By Lexor Adams and Nicholas Haberling
We continue in our quest of determining if the cost of creating the Clone Army seen in Star Wars: Episode 2 could have been hidden in the galactic economy. Last week we figured out the number and types of vehicles the Clone Army had at the beginning of the Battle of Geonosis (when the Clone Army was first revealed). This week we’ll estimate the cost of the various vehicles the clones are equipped with.
While there are supposed vehicle costs for some of the ships we are examining mentioned in various Star Wars books, we’ve chosen to disregard these. The issue of different authors setting ship prices relatively arbitrarily makes it difficult to use these numbers. Additionally, all these prices are technically non-canon since Disney declared previous books “legends”. Plus there’s the issue of coming up with an exchange rate between Galactic Credits and US Dollars (which we might do at some point; but, it’s outside the scope of this series).
Thus we’ve chosen to estimate the production cost for the various vehicles in question ourselves. Our method is to benchmark Star Wars vehicle production costs to real world manufacturing costs and extrapolate based on size differences. This relies on one big assumption: other than size differences, production costs would be similar to what they are today. This isn’t as arbitrary as it seems because it’s likely manufacturing efficiency and cost savings created by advanced robotic production and access to raw materials has been offset by the cost of new technology (e.g. advanced propulsion, laser weaponry, etc). If you want a more detailed explanation regarding this, there’s one following the article at the bottom of the page.
With this in mind, for larger star ships we’ll look at the average cost of creating the equivalent naval ship today and multiply this by the size difference to get our price estimate. We chose naval ships as opposed to using space ships (like the Space X Falcon) because our current space ships are primitive compared to the starships in the Star Wars universe. A Venator is a full fledged warship with the ability to launch fighters, land and take off from planets, and engage in space battle with other capital ships. This is more like an aircraft carrier than a rocket that delivers Tang to astronauts (that’s a space nerd joke). The same is true for the other starships we’re looking at with the only difference being roles--every star ship is more akin to a naval ship in space than a rocket (or any other space capable vehicle we have today). Based on our assumption above, the cost increase of creating a massive ship that flies around space versus a ship sailing the ocean should be offset by the increased manufacturing efficiency (similar to how much cheaper space missions are today compared to the early days of the space program or how modern planes, passenger or military, have no equivalents 50 years ago).
We’ll start with the Venator. The Venator’s equivalent in the modern Navy is an aircraft carrier (it’s primary role is launching fighters and engaging in large ship to ship battles). Using aircraft carriers produced by the US as a benchmark we have an average cost of $10.75 billion and an average length of 324.5 meters. The length of a stock Venator is 1,137 meters. We come up with a size multiplier as follows.
Size Multiplier = Venator Length / Average Aircraft Carrier Length
We come up with the final estimate as follows.
Estimated Cost = Average Aircraft Carrier Price * Size Multiplier
The same process was applied for the other ships (to see the actual reference ships used see the attached Excel File).
A similar process was used for the star fighters; but, without any size multiplier being used. Meaning the average cost for the references is the estimated cost. The analogous ship in terms of Naval battle would be something like a littoral or even smaller ship; but, we find this comparison lacking as star fighters are much more akin in role (including being used for dogfights and bombing capital ships) to modern fighter jets than any naval ship.
The final vehicle type we had to approach were the ground vehicles. These posed more problems because many simply don’t have a real life equivalent (last time I checked we have no real life giant walking military platforms...and as a side note there have been some fairly hilarious and dream crushing engineering analyses of the various walkers). We used an average cost approach again based on our best shot at equivalents.
Expensive; but, so is military equipment today. Next week we will wrap up the equipment costs with individual clone equipment (body armor, blasters, etc) and apply the vehicle cost estimates to the ship numbers from last week to come up with a total estimated cost. If you’ve been following the series, you’ll know with the vehicle costs completed we’ll just have to combine this with the personnel raising/training costs to come up with a total estimated cost for raising, training, and equipping the entire clone army and fleet. This means next week we’ll have our final number and be able to answer if it would have been possible for such a large cost to be hidden in the galactic economy or not.
These are estimates and rely on several big assumptions; but, these assumptions must be made or there’d be no way of actually coming up with an estimate. The biggest assumption underlying this week is that the additional cost of advanced technologies has been roughly equaled by the efficiency and savings gained by advances in AI and access to natural resources. Essentially, we have to acknowledge this is a society where robots are advanced enough to provide medical care for the most part without human intervention. These advancements must have extended to the realm of manufacturing too. Similarly, with space travel cost effective and seemingly as common as inter-ocean travel is today, the access to natural resources is unprecedented (think the ideas floated about asteroid mining; but, taken to exponential levels...need iron? Go to an iron rich planet and get all you want.) The problem is there’s no even remotely accurate way to take this into account. We’ve decided to assume that the cost of advanced propulsion (taking off and landing repeatedly from planets in ships bigger than aircraft carriers and light speed travel), weaponry (lasers anyone?), and the costs of running advanced manufacturing in space are offset by the advances in manufacturing. This essentially allows us to ignore the cost reductions of manufacturing done in space by robots with near limitless access to raw materials. It’s convenient; but, more than anything, necessary for us to do any sort of estimates about cost using today’s manufacturing costs. If this is an unsatisfying explanation, you can read this paragraph as us accepting that there’s no way to quantify a hypothetical societies manufacturing efficiencies to come up with an estimate, so we’re ignoring it. In our defense, it’s reasonable to presume propulsion of the type seen in Star Wars, robot upkeep, and so on is incredibly expensive.