in February's "Air Forces Monthy" on page 14:

    "On december 12, Army and Navy officials signed a $7.4 billion contract with Sikorsky to buy 537 H-60s; approimately 290 UH-60M and HH-60M Black Hawks for the Army and around 247 MH-60 Sea Hawks for the Navy"

    Now let me see, in the late 1990s we took elivery of about 44 Royal Navy Merlins for about £3.5 billion, which equals about £80 million each (I have heard actually about £100 million each).

    But $7.4 billion equals about £3.2 billion which means each aircraft costs about only £6.3 million each!!

    For the same cost of 44 RN Merlins we could have got 537 helicopters! Yes I know that in some areas Merlins are better than a Sea Hawk or Black Hawk, but are they better than 12 US helicopters???

    I have just realised that I must sound like Lewis Page, but I am not honest!
  2. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    Stumpy, you have a very valid point.

    The same can be said about the EuroFighter (Typhoon) which is without doubt a magnificent aircraft, but there was no reason not to buy an "off the shelf" US aircraft for considerably less. Many claim it's because it's European, but that tends to hold little water when you look at the Apache helicopters or the Phantom aircraft we bought from the US.

    An interesting "Google sum" is to divide the amount of aircraft the Israeli airforce have, divided by the amount of people in their airforce. Do the same calculation with the US Air Force, the RAF & again with the the FAA. The mind boggles with regard apparent efficiency.

    (Answers please, on a post in this thread).
  3. Lies, damned lies and statistics. The US can purchase H-60 variants in follow on orders at that price because they have already bought thousands of the things over several decades!!! That produces immense economies of scale in terms of training and logistics.

    Likewise, it is not all that relevant to compare a predominantly tactical AF such as that of Israel, who rarely venture beyond a few thousand miles from their territory, to those of the US and UK (RAF and FAA) who have a true expeditionary role.

    The Israelis would not be able to deploy and sustain the variety of assets the RAF and FAA does, to dozens of locations thousands of miles from home, for years and indeed decades. That requires a shed load more personnel in support roles such as logistics. Oh, and when the Israelis pitched up at Flag a few years back, they weren't all that impressive.

  4. Ok these sums might not be exact. But i still think we would get a far better deal if we bought more of the yanks. And less from these european tie in deals.
  5. Plausible, if you are considering the sonar suite. What would have been a £25m aircraft in the 90s has had a lot of time put into it. Without even delving in to the engineering issues, remember the cost escalations of building Wembley stadium? £160m became £400m plus in a short space of time....
    Cost accountants will point to interest rates and manhours as the main source of inflations of the contract. I remember some pretty fuzzy accounting going on in relation to the Nimrod costs per airframe, Im sure our resident Hansard hooligan can dig that up for us, for those with insomnia.

    Meh, again, I seem to remember the Lynx HAS.3 having a quoted price of around £14m, reputedly up from the £3m at its inception in the early 80's. The Mk8 new build airframes were supposed to be set at £14m, but the price seemed to balloon once its avionics were fitted, like the converted mk3 cabs that needed 1200+ hours in AMG to get them back to some sort of state to take the weight. I suppose we could ask Heseltine...I hear he liked Westlands. Anyway, for another comparison, you could almost buy a Corvette in the US for the price of a Mini in the UK, dollars to pounds just doesn't equate even if you take the exchange rate prevailing, there is a buying power bend to that curve caused by the disparity in the economies.

    Thats a yes and a no for me. Forgetting the performance of the platform, could it be made to fill the roles we need, dunking sonar etc? Probably. but I doubt we would get the same price as the US DOD, but even so, I do believe we would get more airframes for the same money. Of course, Westlands could build them under licence so we could make them cost loads more, and then make a bunch of half arsed mods midway through development rendering a patchwork of aircraft with varying avionics and regional mods...... :farao:
  6. Anyone in their right mind knows that the Merlin is expensive for a RN helicopter, the sonar kit is a luxury that usually gets the heave ho very quickly, as RN helicopters are needed in the UTILITY role more than ASW. The merlin is not practible in the ASR role (heavy downwash), and cannot land ashore in wet ground due to having wheels removed from its landing gear. In a non military way it could be usefull for flying fresh fruit, veg and papers for the wardroom, but this helicopter cost billions of pounds and the MOD cannot afford this for the delight of a few officers. The old Dragonfly worked wonders as an ASR and UTILITY helo although the CofG was a bit tricky, stick fully forward but going backwards. every Naval airfield and carrier had at least two in the fifties and it done its job effiecently, not so the Merlin,its not fit for purpose and the Navy can not afford to run it. the first time this helicopter flew was 1989, almost twenty years ago and the Navy has just realised that it is not capable of doing the job that is requied of it.
  7. Westland tooled up to build Blackhawks, they even built one, back in the day, but we decided to embark on another hugely expensive Euro-concept.

