US Air Force/Sarah Corrice
- The Defense Department calculates the hourly reimbursement cost for each branch’s aircraft — rates used to charge nongovenmental organizations or civilians for events like flyovers at sporting events.
- The Air Force plane with the highest rate is the E-4B airborne command center: $73,123 an hour.
- Heavy bombers like the B-1B and B-2A are also really expensive, likely based on fuel and crew costs.
The Air Force has planes for every mission, but those planes aren’t always doing missions for the Air Force.
In October, the Defense Department Comptroller released latest reimbursement rates for each service branch’s planes and helicopters.
These costs are generally calculated based on fuel use, wear and tear, and personnel needs — the branch providing the aircraft also typically provides a pilot and crew, an Air Force spokeswoman told Business Insider.
The document lists four categories for reimbursement: other Defense Department components, other federal agencies, foreign military sales, and "all other."
"When determining the hourly rate, agencies should utilize the appropriate rate category," the document says. "The ‘all other’ annual billable rate will be used to obtain reimbursement for services provided to organizations outside the Federal government."
Below, you can see Air Force aircraft reimbursement rates for users that fall into the "all other" category — that’s you.
A-10C Thunderbolt — $6,454
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier
The A-10C Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is the US Air Force’s premier ground-attack aircraft and perhaps the best the world, renowned by foot soldiers for its ability to absorb punishment and dish out even more with its 30mm cannon.
The Air Force has a total of 281 A-10s in its inventory. As of mid-2018, 173 of them had gotten or were in the process of getting new wings.
The future of the roughly 100 that still need wings has been the subject of debate between Air Force officials, many of whom want to retire the Thunderbolt and move on to other platforms, and members of Congress, who want to see the fearsome gunship continue flying.
AC-130J Ghostrider — $7,541
Air Force/Courtesy photo
The AC-130J is the latest variant of the AC-130 gunship, upgraded with enhanced avionics as well as integrated navigation systems, defensive systems, and radar. It is also modified with the Precision Strike Package, which has a mission management system that puts sensors, communications, and order-of-battle and threat information into a common picture.
The Ghostrider — a name officially designated in May 2012 — is still relatively new, having completed developmental test and evaluation in June 2015. As of 2016, the Air Force planned to have 32 Ghostriders in the active-duty force by fiscal year 2021.
The aircraft has struggled, particularly with its 30 mm and 105 mm guns. But the commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing said last year the gunship would probably be "the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare."
B-1B Lancer — $51,475
Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III/USAF/Handout via REUTERS
Of Air Force aircraft, the B-1B Lancer packs the largest payload — 75,000 pounds — of both guided and unguided weapons and is the "backbone" of the US long-range bomber force.
It has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, which isn’t the highest of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is the fastest, capable of topping 900 mph, or a little over the speed of sound at sea level.
In order to comply with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by the US and the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Lancer was modified so that it cannot carry nuclear weapons, a conversion process completed in 2011.
As of late 2016, the Air Force had 64 Lancers — two for testing — all of which were in the active force.
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