European and U.S. Aircraft Development Strategies

by Robert L. Perry

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Analysis of 20 years of aircraft development experience in Europe and America indicates that increases in U.S. system acquisition costs usually stem from sometimes unforeseeable engineering difficulties during development and from changes in specifications and requirements after production preparations have been made. The Europeans usually complete basic development before beginning production; demonstrate utility through aircraft prototypes and by the early proof-testing of engines, electronics, and other major subsystems; and limit initial investments in system development until goals and probable outcomes can be verified. Changes in the U.S. acquisition strategy of the 1960s seem appropriate for the next decade. They would include (1) incremental acquisition, based on a sequence of decision points and a succession of development and production phases; and (2) austerity in early development phases. The results should be lower cost growth and lower acquisition costs, as well as improved predictability of schedule and system performance outcomes.

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