Air Transport Systems

A Comparison of Alternatives and a Methodology for Contextual Analysis

by Richard Robinson

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This dissertation examines military airlift capacity provided by 18 alternative airlift concepts in 11 representative cases. Each concept is evaluated for its development risks and its performance over thirty days of delivering cargo. An equal cost method is used to examine the performance of airlift, identify specific performance niches for different system designs, and focus policymaker attention on a specific set of cases. A contextual mathematical program is then designed to assess performance on the margin and provide a flexible tool for assessing program-level airlift acquisition in the post-Cold War era. The results suggest: (1) policymakers should focus their attention on large regional scenarios such as occurred in Operation Desert Shield (ODS); (2) a mixed C-17 and long-range civil design fleet is suggested to augment the current airlift fleet if force build-up requirements are higher and operational constraints are more extensive than experienced in ODS; (3) the C-17 has better access in constrained environments, while long-range civil designs provide more capacity of the sort likely to be required in the future; (4) C-17 can be expected to continue to exhibit cost escalation but has no complete substitute in either the civil designs or the C-5; and (5) in both the long and short term no new military airlift is required unless force build-up requirements are higher than the deliveries achieved in ODS and ground constraints are more extensive than those experienced in ODS.

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