Thursday, March 13, 2014

Future Fighters

From CSBA's hot! piece on a more balanced Combat Air Force...

Fifty years ago, DoD was in the process of building six fighters, three bombers, and two antisubmarine warfare aircraft (see Figure 6). These multiple development efforts allowed defense contractors to move their highly skilled aircraft designers and engineers to other programs in the event of funding cuts, program cancellations, or the completion of production runs.

Today, there is one new American fighter in production—the F-35—and three that are about to end their production runs. With the exception of the LRS-B, the P-8 multi-mission maritime aircraft, and possibly a carrier UCAV, there are no other major new combat aircraft in DoD’s program of record. This continues a long-term trend where the number of military combat aircraft produced annually has dropped precipitously. Since 1960, U.S. combat aircraft production measured by empty aircraft weight has been cut by almost 90 percent and is now less than a third of the peak level it reached during the Reagan administration.

This small number of new programs increases the risk that the U.S. defense industrial base will lack the flexibility to adjust to future program delays or cancellations. This risk could be partially offset by stabilizing CAF programs by providing funding that is not held hostage to the ongoing debate over the defense budget.
Pic - "“As our fleet continues to get older and smaller, we know that potential adversaries are investing in new technology and updating their inventories”