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Anecdotal evidence suggests that experience plays a critical role in the cost-effectiveness design and development of successful military aircraft. Understanding the true situation may be essential to meet Air Force needs despite declining R&D budgets, few new programs starts, and industry contraction. To examine this issue, the authors explore the history of U.S. bomber production since the end of World War II. They conclude that relevant experience does, indeed, matter — firms develop valuable system-specific knowledge in ongoing work, and experience in important new technologies has a distinct advantage. There is far less correlation between commercial and military aircraft than was once thought, so such experience is unlikely to be useful. And since major breakthroughs in technology, design approaches, and concepts have come far more often from government labs than from the commercial sector, the contribution of "dual-use" technology to future military aircraft design and development may be limited.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The 1940s and 1950s: Ever Faster and Higher

  • Chapter Three

    The 1960s and 1970s: The Strategic Bomber Under Attack

  • Chapter Four

    The 1970s Through the 1990s: The Stealth Revolution

  • Chapter Five

    Concluding Observations

  • Bibliography

Research conducted by

This research project was sponsored by the Air Force Acquisition Headquarters and the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. It was performed within the Resource Management and System Acquisition Program 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.

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