I Wonder Why – Fighter Aircraft vs Missiles

There are questions in the back of everyone’s minds.  Things that we might find trivial and are afraid of asking someone lest they might think that we are stupid.  Maybe people are simply jealous that they never thought of it before.  Or maybe people being people are so happy living a conformist life that they don’t like to question and are happy following the herd.

Everyone’s got questions.  I got mine too.  One of which is the wisdom of buying a costly fighter plane over spending a fraction of that amount buying a missile.

Every country spends billions of dollars buying up fighter planes to shore up their air force capabilities.  India is no stranger.  They have already sent out RFQ for buying upto 126 such planes.


A F-18 fighter plane costs approximately $54 million. A fighter plane can  home on to many targets at the same time, carry a nuclear bomb, can enter an enemy’s territory and bomb the hell out of the place, can do reconnaissance and lot lot more.

So, is buying another fighter plane the only solution for a rival?  A missile, E.g  A patriot missile (used by the US ) costs approx $2 million per unit.  The job of this missile is to shoot down an incoming missile.  Am sure the same missile can then probably even shoot down an incoming enemy fighter plane.  Or else with proper modifications, it can do the job.

In that case why should someone spend $54 million for a F-18 when they can buy 27 patriot missiles for the same amount?  Assuming the worst kill ratio of 1:5 (i.e firing off 5 missiles to blow away one fighter plane), its still a cheaper deal than buying a fighter.  The above mentioned cost of a plane probably doesn’t cover the cost of maintenance, upgrades and repairs. All that added up over the whole lifetime of the aircraft could add up to a significant amount.


If one can shoot down the aircraft with the first missile itself, that means a significant boost when it comes to the hit ratio.  A cost of $2 million versus $54 million.  Which is a better bet?

Of course the aircraft can dodge a missile as most of the missiles today work on heat seeking technology. Am sure the scientists could work on some other methods by which the missile can lock down on the aircraft and really chase it down no matter what the pilot does to shake off the chasing missile.

Maybe there are things that Iam not aware of.  That’s because Iam not a professional nor have I done any studies in aircraft, missiles or anything related to arms and ammunition.  Or maybe people who have the power or the mandate to do the purchase do have knowledge but dont want to take the risk.  What if the gut feeling comes off wrong?  What if in the case of a war, the country becomes a sitting duck to the rival’s aircraft?

But I do believe that my point of thought also has its own merits.  If that is so, why dont we see any country follow such a strategy? Is it because they are too much impressed by the glossy brochures and marketing talk of the aircraft companies?  Or are they also infected with the same disease that every IT professional suffers from i.e to spend his / her whole lifetime cribbing about the bad security in Microsoft products and yet stick to them all their life?

PS: All prices mentioned above are approximate pricing and that i found by googling the net.

Above pictures source: Wikipedia & Tcappsbct