Fighter Aircraft

Military aircraft such as the F-16 and Joint Strike Fighter, which are designed to perform air-to-air combat operations, are the primary means by which armed forces gain air superiority over their opponents in battle. RAND has studied fighter aircraft for many decades to provide civilian and military decisionmakers with critical recommendations on logistics, acquisition support, fleet modernization, and maintenance, to maximize effectiveness and innovation.

  • Report

    From Theory to Practice: People's Liberation Army Air Force Aviation Training at the Operational Unit

    This report seeks to assess People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) pilot proficiency by examining training held at operational aviation units in the context of the larger PLAAF training system.

    Sep 20, 2016

  • Report

    Overview of People's Liberation Army Air Force "Elite Pilots"

    This report draws on a wide variety of Chinese primary sources to provide an overview of how the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) selects and trains what it calls its elite fighter pilots.

    Aug 24, 2016

  • Report

    A Review of Selected International Aircraft Spares Pooling Programs: Lessons Learned for F-35 Spares Pooling

    Development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was shared by nine countries, who agreed that F-35 sustainment assets would be managed as a global pool. This report reviews other military aircraft spares pooling programs to identify lessons learned.

    Feb 18, 2016

  • A 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief marshals a B-2A Spirit bomber during an orientation flight at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 27, 2015

    Commentary

    Inside the Fish Bowl: High Stakes Acquisition Protests

    The Boeing-Lockheed Martin team filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office asserting that the U.S. Air Force's selection of Northrop Grumman to build the Long Range Strike-Bomber was fundamentally flawed. Work on the program, valued at approximately $80 billion, is now paused.

    Dec 3, 2015

  • Report

    Reducing Air Force Fighter Pilot Shortages

    Examines potential paths for overcoming the persistent and critical shortage of fighter pilots that the Air Force has faced over the past several decades.

    Nov 24, 2015

  • U.S and Korean fighter aircraft fly above Jik-Do Island near South Korea, August 14, 2013

    Research Brief

    U.S. and Chinese Air Superiority Capabilities

    The United States maintains unparalleled air-to-air capabilities. But the modernization of Chinese air forces, combined with the difficulties of operating over long distances in Asia, would make it more and more challenging for the United States to gain air superiority during the beginning of a possible conflict with China.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • Dissertation

    Enhancing the Assessment of the Costs and Benefits of International Pilot Training (IPT) Within the U.S. Air Force: Is It Worth It?

    Provides a perspective on valuing the total monetary cost and the operational monetary and nonmonetary benefits of international pilot training that have not been explored previously.

    Mar 18, 2015

  • A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska

    Commentary

    Where Commonality Can Work in a Sixth-Gen Fighter

    The DoD plans to fund a Darpa-Air Force-Navy technology demonstration program aimed at developing critical sixth-generation fighter capabilities. It's a sign that the Pentagon is adopting a cost-effective strategy but it will need to remain vigilant to avoid the pitfalls that have caused previous joint fighter programs to fall short of hoped-for cost savings and to accept unwelcome design compromises.

    Mar 13, 2015

  • Report

    Air Force Major Defense Acquisition Program Cost Growth Is Driven by Three Space Programs and the F-35A: Fiscal Year 2013 President's Budget Selected Acquisition Reports

    Analysis of weapon system acquisition programs showed that cost growth to date in four large-dollar programs must be contained to ensure the overall affordability of the Air Force's long-term investment plans.

    Dec 17, 2014

  • A pro-Russian separatist at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 in Ukraine's Donetsk region, July 17, 2014

    Commentary

    3 Weapons That Threaten Commercial Planes

    It's relatively rare that commercial aircraft are targeted with weapons built primarily to attack military aircraft, but there are a range of potential threats from such weapons. Given that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was reportedly at 33,000 feet when contact was lost, it seems impossible that the attack could have occurred using a shoulder-fired missile.

    Jul 18, 2014

  • Northrop Grumman test pilots with arm-mounted controllers after successfully launching a drone combat aircraft on the USS George H. W. Bush, May 14, 2013

    Commentary

    Will U.S. Air Power Work in Iraq?

    There are many key questions regarding deployment of U.S. air power to Iraq to halt the progress of the Islamic State. How effective would it be? Would it cause a lot of civilian casualties? Is air power alone enough to achieve U.S. objectives?

    Jun 18, 2014

  • U.S. Navy F/A-18A Hornet, aka the Blue Angel

    Periodical

    Falling Short: Joint Aircraft Fail to Deliver Anticipated Savings

    A key purported benefit of joint aircraft is that they save money over separate aircraft for the military services, but joint aircraft programs have historically led to higher-than-expected lifecycle costs and necessitated major compromises in requirements and capability.

    Apr 1, 2014

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money?

    In this March 28th Congressional Briefing, Mark Lorell discusses how the need to accommodate different service requirements into a single jet fighter design or common design family leads to increased program complexity and cost growth.

    Mar 28, 2014

  • F35s Diverging

    Research Brief

    The Department of Defense Should Avoid a Joint Acquisition Approach to Sixth-Generation Fighter

    Incorporating different service requirements in a single joint aircraft design can lead to greater program complexity, increased technical risk, and weight in excess of what an individual service needs.

    Jan 22, 2014

  • F/A-18C Hornets fly from Andersen Air Base, Guam, during exercise Forger Fury II, 5 December, 2013

    Commentary

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money?

    Joint aircraft programs have not historically saved overall life cycle cost. On average, such programs experienced substantially higher cost growth in acquisition (research, development, test, evaluation, and procurement) than single-service programs.

    Dec 24, 2013

  • joint strike fighter maintenance

    Report

    Enabling Early Sustainment Decisions: Application to F-35 Depot-Level Maintenance

    The U.S. Air Force has long struggled to incorporate new weapon system logistics requirements and support system design considerations into its broader sustainment enterprise early in the acquisition process. RAND developed a framework that helps planners visualize sustainment data and compare new programs with legacy Air Force systems.

    Dec 20, 2013

  • Report

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money? Technical Appendixes on Methodology

    These appendixes explain the methodology used in an analysis of whether multiservice joint aircraft acquisition programs actually save Life Cycle Cost.

    Dec 16, 2013

  • Report

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money?

    This report analyzes whether multiservice joint aircraft acquisition programs actually save Life Cycle Cost, and the implications that joint fighter programs can have for the health of the industrial base and operational and strategic risk.

    Dec 16, 2013

  • U.S. helicopter squadron in the Persian Gulf launches an MK-105 Mod 4 Sled

    Commentary

    By Land and by Sea

    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.

    Jul 22, 2013

  • F-35 Lightning II

    Report

    Assessment of Beddown Alternatives for the F-35 - Executive Summary

    The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most costly aircraft acquisition program in Defense Department history. RAND assessed the potential for savings by reconfiguring the U.S. Air Force's combat-coded F-35s into larger squadrons, adjusting the Primary Aerospace Vehicle Authorized (PAA) mix across the Active and Reserve Components, and adjusting the percentage of PAA permanently assigned to locations in the continental United States.

    Apr 3, 2013