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Winslow Wheeler, one of the Washington’s most respected defense budget experts, has penned a detailed analysis of how much the Pentagon pays for maintenance and operations to keep its planes in the air. Below, we offer a very condensed version of his report. The Editor.

Early in a weapon program’s history, there is virtually always a promise that it will be cheaper to operate than the aircraft it is to replace. That rarely turns out to be the case. This is not
new; just as the Air Force promised the F-22 would be cheaper (by 35 percent) to operate than the F-15, it also promised back in the 1970s that the F-15 would be cheaper to operate than the F-4 it replaced. The higher O&S costs are rarely divulged — or are even the subject of inquiry. When questions are asked, actual costs are masked by several layers of fog. What is available on scarce occasion is incomplete, and some of it is misleading. Keep reading →