U.S. military saves taxpayer dollars by replacing $300,000 helicopters with $6 million ones

A friend sent me this ArmyTimes article about the U.S. Army “cutting costs” by replacing old Bell JetRanger helicopters (the civilian 206B equivalents are available in airworthy condition for $300,000 to $500,000).

For active duty, the $300,000 single-engine machines will be replaced with $20 million twin-engine Apache helicopters. For primary training, students will learn to hover in $6 million twin-engine Eurocopter EC-145s (the “Lakota”). After you’ve paid the $6 million, what do these cost to run? Back in 2011 Conklin and de Decker estimated nearly $1200 per hour (source), i.e., nearly triple the cost of the EC120, a modern equivalent to the JetRangers that will be retiring.

[What do other countries do for primary training, you might ask? Some have decided to use the Robinson R44, whose brand new purchase cost is about $350,000 and whose direct operating costs are about $200 per hour. Where 100LL gasoline is impractical to obtain and brand new helicopters are desired, the jet-powered Robinson R66 is getting some military sales. These are about $800,000 to purchase with direct operating costs of perhaps $350-400 per hour.]

If this really does save money, I think our flight school needs to look into getting rid of our single-engine Piper Warriors ($30,000 to $80,000 in value, depending on vintage and engine time; about $85 per hour in operating cost). We could replace them with brand-new twin-engine jet-powered airplanes that cost $800 per hour to operate and then reduce our prices for customers.

Related: July 2010 posting about the Port Authority of New York operating Sikorsky S-76 helicopters for $15,500 per hour when the mission could have been done for $400 per hour in an R44.