Design to Price from the Perspective of the United States, France, and the Soviet Union

by Arthur J. Alexander

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Describes Soviet military aircraft development style and that of Marcel Dassault in France to show how they achieve successful design at minimal cost. Important elements are: (1) separation of development from production; (2) small design and prototype construction teams; (3) tight deadline and cost constraints but great internal autonomy; (4) competitive prototyping of alternatives for major changes; (5) avoiding multiple innovations — new subsystems are added incrementally to proven designs, in contrast to the "weapon system" approach. The general aim and result is simplicity, standardization of parts and features, and design inheritance, or commonality between generations. In the United States, a formalized adversary approach with excessive regulation of project management stems from a basic concern with equity over efficiency, plus diffused decisionmaking authority. However, U.S. development can be improved by "designing to cost," thus substituting a few external constraints for detailed regulation of activities.

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