Indian Air Force

Explained: Per Hour Operating Cost Of IAF’s Fighter Jets

Hello defence lovers, In the last few articles, we have discussed in detail India’s upcoming fighter programs like Tejas mk2, TEDBF, etc. While discussing fighter jets their cost is a hotly debated topic. Along with this, the next obvious question is how much it costs to operate the fighter jet. Apart from procuring fighter aircraft, their per-hour operating cost is also an expensive affair.

In this article, we will discuss what is per hour operating cost of a fighter jet. How it is calculated? Lastly, what is this cost for some of the Indian Air force’s frontline fighters?

Per Hour Operating Cost Of A Fighter Aircraft-

The per-hour operating cost of a fighter aircraft is the expenditure required to maintain and operate an aircraft. This is usually calculated by total cost divided by the flying hours.

Following factors are generally considered for calculating this cost.

  1. Aviation fuel– Fuel efficiency of engine is an important factor. Engines of fighter aircraft are generally not designed for efficient but for performance. Thus they try to produce maximum thrust. Also a double engine aircraft is more expensive to operate than one with a single engine.
  2. Consumable supplies– These include weapons, ammunition, and other supplies.
  3. Operating and maintenance– Some aircraft are highly maintenance friendly. E.g. MiG-21. On the other hand some have very high maintenance requirements. E.g. F-35 of US.
  4. Unit level manpower
  5. System improvements/ upgrades– more advanced avionics and electronic systems require more energy. Thus it affects efficiency and increases cost.
  6. Capital charges
  7. Depreciation– With time the airframe and other systems depreciate. This also increases maintenance costs to keep such aircraft flying.

Per Hour Operating Cost Of Some Of The IAF’s Frontline Aircraft

Kindly note the following points-

  • There is very little information available about these costs, especially about IAF’s aircraft.
  • The following information is based on various sources. These are news articles, articles by experts, and official websites of the manufacturers.
  • Various sources provide different figures for the same aircraft. I have tried to quote the figures by the most authentic source available.
  • Conversation from USD to INR is as per current exchange rates.

Sukhoi Su-30 MKI

This is a twin engine Russian origin multi-role fighter.

Operating cost- Around USD 10,000 or INR 7,33,000 per hour.

Per Hour Operating Cost Su-30MKI
Sukhoi Su-30MKI

Mirage 2000

This is a French origin single engine air defence and multi role fighter.

Operation cost- Around USD 2700 or INR 2,00,000 per hour. Some sources quote it at USD 3700.

Per Hour Operating Cost of Mirage 2000
Mirage 2000

MiG-29

This is a Russian origin twin engine air superiority fighter aircraft.

Operating cost- Around USD 6500 or INR 4,76,000 per hour.

MiG-29

Rafale

It is a twin engine multirole fighter of French origin.

Operating cost- Around USD 16000 or INR 11,73,000 per hour.

Per Hour Operating Cost of Rafale Fighter
Rafale Fighter

Tejas

It’s an indigenous single engine multi role fighter aircraft.

Operating cost- Around USD 4000 or INR 2,93,000 per hour.

LCA Tejas
IAF LCA Tejas

MiG-21

It is a single engine Russian origin fighter aircraft.

Operating cost- Around USD 3000 or INR 2,20,000 per hour.

Mig 21
Mig 21

Also let’s have a brief look at operating cost of IAF’s transport fleet as well-

C-17 Globemaster– Around USD 24,000 or INR 17,60,000 per hour.

C-130J Super Hercules– Around USD 10000 or INR 7,33,000 per hour.

The above figures are can give an idea about what it costs to defend India’s airspace. Also these aircraft don’t fly only for operations. They fly round the clock for different missions, These missions include combat air patrolling, air superiority, surveillance and training, etc. One can imagine the burden it puts on Government’s exchequer.

Conclusion-

It is often said that the defence expenditure is a necessary evil. This is mainly due the massive amount needed to maintain Defence forces and keep them operations ready at any point of time. Thus this is the cost we pay for our national security.

Prasad Gore

A defence enthusiast. Writing on Defence, Aviation and International Relations. M.A., NET (Defence and strategic studies).

5 Comments

    1. I totally agree that per hour flying cost is a highly vague concept as number of factors are considered for calculating it. Various experts consider different factors so the numbers are also different. I have tried to give an estimate here, have cleared this in middle part of the article. Only IAF knows the exact cost:) Thanks

  1. The artcle is very informative and it is valuable to auditors and accountants like me.

    Expectingore articles like this.

    Thanks and regards.

    GIRISH
    TRIVANDRUM
    Mob. 0 9496085524 / 9895685524

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