    With our ever shrinking defence non-budget, the only way we are going to afford even half decent kit in future is to buy OTS and customise it to a minimal standard. US kits in generally perfectly good for our purposes and as we spend nearly all our time operating with them makes sense.
  8. Guns

    Guns War Hero Moderator

    And you base this on what? The Merlin is the RN ASW asset of choice and a very good one at that (stand fast another sub - but they are becoming less available to the MCC). It can be used in limited troop support roles but frankly it is designed to go out, find subs and kill them. It is also very good in the MSO role, providing a good RMP to extend any coverage that is required. Something the Mk7 does less and less as it gets dragged into 'Stan and other places for ISTAR. The Merlin is a good airframe with a bad past press. We need it, more and more of our helos are disappearing in to the Purple world.
  9. If you really want to terminate the British or European ability to design aircraft and their systems, along with the capacity and capability to build them, the means is so simple; buy it off the shelf from the septics. Then make sure you never p**s them off or that they don't start producing kit that's no use to your way of war fighting. Once you become dependent on them, you'll never have a choice.

    Also, offset the the low priced foreign kit against the proportion of the cost that stays at home when we build things ourselves. I'm not sure what 50,000 or so job seekers or additional warehouse stackers would add to the Economy.
  10. I'll bear that in mind if I ping a periscope on Herrick 9.

    Whilst on foot.
  11. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    :thumright: You bit.

    Surely a purple helicopter would be cheaper when bought in bulk, would have a largely interchangeability of materiel support & a cheaper to train maintenance team?

  12. MoD and Big And Expensive et al have been touting that bollox for years and it's just that, bollox…

    Hercules, C-17, Phantom, Sea King, Wessex, Whirlwind, Apache, Chinnook… oh look! Work like advertised, designed by the Yanks and worked perfectly OK for us in all the assorted ways we fight wars.
  13. Only if you can ensure all the "must-haves" for each contributing colour are met. Typically, green and light blue don't like to pay for (both cost and performance) things like marinised airframes, stronger U/C, EMI protection (avionics, FCS and weapons) in a naval environment and of course folding bits. Conversely, dark blue aren't overly chuffed about paying for DAS, armour, guns, real overland capable NVG/FLIR capability and some of the "field-servicing" bits required for JHC to do it's job.

    You might think that Merlin provides a start point for that airframe, but tehre are significant differences between the HM1 and HC3 (none of which are helped by the gearbox limit). It's also worth saying that although UH/SH60 also looks good as a start point, it's almost certainly too small for Royals requirements in terms of throw weight (ie how many booties with bergens it can carry for a reasonable distance).
  14. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator


    My point being that if the "big bits" were the same, it would be cheaper, ( harking back to Seaking) to have similar airframes fitted with or without different "twiddly-bits" to allow a Booty carrying a rigid raider & outboard on his back to sit comfortably or a 'compuer geek' to twiddle with his knobs and find submarines in a slightly different variant.
  15. And just how much more than the US drive away price were they to work the way wanted. Equaly most of your examples are old airframes without the level of integration in the elctronics you see today, and that integration does cost an arm and a leg when you change something. For example the Phanton was re-engined, a major task then I admit, but today would also require very significant reprogramming of the safety critical software, a f*cking h*ge task.

    Mind you sensible buy in to offshore programmes is not a bad thing if you do it right, and the JSF programmes does seem to have gone reasonably well, mind you we haven't got any yet.
  16. Passed-over_loggie wrote:
    If you really want to terminate the British or European ability to design aircraft and their systems, along with the capacity and capability to build them, the means is so simple; buy it off the shelf from the septics. Then make sure you never p**s them off or that they don't start producing kit that's no use to your way of war fighting. Once you become dependent on them, you'll never have a choice.

    Also, offset the the low priced foreign kit against the proportion of the cost that stays at home when we build things ourselves. I'm not sure what 50,000 or so job seekers or additional warehouse stackers would add to the Economy.

