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 PDF

  • Figures PDF

  • Tables PDF

  • Summary PDF

  • Acknowledgements

    Acknowledgments PDF

  • Acronyms PDF

  • Chapter One

    Introduction PDF

  • Chapter Two

    Material Characteristics PDF

  • Chapter Three

    Manufacturing Techniques PDF

  • Chapter Four

    Airframe Cost Information PDF

  • Chapter Five

    Airframe Cost-Estimating Methodology PDF

  • Chapter Six

    Applying the Results PDF

  • Appendix A

    Stress-Strain Diagram PDF

  • Appendix B

    Aircraft Weight Definitions PDF

  • Appendix C

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

  • Appendix D

    Airframe Development Cost-Estimating Relationships PDF

  • Appendix E

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

  • Bibliography PDF

  • Recommended Reading PDF

Research conducted by

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

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.