Picture 2

Picture 2

Jun 15, 2015

Why New US Weapons Take So Long To Develop

The way US Military new system development works right now, we are wasting hundreds of billions of dollars. When we develop a new aircraft, like the F-35 for example, we get new everything. Not just a new air frame and engines, but new bleeding edge electronics, new landing gear, new ejection seats, new everything. This needlessly increases development risk. If everything is new and untested, then everything has a higher probability to fail, delay development and balloon costs, especially in combination with other new and untested components. The alternative is to start with a new air frame and engines while buying as much as possible off the shelf. The idea should be that the money saved by using off the shelf components initially could be used for upgrades later. This matches the realities of how fast electronics and software change versus how long air frames last. The development cycle for software and electronics is 18 months. The development cycle for new platforms is 18 years. Upgrades should be part of the plan.

Also, when we buy a new platform, it has to be multipurpose. The F-35 had to have versions for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. This meant that it had to be sturdy enough for carrier landings, which are essentially a controlled crash, for the Navy. It had to have internal room enough to a completely new vertical takeoff and landing system for the Marines. It has to be able to do both air to air and ground attack. My grandparents' generation used to have a saying that summarizes the compromises required, jack of all trades, master of none. The compromises required to make all of this work with one family of airplanes expanded costs with minimal corresponding benefits. For the price of one F-35, we could have bought a stealth air to air fighter and a ground attack plane with a lot of money to spare. And the combination of the two airplanes would have been a lot more capable than a single F-35.

Part of the reason that liberals have such an easy time of attacking military spending is the obvious waste in our current procurement system. We need to fix it fast. It's vital to national  security that we get this right.

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