Military Airframe Costs

The Effects of Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes

by Obaid Younossi, Michael Kennedy, John C. Graser


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In recent years, a number of attempts have been made to estimate the cost of future weapon systems toward the goal of optimizing acquisition policy. This report focuses specifically on the effects of material mix, manufacturing techniques, and geometric part complexity on the cost of military airframes. It begins by offering background information on those materials that are most critical to airframe manufacture and on the relative advantages of both traditional and evolving part fabrication techniques. It then proceeds to a quantitative analysis of the cost implications of various materials and manufacturing techniques on airframe production, drawing both from an industry survey and from analysis of industry data. The data thus derived are then integrated with those of a comprehensive historical database. The report concludes that composites, while offering a number of advantages over metals in airframe manufacture, are generally associated with higher costs across a range of categories. At the same time, it concludes that while new manufacturing technologies hold the potential to diminish airframe manufacturing costs, the increased airframe complexity of future fighter aircraft may well offset this advantage. The report recommends that cost analysts remain abreast of changes in industry practice so that they may more accurately gauge the potential effects of such changes on future airframe costs.

Table of Contents

  • Preface

  • Figures

  • Tables

  • Summary

  • Acknowledgements


  • Acronyms

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Material Characteristics

  • Chapter Three

    Manufacturing Techniques

  • Chapter Four

    Airframe Cost Information

  • Chapter Five

    Airframe Cost-Estimating Methodology

  • Chapter Six

    Applying the Results

  • Appendix A

    Stress-Strain Diagram

  • Appendix B

    Aircraft Weight Definitions

  • Appendix C

    Aircraft Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Levels (From Military Specification 881)

  • Appendix D

    Airframe Development Cost-Estimating Relationships

  • Appendix E

    Subjects of the Three RAND Studies on Industry Initiatives Designed to Reduce the Cost of Producing Military Aircraft

  • Bibliography

  • Recommended Reading

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Project AIR FORCE.

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