You already paid for the bomber fuel

Whining about costs for a B-2 overflight is silly.

The B-2 flies over the Utah Testing and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during the test run Sept. 10, in which the B-2 dropped 80 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions. (Photo by Bobbie Garcia)

It’s not even Monday and already there are complaints about the cost of the July 4th celebration. Suddenly there are online debates about the cost of jet fuel. Suddenly there are quotes about the cost per hour to operate and run varying aircraft.

Relax. Overflights for July 4th, football games and other events are a routine thing for the military. The military even has a form (DoD Form 2535) that you can fill out to request support, from an overflight to a static display. If you do, it comes with a lot of caveats: the event must be open to the public, the sponsoring group must not be discriminatory, etc. etc. You also pay for costs: fuel, transportation, meals. There’s a part of the form that covers this.

Notice the last line about military recruiters. That’s a big deal, especially when the economy is good. Remember that most people can’t join the military due to some medical issue, being too fat, poor education or a criminal background history. That totals up to 24 million people not eligible to join out of a pool of 34 million people. That number should frighten us, so any opportunity for recruiters to keep the flow of young people coming in is important.

But let’s say you still care about that cost per flight hour of a jet you’ve never stepped into before. Again, relax. Pilots and aircrew members have to maintain currency on aircraft, so they fly them a set number of hours every month. For example, I had to fly somewhere between 5 to 10 hours at a minimum each month just to keep currency as an aircrew member. Pilots and other flight officers have to do much more than that. Multiply this by the number of pilots you have, and you have plenty of flight hours to schedule time for.

So guess what happens when you get multiple requests for B-2 flyovers on July 4th? You rack and stack them, get everyone that needs currency hours into work that day, and then fly 10-12 flyovers all over the United States from one aircraft. Pilots get their hours, people get a nice show, and recruiters keep the flow of young people coming into the military

If we want to be saving money on the military, let’s tackle the harder problem of military acquisition reform. Our flyovers and static displays are a drop in the bucket compared to that.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.