The Ten Most Expensive Cancelled Aircraft (with some Inflation adjustment)

Triton

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"Axed! The trillion dollar list of shame: The Ten Most Expensive Cancelled Aircraft"
March 17, 2013

Source:
http://hushkit.net/2013/03/17/ten-most-expensive-cancelled-aircraft/

he amount that has been spent on military projects that have been cancelled is colossal. In assembling this list I’ve been surprised a few times: the Bristol Brabazon didn’t make it, yet a few in the top five I hadn’t even considered. I’ve tried to be sensible, not including projects that spawned actual aircraft- like the B-1A, but including radical variants like the two cursed Nimrods.

I’ve avoided aircraft where no figures where available (so no Sukhoi T-4 or XFV-12). With so many variables to get wrong (unreliable figures, time and currency conversion rates among many) I accept that this is at best a rough guide. I do however hope you enjoy it and that, in a small way, it serves to highlight the wasteful nature of the weapon procurement process.

Note that only one of the aircraft on this list was built for commercial use!

10. Saunders-Roe Princess £10 million in 1950 prices

9. Hughes H-4 Hercules $23 million in 1946 dollars (circa $275 million in 2013 figures)

8. British Aerospace Nimrod AEW3 £1 billion 1986 pounds

7. British Aircraft Corporation TSR. 2 £450 million in 1965 pounds. More on TSR.2 hereImage

6. Martin P6M SeaMaster $400 million in 1953 dollars (circa 3.4 billion in 2013 dollars)

5. McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II circa $2 billion in 1991 dollars (3.44 billion in 2013) + ongoing legal fees.

4. BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 £3.8 billion in 2010 pounds

3. Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche circa $7 billion in 2004 dollars (8.67 in 2013 figures). This reminds me, here’s what helicopters do in Hollywood

2. Northrop XB-35 $522 million in 1946 (6+ billion)

1. North American XB-70 Valkyrie $1.5 billion in 1966 dollars (10.81 in today dollars)
 

sferrin

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" in a small way, it serves to highlight the wasteful nature of the weapon procurement process."

It does no such thing. What it shows is that engineering cutting edge designs isn't like making bread. Can't stand these Monday-morning quarterbacking articles.
 

NilsD

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How is it not being wasteful? Case in point being the XB-70, cancelled for political reasons after spending billions on it. Then because the requirement still needs to be filled, they spend even more billions and twice the time onto what became the B-1, only to cancel that too for political reasons. How many dozens of biliions of taxpayers money did not end up in any kind of operational capability there?
 

Bill Walker

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The XB-70 was, to be brutal, a technical flop. It never sustained Mach 3 for more than a few minutes. It might have been made to work by throwing more money at it, but the secret to happiness is often knowing when to stop. You don't always realize things like this until you build a few and try them. Its cancellation may have aligned with political thought at the time, but it was not purely political.

The B-1A cancellation was more political, but it left behind a major technical investment that made the B-1B possible at lower cost and in less time than starting from scratch.

Another thing the list shows is that requirements (including politically driven requirements) change at shorter intervals than major technological development times.
 

aim9xray

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Triton said:
2. Northrop XB-35 $522 million in 1946 (6+ billion)

Really? Doesn't this seem a little high? A quick check reveals that Northrop gross revenues from establishment to 1946 were on the order of only $395 million. And out of that came production of P-61s, A-31s, N3PBs, XP-56s, subcontract work to Boeing and Convair, the wing development program and other efforts. (Admittedly there were other Government costs - contracts to Martin/Otis Elevator - but normal costs such as engine development weren't charged to the wing - to the best of my knowledge).

OK, on further checking, Marcelle Size Knaack (Post World War II Bombers) provides total development B-35 (including YB-49 conversions) costs to the end of FY48 as $66 million. ($66,050,506).
 

RyanC

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Bill Walker said:
The XB-70 was, to be brutal, a technical flop. It never sustained Mach 3 for more than a few minutes.


Incorrect. Before it was lost; the second prototype sustained Mach 3 cruise for about 30 minutes. This was at the point that engineers calculated the maximum thermal expansion in the airframe would occur; so it basically proved that it was a triple sonic supercruiser.
 

marauder2048

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aim9xray said:
Triton said:
2. Northrop XB-35 $522 million in 1946 (6+ billion)

Really? Doesn't this seem a little high? A quick check reveals that Northrop gross revenues from establishment to 1946 were on the order of only $395 million. And out of that came production of P-61s, A-31s, N3PBs, XP-56s, subcontract work to Boeing and Convair, the wing development program and other efforts. (Admittedly there were other Government costs - contracts to Martin/Otis Elevator - but normal costs such as engine development weren't charged to the wing - to the best of my knowledge).

