Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Costing us a bomb

The Times (no link) is asking questions about the cost of Dave's little adventure in Libya, and so is the Daily Mirror. Even the hand wavers are asking questions. Nice to see them catching up with the derivative blogs.

I've revisited my own figures, and found I had over-egged my original calculations. The GR4s are cheaper than F3s, a about £33,000 an hour. I've assumed that VC10 and TriStar costs and AWACS are about the same as Nimrod, at about £33,000 an hour as well. An eight-hour sortie for three GR4s, therefore - with support - costs about £1.5 million.

From what I can see now, the Tornadoes carry only two, not four Storm Shadows. But here there is the greatest variation in costs. The Times is saying £500,000 – without giving a source. The Mirror has defence "expert" Francis Tusa saying that Britain pays around £1.5million for a pair. They are both wrong.

The hand wavers quote Prof Malcolm Charmers, from defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, who gives £500,000 as the cost of the Storm Shadow. That tells you all you need to know about Charmers and RUSI. He is wrong as well.

The total programme cost for the Storm Shadow was £981 million, and we bought 900 missiles. The sum includes development costs, INITIAL support costs and unit procurement costs. There are also the aircraft integration costs - the costs of adapting the aircraft to carry and launch the missile.

Thus, we have the typical MoD trick of separating out the costs under different headings. But the real cost is £981 million divided by units procured ... 900 as far as we know. That makes £1.1 million each in round figures, and puts the single mission cost - with six Storm Shadows at £6.6 million - at slightly over £8 million.

The Brookes cartoon in The Times shows a stylised GR4 with its external stores, each with a label. One Storm Shadow is labelled: "half a school", the other: "the other half". We also get "tuition fees", "disability benefit", "one hospital" and so on. Against that, what have we to show for our down payment of £8 million, plus all the rest of the money being poured down the drain?

Cameron has made a serious miscalculation here – and so have the grubbly little MPs who have rushed to support him. Either we are broke, and we must cut spending to the quick - including defence spending - or we are swimming in cash and have plenty to spare for something that isn't directly our problem. They really can't have it both ways.

If they now want to tell us that we must tighten our belts even further, just so that little Dave can enjoy his ego trip, they are likely to meet with a less than sympathetic response - and instructions which are biologically impossible to carry out.

But there is another element here. Throughout the Arab world, people are losing their fear. You never know, this might just catch on here, and our masters might regret taking us for granted. We didn't ask them to go to war, we haven't given them our permission - we didn't even vote for them as a government - and we are certainly not happy about having to pay for it.

Even our masters can only treat us with this level of contempt for so long, before we've finally had enough of them. This has brought us a whole lot closer.