The Price of Hellfire Missiles: Everything Americans Could Buy at the Cost of a Drone Strike

Hellfire Missile for a Reaper DroneAs Donald Trump’s plan to Make America Great Again unfolds, there is at least one thing he will not need to worry about because the United States is already greatest at it — spending the most money to kill people. With US defense spending being more than the next 7 countries combined, none of our competitors will be catching up to us anytime soon. In this case, the greatness of the US is beyond question and it comes at a cost — but that is the price we pay for our freedom. And no one can put a price on freedom. But have any of you wondered — if you could put a price on freedom — what its cost would be? Or, in other words — how great exactly is the price of things like Hellfire missiles?

The Costs of Freedom:
What else can we buy at the price of a Hellfire Missile?

Recently, there has been a lot of whining & complaining in the US about things like a lack of affordable healthcare & budget cuts to programs that feed hungry people. What these cry-babies need to understand is that drone campaigns are not cheap. Seriously — how do these people expect the US government to keep blowing up weddings in Yemen and make sure the basic needs of its people are met at the same time?

Hellfire Missile
Price Tag — $110,000

Reaper Drone with AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles
An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles

In addition to being named in a way that leaves zero doubt that we are the good guys in this movie, the Hellfire missile has multi-mission, multi-target “precision-strike” abilities & can kill human beings from land, air, & sea. Basic models of these laser-guided firecrackers use shaped-charge HEAT ( high-explosive anti-tank ) warheads but upgraded models include blast fragmentation sleeves for bulk-murder & thermobaric warheads that suck the air out of Afghan caves & can even collapse buildings. Jointly made by Lockheed-Martin & Boeing, the Hellfire series has become the bread-&-butter missile for the modern helicopter- & drone-based killing industries.

Things Americans Could Afford
Per Hellfire Missile & Drone Strike
:

Father of Man Killed by US Hellfire Missiles at a Yemeni Wedding
Ahmad Muhammad al-Tisi of Yakla holds a photo of his son `Aref Ahmad Muhammad al-Tisi, 28, who was killed in a US drone strike at a Yemeni wedding on December 12, 2013. © 2013 Nasser al-San`a

The price of a Hellfire missile like the kind released by the MQ-9 Reaper in a US drone strike is roughly equal to the yearly taxes1 paid by 74 wage-earning workers, with enough left over to buy a candy bar:

$110,000 ÷ $1,486 = 74.02

Reaper drones carry 4 Hellfire missiles, however, and the average number of weapons released in an airstrike last year was 2.2, which means the price-tag for 1 drone strike’s worth of Hellfire missiles is closer to $242,000. To understand what a drone strike is, try to imagine the missiles as metal bags stuffed with the taxes of 163 workers being launched at a mosque in Pakistan. You can also think of them as 10 college degrees printed on a few over-sized diplomas collapsing a building in Iraq or as an exploding version of the yearly compensation received by 9 workers near the median income in the US.

Things Americans Could Afford
Per Defense Budget for Hellfire Missiles
:

The $190.2 million or so spent by the Pentagon to purchase 1,729 Hellfire missiles in 2015 is equal to the cost of providing 1 year of housing for 19,807 homeless people, including utility subsidies & the salaries to pay 1 case manager for every 30 recipients:

1,729 Hellfire Missiles ÷ Yearly Cost of Housing for the Homeless 
$190,190,000 ÷ 9,602 = 19,807.33 or 9,807 People Housed for 1 Year

Flint, Michigan Water PipesAnd we would still have $3,186 left to buy a LG 75″ LED 4K Ultra HD Smart TV as a housewarming gift to 1 formerly-homeless person, chosen by lottery. It would take a total of $248,558,282 to buy one for all of them, so — if we only have the defense budget for fiscal year 2015 — the rest would need to buy their own. But if we use fiscal year 2016 instead, there would be funds to buy 5,950 Hellfire missiles — and that, my friends, is a game-changer. With $654.5 million, we could buy housing for 19,807 people, subsidized utilities, & a 75″ smart TV in each unit — with nearly $406 million to spare! $216M out of that can replace the 10,000 lead pipes in Flint, Michigan and the last $190 million would cover 1 month of groceries for every human being in San Francisco, plus another 20,000 or so in the suburbs.

5,950 Hellfire Missiles – Housing & Smart TVs for 19,807 People
$654,500,000 – $248,558,282 = $405,941,718
$405,941,718 – Replacing 10,000 Lead Pipes in Flint
$405,941,718 – $216,000,000 = $189,941,718
$189,941,718 ÷ Average Monthly Grocery Expenses

$189,941,718 ÷ $214.75 = 884,478.3 ( Population of San Francisco: 864,816 )

But the cost of Reaper drones, Hellfire missiles, & the human beings we erase when we use them are only tiny fractions of the price millions of people in the Middle East pay with their blood & that the US demands of its people for what it keeps insisting is their freedom — whatever the hell that means.

In solidarity,
John Laurits

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¹ Note: The estimate I use here for taxes paid by an average wage-worker in the United States ( $1,486 ) was calculated from the median net wage for a US individual in 2015 according to Social Security Data & the estimated median tax-rate paid paid by a US household according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. The calculation is rough yet reasonably accurate & necessary because I wanted to use the median rather than the mean rate ( which exaggerates the “average” due to the large gap between us & the capitalist dogs of the top 1% ) and I was unable to locate any number on the internet for the median effective tax-rate of US workers

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