OK, on further checking, Marcelle Size Knaack (Post World War II Bombers) provides total development B-35 (including YB-49 conversions) costs to the end of FY48 as $66 million. ($66,050,506).
'

More to the point, didn't the XB-35 lose out (for various reasons) in the *deselection* process for the intercontinental bomber competition to the XB-36?

In the incredibly austere post-1945 budgetary environment, I don't think there was any real possibility of the USAAF procuring two intercontinental bomber types so my argument is that the XB-35 shouldn't be included on the list at all; unless of course you want to include a long list of the deselected.
 

Abraham Gubler

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sferrin said:
" in a small way, it serves to highlight the wasteful nature of the weapon procurement process."

Like there has never been a civil or commercial project that cost a lot of money and failed to sell or work.
 

sferrin

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RyanCrierie said:
Bill Walker said:
The XB-70 was, to be brutal, a technical flop. It never sustained Mach 3 for more than a few minutes.


Incorrect. Before it was lost; the second prototype sustained Mach 3 cruise for about 30 minutes. This was at the point that engineers calculated the maximum thermal expansion in the airframe would occur; so it basically proved that it was a triple sonic supercruiser.

And the only reason they stopped at 32 minutes is because the test point (full heat soak) had been reached. Technical issues had absolutely nothing to do with the scaling back to a test program. That was brought on by the mistaken assumption that SAMs were invincible.
 

pathology_doc

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And by the less mistaken assumption, probably correct, that at least in a mass exchange, the ICBM (or at least some of them) will always get through.
 

sferrin

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pathology_doc said:
And by the less mistaken assumption, probably correct, that at least in a mass exchange, the ICBM (or at least some of them) will always get through.

True. I think, during that time window, the notion of using bombers in anything but a nuclear strike had kinda gone out the window as well.
 

pathology_doc

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And even if it hadn't, the B-70 is not exactly the sort of aircraft you assign to provide mass delivery of unguided conventional ordnance, even if the structure and internal arrangement were capable of it. As a service proposition, strategic nuclear bombing (and/or recon) was really all it would have been good for, whereas even the B-1 (in the -B form) eventually got to prove that it could also be a "bomb truck". Whether it could have contributed more if continued as a research aircraft is one of those unanswered questions - in the end, in-service flight experience gained on the SR-71 has probably contributed much more to knowledge of continuous high-Mach flight than continuing with the XB-70 as a research vehicle ever would have.
 

sferrin

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pathology_doc said:
And even if it hadn't, the B-70 is not exactly the sort of aircraft you assign to provide mass delivery of unguided conventional ordnance, even if the structure and internal arrangement were capable of it. As a service proposition, strategic nuclear bombing (and/or recon) was really all it would have been good for, whereas even the B-1 (in the -B form) eventually got to prove that it could also be a "bomb truck". Whether it could have contributed more if continued as a research aircraft is one of those unanswered questions - in the end, in-service flight experience gained on the SR-71 has probably contributed much more to knowledge of continuous high-Mach flight than continuing with the XB-70 as a research vehicle ever would have.

With todays PGMs that would changed. (But then if we had the B-70 we probably wouldn't have got the B-1 which, while slower, is much more versatile. Still, for the strategic nuclear mission it would have been nice.)
 

phrenzy

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I'd be very curious to know how the xb-70's flight profile would have survived against SA-2. Valkyrie might have been a conventional silver bullet in Vietnam.
 

sferrin

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phrenzy said:
I'd be very curious to know how the xb-70's flight profile would have survived against SA-2. Valkyrie might have been a conventional silver bullet in Vietnam.

Ever see how the Blackbird survived against the SA-2? Kinda like that.
 

phrenzy

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But would it have been able to deliver weapons at those speeds? The blackbird didn't have to alter it's flight profile to take pictures. It would have had to open the bay doors over Hanoi, over the defensive inner ring. Would it be dropping munitions at speed and altitude?

Although, thinking about it the b-70 was designed to penetrate and drop munitions over heavily defended military sites in the USSR/China so why not Hanoi or Haiphong?
 
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