    Just trot back a few years in FAA history, we've always had American aircraft (fixed and rotary wing) the one thing the service has been short of is senior aviation command officers. British aircraft at the start of WW2 were mediocre at best, Roc,Skua,Swordfish and Fulmar, latter Barracuda, Albacore,Sea hurricane.The most succesfull were the American ones, Wildcat, Hellcat,Avenger and Corsair, At the wars end came thr Firefly and Firebrand neither had the correct role allocated.The Firefly did do some good work at the end with the BPF. Then we have the Skyraider (US again)a wonderfull AEW aircraft, Senior command in Royal Navy had forgotten about airborne early warning which is supprising considering the trouble they had with the kamikazi in the Paciffic, they managed to forget again in time for the Falklands.
    Next the helicopters, Hoverfly,Dragonfly,Whirlwind,Wessex and Seaking all US again, one or two had a bit of fiddling by Westlands and not always for the better, ie the gazelle engine in the Wessex, the only AS helicopter which was restricted from overwater flying. Finaly the Phantom and the last fixed wing aircraft of the FAA apart from the Harrier and that was'nt planned "it just 'append". I am not saying this kit came free, mostly were lease/lend some were MAD procurement and some were paid for, But they kept the the FAA in the picture. There is no point at all in having carriers if all you can fly is second rate aircraft that need air superiority before they can be operated.
    The story of the first naval airship is worth thinking about, Naval command (thier lordships) insisted that it was fitted with mahogany decking,anchors, flags, and all manner of extraneous naval stuff, its name The Mayfly, the first time it left its shed at Barrow in Furness it was caught by a gust of wind and broke in half, and the Mayfly did'nt.

  17. The extra cost is because of basically pie in the sky 'requirements' that are basically just that… paper requirements to justify keeping on putting work into pretty ineffective UK industry.

    And I'm glad you mentioned the Phantom… now there's a classic example of taking a perfectly good and combat proven plane and buggering it about.

    The original ones where 'Britishized' at great expense, and thanks to the Spey engines ended up significantly slower and with less climb rate than the USN ones. Moving smartly on to the 80's, we needed some spare Phantoms so we bought some ex-USN F-4J's and waddayaknow! They were fitted out with some UK specific kit like radios, worked perfectly well and were superior to 'our' Phantoms.

    The reality is, standard US spec C-130's, Chinooks and Apaches would work perfectly well 'as is' and all we really need is things like 'our' radios fitted.
  18. I am certainly not advocating the concept of changing parts of an equipment just to get UK kit in, workshare and UK contribution is far better left to commercial forces, and in fact most US companies have become quite good at it. Unseen by most there is a lot of UK kit going into US systems as the result of offset requirements, but in all cases it is being bought because it is the best and cheapest for the job. As I said the best way into US kit is getting on board at the start of the programme and becoming part of it rather than being an add on customer. The add on customer not only pays the top price but has to accept that the kit may not be optimal, it is however often cheaper than making your own.

    Mind you even changing the radio on a battlefield van like the C130 is not quite the same as going to Halfords for a new car radio, perhaps it should, but that is not the way the system works, it is still a very significant engineering task, and that costs.

    Equally Septic kit is oftem designed for conops that are contrary to ours and fiting with the way we work can be even more expensive than you thought.

    Sensible offshore buying can be good, buying just because the kit is gucci and cheap can be bad.
  19. Not buying it at all is even worse and our financial cupboard is bare.
  20. huffnut_cringe. You are right that the FAA was starved of capable aircraft for a very long time. Perhaps understandably, when the criminal neglect of the Services bgan to be redressed, Naval aviation came a poor third. Immediately before WW2, and during, most of the available machines were very poor. The Sea Gladiator was good in its day, as was the Sea Fox, but certainly no match for the wartime opposition. Interestingly, though, the Swordfish performed amazingly and seems to owe its survivability to Jerry's gunners being unable to predict a taget flying that slowly.

    I must say that I'm puzzled by the criticism of the Sea Hurricane. A very maintainable capable fighter with a tough wide tracked undercarriage. A tubular steel structure was not suited to life at sea, though.

    The '50s saw some superb British aircraft intended for carrier use. From Sea Fury through Firefly, Seahawk, Gannet, SeaVixen to Buccaneer; some great performers. I would single out the last 3 as truly superb. The Sea Vixen (odd name as there never was a Vixen) was a remarkable all weather fighter and the Air Force made a bad choice by backing the Javelin. Remember how we finished up with Phantoms? Cancellation of the Hawker P1154. For want of a better description, a supersonic Harrier.

    In the '50s, we spread our resources too thinly among too many designers and manufacturers. We, as Services, weren't overly clever at writing specifications for what was needed. Pursuit of the desirable often robbed us of the achievable. Perhaps some things never change.

Share This Page