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The Air and Space Forces estimate the cost of one flight hour at 20,000 euros for the Rafale

The Air and Space Forces estimate the cost of one flight hour at 20,000 euros for the Rafale

The flight hour cost of an aircraft essentially covers the amounts spent to ensure its maintenance. We can also add fuel consumption as well as pilot and mechanic salaries. Calculation methods may vary from country to country [voire d’une institution] On the other hand, comparisons between different types of military aircraft are not always relevant.

However, in 2022, the Government Accountability Office [GAO, l’organe de contrôle financier du Congrès des États-Unis] These were based on the same criteria for determining the cost per flight hour for each aircraft in service with the USAF. Thus, he decided that the amount of 83 thousand euros was for the F-22A Raptor, 41 thousand euros for the F-35, and 22 thousand euros for the A-10 Warthog… and that the prize went to the B-1 Lancer bomber in the amount of 169 thousand euros. [selon le taux de change alors en vigueur, ndlr].

Since the Ministry of the Armed Forces has decided to stop publishing its performance indicators, highlighting “enhanced confidentiality requirements”, such data has now become more difficult to find.

However, in 2004, the Court of Auditors estimated that the cost of supporting the Rafale was “€35,000 per flight hour”. At the time, the Ministry of the Armed Forces said it expected this figure to fall significantly, going so far as to estimate that it would reach “the level of €10,000 per flying hour” in 2012.

But the Rue Cambon judges expressed their doubts… “Certainly, it is logical that such a device, the maintenance of which is currently double-handicapped by its young age and the low number of copies in service, will see a decrease in cost as the number of copies in service grows and its development is completed. Bonus However, this device is designed to allow this Low cost maintenance“, I confess.

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However, they then argued that “experience shows that the evolution of the cost of supporting an aircraft is practically in direct proportion to the evolution of the cost of supporting its engine.” However, the Rafale is equipped with different engines than those found in the aircraft which will eventually have to be replaced. In addition, it is an incomparably more complex aircraft, in terms of avionics and weapons systems, than all its predecessors, which gives it better reliability but also results in higher maintenance costs.

In conclusion: “It therefore seems illusory to imagine that the cost of supporting such an aircraft could, by 2012, be comparable to the current cost of maintaining a modern Super Étendard in operational condition.”

The fact remains that this cost per flight hour fell over the following years… but not actually to the proportions proposed by the Ministry of the Armed Forces. Thus, in 2014, in a new report dedicated to maintenance in operational condition [MCO] Military equipment, the Accounting Board argued that the cost of scheduled maintenance of the equipment [EPM] The cost of one flight hour for the Rafale was 14,596 euros [et à 8’802 euros pour le Mirage 2000].

What is the situation now? During a Senate hearing [le compte-rendu a été publié plus de deux mois après qu’elle a eu lieu, nldr]General Stefan Mehl, Chief of Staff of the Air Force [CEMAAE] He pointed out that the cost of a Rafale aircraft per flight hour is 20,000 euros. But he did not specify the calculation method that enabled this result to be reached. [le coût de soutien a-t-il été le seul avoir été pris en compte ou d’autres variables ont-elles été considérées?].

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After organizing this hearing in the Senate to highlight discussions on the 2024 Finance Bill, the Central African Economic Center welcomed “the significant efforts in terms of appropriations for the preparation of the Air Force,” which will allow “to ensure increased activity of our Air Force.” Crews in the context of marked inflation.

General Mill explained that this effort in favor of preparing the Air Force “amounts to 620 million euros, bringing the total amount to 3.5 billion euros.” “I would like to highlight the fact that 200 million euros will affect our direct activity in the accounting sense of the term: I would like to point out that it is not just a matter of dividing this total amount by the cost per flight hour – 20,000 euros.” [pour le] “Rafale, for example – but we must also take into account the way air activity is carried out,” he added.

As a reminder, the Rafale MCO aircraft is the subject of two so-called “vertical” markets, namely RAVEL [confié à Dassault Aviation] And bolero [notifié à Safran en 2021]. According to General Mill, they made it possible to improve the availability rate of aircraft in service by 3%.