Etc. Listicles

Paper, Planes

How many tanks could Chris Tarrant buy if he really wanted?

We here at The Fence, cognisant of the piddling opportunities for remuneration in the field of journalism, always have one eye on the next big caper on which we could make a quick buck. And where better, we thought, than in the international arms trade? A profession so universally confirmed as lucrative that it has been a significant plot point in roughly 90 percent of the spy novels and action movies we’ve ever seen. Being very much of negotiable virtue, we made a few exploratory inquiries into the prices of the weapons we too frequently see on TV to see if we could afford to dip our toe into arms without it costing our arse.

First up, we discovered that each one of China’s archaic fleet of Chengdu F-7 aircraft – most of which are currently on loan to Nigeria for use against Boko Haram – costs something in the region of $15 million. To put that into, appropriately outdated, context – that’s about ten times the net worth of geriatric pantomime performer, Christopher Biggins.

Britain’s Challenger Tank costs something in the region of $18 million per unit – roughly the same total amount earned by Tyson Fury for his three fights against Deontay Wilder between 2018 and 2021. The total number of rounds fought between those contests was 30, meaning Fury earned, on average, something approaching $600,000 per round. This would enable him to buy a Jackal 2 type armoured Jeep instead, just in case the self-styled Gypsy King wanted some form of vehicle that was capable of deep battlespace reconnaissance but didn’t fancy going the full 30 rounds.

The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones have been making headlines in Ukraine, as a relatively low cost repellent of the far superior Russian army. Their price tag of $1–2 million might not sound like the sort of deal you’d find in the middle aisle of Lidl but, when compared to the American-made Northrop Grumann X-47B, which currently flies off the shelves for $405 million per unit, the TB2 begins to seem decidedly bargainesque.

The French long-range tactical transport helicopter (225-mile) has a price point that can’t quite be dismissed with a Gallic shrug: $53.7 million per unit. That would pay for 1,183 bottles of the 2018 Romanée Conti DRC – widely regarded as the pinnacle of fine wine – but it would also fund 12,517,483 bottles of Lidl’s own-brand Côtes du Rhône (2017).

After a long career as a broadcaster and radio DJ, Chris Tarrant has amassed a fortune of £20 million. If he sold his Berkshire mansion and divested himself of his cash assets, pension bonds and stock holdings, he would have enough cash to buy around four – but no more than five – Russian T90a ‘Vladimir’ battle tanks.

An Israeli Super Dvora Mk. 3 Patrol Boat costs around $1.6 million. If you were writing a feature for the New Yorker magazine, who reportedly pay a rate of $2.50 per word, that means you’d have to write up a 640,000-word feature to secure the bag – which might even stretch the patience of David Remnick.

America’s new class of aircraft carrier (named, for reasons best known to the US Navy, after Gerald Ford) has cost an enormous $17 billion, including research. If Elon Musk – a Bond villain in training if ever there was one – were to stop spending money on underground roads and implanting things into the brains of pigs, and put it all into a big order of these, he would be able to afford 13 of the things. That’s a very expensive game of Battleship.

And what of the elephants in the room, the fat men and little boys that comprise the worldwide nuclear arsenal? These absurd and obscene destroyers of worlds currently number around 13,000 warheads – almost all of which reside in the USA and Russia. While numbers for Russia’s armaments are hard to discern, the cost of deploying a single American nuclear bomb is reportedly $270 million, when the development of the bombs themselves, their housings and the bombers designed to offload them are taken into account. To put that into context, no bang has ever clanged louder than the Krakatoa eruption, which shook Earth shortly after 10am on August 27, 1883 with a force of 200 megatons. If you were to put $5,000 in your pocket every single day from then to now, you’d still come up a few million short of the cost of a single nuclear deployment.

If the thought of decimating the planet 13,000 times over isn’t enough of a deterrent, perhaps we can appeal to the frugality of those whose hands hover on the nuclear footballs of the world. We’ve looked at the numbers and can confirm: there really is no such thing as a free launch.

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