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This report provides historical contextual information on the ages of aircraft designs operated by the Air Force. Using reports published in 1998 by the Air Force Historical Agency, the authors identify the first year in which any active wing or squadron reported operating a specific aircraft design and the last year in which a given aircraft design was reported as being operated by any active wing or squadron. The greatest number of introductions of new designs and retirement of old designs occurred during World War II. During that conflict, there was rapid “churn,” with many designs operated for only a few years. In contrast, more recent periods have seen longer-lasting designs and relatively fewer short-lived designs. Since the end of World War II and the formation of the Air Force as an independent military service, there has been a consistent trend for the Air Force to keep aircraft designs in operation for ever-longer periods. While the mean age of aircraft designs currently in operation is at an all-time high, the same statement could have been made at most times throughout the history of the Air Force.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Historical Sources

  • Chapter Three

    Patterns in Aircraft Design Age

  • Chapter Four

    Discussion

  • Appendix A

    Aircraft Designs Examined for This Report

  • Appendix B

    Results After Removing One-Report Designs

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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