Innovation and Technological Leadership

Fifty Years of Competition in U.S. Aircraft R&D

by Mark A. Lorell, Hugh P. Levaux

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This research brief describes work documented in The Cutting Edge: A Half Century of U.S. Fighter Aircraft R&D (MR-939-AF).

Excerpt: Declining military R&D budgets, few new program starts, and industry contraction have all raised serious questions about the ability of the United States to maintain a viable industrial base for military aircraft production. A newly released RAND report by Mark Lorell and Hugh Levaux, The Cutting Edge: A Half Century of U.S. Fighter Aircraft R&D, suggests that the dramatic contraction of the aerospace industry may indeed jeopardize the future design and production of innovative and cost-effective military fighter aircraft. Drawing on an extensive, historical database spanning the past 50 years of U.S. military aircraft production, the authors identified three factors crucial to the success of fighter aircraft R&D: experience, competition, and government-supported military research.

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