Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Missile Pylon Costs

You all know what the LAU-115/6 is, right?  You don’t?!  OK, I didn’t exactly recognize the item right off the bat either.  LAU-115 and -116 are the launch pylons used on the Navy’s Hornets to carry and launch AIM-120 and AIM-9X air to air missiles.

Typical Launch Pylon

What do you think they cost?  Maybe $1000 each?  Naw, probably more than that.  The military doesn’t buy anything cheap.  Maybe $5000 each?  They couldn’t be more than $10,000 each, could they?  They’re just relatively simple racks that carry and eject the missiles. 

Well, Raytheon Technical Services was given a $38M contract to supply 228 LAU-115 launchers and 30 LAU-115 launchers for the Navy.  Some quick math gives us a price of $144,000 each.  Wow!  I’m in the wrong line of work.


  1. But they arent "just" racks anymore,
    They include data ports that can survive rapid changes in temperature, airpressure, high accelerations, rapid changes in up and down, water, ice, salt water.

    I knew a guy who made jet engine transport cases, big steel boxes for shipping a jet engine from where ever it was taken off a plane to wherever it was going, or from wherever it was made/repaired to the aircraft that needed it.
    $40,000 each.

    But when its a multi million dollar jet engine, well, no one wants it to get damaged in transit and need replacement. When its a multi million dollar jet engine holding up 400 passengers, no one wants it to get damaged in transit, fail mid flight, and crash the very expensive passenger jet, with the 400 passengers with litigious families.

    And the case never left the ground...

    The Skyhawk Bomb Rack might have been knocked up by a couple of ground crew with a bit of scrap iron, but this aint the 60s anymore, everything has to jump through a million legal loopholes.

    1. That doesn't wash. The launcher is still just an ejector rack. You can buy a PC data port for $5. Throw in some "hardening" of the port and you double or triple the cost. A port is just a connection for cables between the munition and the aircraft.

    2. To rephrase my father's favorite Henry Ford story's punch line:

      "$5000 for the Bomb Rack, $39000 for knowing how the build the bome Rack, and $100,000 to filling out the paper work to prove we built the bomb rack."

      Oh, have you look up the cost of a Mil Spec anything, back in 1998 I designs a laser ( a simple one for us a reference line for something") the customer required Mil Spec connectors. That one part cost more than what we normally sold that laser to our normal customers.

    3. CNO, a hardened data port might be $20 or $50 if it was made in quantities of hundreds of thousands, and if a 5% failure rate in a year's use was acceptable. Electronics made in small quantities to high reliability standards is still expensive stuff.

  2. Are we talking the whole pylon there in your picture, or just the "extender" there attatched between the standard wing pylon and the missile ?

    Because either way for 144K I want Ferrari styling !

    1. Ferrari is too swoopy. I'd prefer Ducati make the ejector racks....

  3. An AIM 120 AMRAAM costs $1.786 million, so this is not really a surprise.

    Anyways, if you want a breakdown, see here:

    Speaking as someone who has worked in Cost Accounting, I'd love to know what is driving these costs.

  4. The LAU 115 is just the pylon attached under the wing, to connect to a bomb or missile you have to add a 'launcher " - LAU-7 or LAU -127

  5. this is why american companies relocate their manufacturing to china, where labor cost is not crazy high unsustainable like in the US..

    1. "b", you need to look deeper into the whole labor cost and cost of manufacturing issue. American labor costs are unsustainably high due to the lack of a low end entry level wage would allow unskilled labor to produce cheap goods. Our skilled labor costs are fine. Further, Chinese low labor costs are equally unsustainable. Wages that low will eventually result in discontent among the people as they start comparing their labor/rewards to the rewards the rulers get. That's how revolutions get started.

      Finally, you need to look into and understand the role tariffs play in setting the cost of producing goods and look at the tariff imbalances.

      It's simplistic and unrealistic to view manufacturing location as a simple question of apparent cost of labor.

      Have fun with that and let me know how what you learn changes your view!


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