Possibly I have some economist bias, but I'm used to idea of assessing cost effectiveness. In a few cases, when there was something like political debate in my country, I tried to google basic fact check to get a bit more nuanced picture. And usually I failed. Sure, I found like some general info, like in attrition confrontation SAMs tend to be more cost effective than fighters, missile boats than bigger ships, ICBMs than ABMs.

No, it can't be simply explained by everything being top secret, as it was no problem to find many declassified documents on seemingly more touchy issues. It seems that if that was the case, then I should at least find some out of date studies.

So the question: Are cost effectiveness studies regularly done for weapon systems? (If "YES", then where I could find such, possibly older, declassified ones? If "NO" then why they are rarely done?)

  • Are you asking about any country in particular?
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 17:43
  • No, in general.
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 18:48
  • As you move to the third-world I suspect the "study" is more likely to consist of bribes and external political pressure via other carrots and sticks... They might have pro-forma study done by some contractor which proves to be influenced by its contracting patterns etc. Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 20:58

2 Answers 2



For example in the UK a major military investment was the Trident programme of submarine-launched nuclear missiles.

In answer to a written question in the commons, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stated

We regularly review all major programmes to ensure that they operate in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The 2010 Trident Value for Money study and the 2013 Trident Alternatives Review both confirmed the cost effectiveness of a Trident-based deterrent on continuous patrol.

The Value for Money study is available, heavily redacted

Similar studies will have been done in other responsible counties, whose military has to work within limited and politically defined budgets. Naturally, unredacted copies of such studies may well be unavailable, perhaps for a 100-year horizon.


In the United States, the RAND Corporation has done many such studies, like this one about aircraft carriers. The problem with "cost effectiveness" in warfare is that one has to put a price on human lives put at risk or lost, and doing that is extremely difficult.

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