Research insights into aircraft selection and maintenance, crew training, test facilities, and airspace access are valuable to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and U.S. and allied air forces. RAND studies have also examined military air power and aerospace industry issues.
Lost in the US defense budget debates are deeper issues about the relationship between the military and American society. In many ways, these issues are especially stark for the Air Force. Can the US Air Force improve this connection?
The chief political drawback is that target countries' populations view drone attacks as violations of their sovereignty every bit as much as manned raids. The chief military drawback: A drone attack destroys the critical intelligence that is needed to ensure that the tactical strike can be converted to strategic advantage.
Special operations to capture terrorists are more dangerous than drone strikes, and nimble terrorist adversaries will develop countermeasures to make them even more difficult. But they are politically more acceptable and offer opportunities for intelligence and the visible delivery of justice.
Drones are just one of three principal U.S. counterterrorism tools. Special Operations forces are now relying on a more balanced mix of tactics: Launching raids and developing partner forces offer more versatility than drone strikes and will probably become the wave of the future as America's big wars wind down.
Although we believe that a scooper-centric firefighting aircraft portfolio for initial attack would still be preferred, Air Force-provided 1,850-gallon C-27Js could be a cost-effective component of the retardant-bearing portion of the Forest Service's airborne firefighting arsenal, write Edward G. Keating and Daniel M. Norton.
There are good reasons for the United States to rethink how it counterbalances Iran, reassures local allies, and projects power with fewer resources. However, tying down large numbers of fighter aircraft in the Gulf is likely only to exacerbate old problems and create new ones.
An aircraft's capacity and speed largely determine the rate at which water or retardant can be applied to a fire. Very large air tankers (VLATs) certainly have the capacity to apply large amounts of fluids to a fire, but because of the distances travelled they may not be able to get a second load very quickly.
The effectiveness of our attacks, particularly by drones, has already decimated the al Qaeda hierarchy, writes Harold Brown. That achievement, together with the negative effect on Muslim publics of drone attacks, suggests that the rate of their usage could be moderated.
The establishment of a U.S. base in Niger is intended to facilitate intelligence collection and will provide a more complete picture of militant movements in Niger, Mali, and other countries in the Sahel, writes Seth Jones. The United States will share this intelligence with Malian and French forces.
Practically any country that aspires to an indigenous aviation industry (as most countries do, even if only for national pride) has a reasonably capable, medium-altitude unmanned drone system in development or flying already, writes Ted Harshberger.
Recently declassified correspondence seized in the bin Laden raid shows that the relentless pressure from the drone campaign on al-Qaida in Pakistan led bin Laden to advise al-Qaida operatives to leave Pakistan's Tribal Areas as no longer safe, writes Patrick B. Johnston.
The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China will probably begin producing its first large commercial aircraft later this decade. But the C919 is unlikely to be technologically or commercially competitive when it arrives, writes Chad J. R. Ohlandt.
The cost of providing ready aircrews, maintainers, and aircraft is one measure. But the cost of generating flying hours and satisfying ongoing operational demands must also be considered, writes Albert A. Robbert.
Technological advances often give rise to new types of weapons, but the achievement of lasting breakthroughs in fighting power requires organizational and doctrinal innovation as we.
The Atlantic Monthly Magazine features a compilation of ten short essays written by experts at RAND, collectively titled Headlines Over the Horizon. The RAND authors examined developments in international and military affairs drawing little attention today that are expected to be major issues in the next three to five years.
Published commentary by RAND staff.