After saying "the F-35 will replace the A-10" only to have the A-10 skunk the shit out of the F-35, the Air Force is now saying "We like the A-10, but we need something that we can fly for less than $5k an hour."
For comparison, you can barely keep a Reaper in the sky for that. and that's if you lie through your teeth.
- Nor is Reaper cheaper to operate, despite initial appearances. Air Force flying hour cost data shows Reaper to cost only $3,624 per hour to fly in 2011 for what the Air Force terms “operational” flying hour costs. That compares to the much higher hourly cost to fly A-10s or F-16s: $17,780 per hour for the newly modified A-10C and $20,809 for an F-16C. However, because each Reaper flies a large number of hours in the air, the math suppresses the per-hour Reaper number. If the calculation is for total maintenance costs over the course of a year for a Reaper unit, the relationship changes: at a per year cost of $5.1 million, per individual Reaper, and at $20.4 million per CAP, the Reaper shows itself to be well above the cost to maintain and operate over a year for an individual A-10C (at $5.5 million) or an F-16C (at $4.8 million). Annual operating unit cost for a Reaper unit is about four times the annual cost to operate an F-16 or an A-10.