Military Aircraft

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Designing and fielding a fleet of technologically superior military aircraft is often an imperative for national and regional security, but the cost involved in acquiring and maintaining such fleets places a significant burden on defense budgets and can impact a nation's ability to project force. RAND research has provided policymakers with essential evaluations and recommendations to implement cost savings in the design, acquisition, and fielding of military aircraft.

  • Italian air force F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoons fly in formation over Italy during a training mission, courtesy photo, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa

    Report

    European Contributions to NATO's Future Combat Airpower

    Oct 22, 2020

    European air forces currently have limited capabilities for defending allies in high-intensity conflict. However, Europe's airpower is trending in the right direction, especially with the introduction of fifth-generation aircraft.

  • Russian Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jets perform during a demonstration flight at the MAKS-2019 air show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia, August 29, 2019, photo by Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

    Commentary

    Russia's Su-57 Heavy Fighter Bomber: Is It Really a Fifth-Generation Aircraft?

    Aug 17, 2020

    Russia's Su-57 aircraft has been in development since 2002 and is considered a key part of Russia's arms export industry as a fifth-generation fighter. Despite continued Russian efforts to sell the aircraft, it is unlikely that a fully developed and full production–ready Su-57 will be available for sale before the late 2020s.

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  • Furture

    Report

    Supporting Combat Power Projection Away from Fixed Infrastructure

    The authors examine the logistics and sustainment aspects of an emerging operational concept for employing a family of unmanned aerial vehicles that can be launched, recovered, and sustained with minimal reliance on runways.

    Jan 26, 2022

  • “Checkmate,” the new Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, at the opening ceremony of the MAKS 2021 air show in Zhukovsky, Russia, July 20, 2021, photo by Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is Russia's Su-75 'Checkmate' Aircraft a Case of Vapor Marketing?

    During a Moscow air show last summer, Russia rolled out a mockup of the Su-75, a multipurpose fighter-bomber designed to compete in the global marketplace. But given the Russian aerospace sector's difficulties in developing, let alone delivering, advanced combat aircraft, prospective buyers should consider a range of options to meet defense needs.

    Jan 6, 2022

  • HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to Portsmouth after her maiden operational deployment in Portsmouth, United Kingdom, December 9, 2021, p

    Commentary

    Ready for Take-Off? The Next Generation of UK Maritime Air Power

    The recent deployment of a Carrier Strike Group represents a marked shift in the United Kingdom's ambitions and capabilities for power projection in both the maritime and air domains. The United Kingdom is hoping to work closely with NATO Allies to enhance the Alliance's collective ability to deploy maritime airpower as part of a flexible posture that can deter and respond to threats both close to home and far afield.

    Dec 10, 2021

  • 2019-08-27T000000Z_113196812_RC1FFC467030_RTRMADP_3_RUSSIA-TURKEY

    Multimedia

    Russia's Su-57 Heavy Fighter Bomber: Is It Really a Fifth-Generation Aircraft?

    RAND defense analyst Ryan Bauer discusses the variety of developmental challenges that the Russian Su-57 fifth-generation jet has experienced, decreasing the likelihood of Russia exporting the aircraft for a number of years despite continued marketing efforts.

    Jul 13, 2021

  • Russian Mi-28N helicopters fly in formation at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Content

    Where Russia Markets and Sells Advanced Conventional Weapons

    Russia uses arms exports to further relations with other countries, influence their political and military leaders, and further its broader foreign and defense policy goals. A series of maps show the extent of its marketing, negotiating, and sales of key weapons systems.

    Jun 11, 2021

  • Unmanned military drone on patrol air territory, gaining heights to determine goals, photo by aapsky/ Getty Images/iStockphoto

    Report

    Assessing the Value of Intelligence Collected by U.S. Air Force Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Platforms

    Commanders, planners, and operators across the U.S. Air Force's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) enterprise face difficult decisions about how to best meet ISR needs. How can the U.S. Air Force better assess the value of airborne ISR?

    Jun 11, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Bomber Strike Packages with Chinese Characteristics

    This book chapter traces the development of China's bomber strike packages and assesses how these flights support operational training for Chinese air force wartime missions.

    Jun 10, 2021

  • An F-16 Fighting Falcon an F-35A Lightning II from Eielson Air Force Base and an F-35A from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, fly over the installation in Alaska, May 15, 2020. With the arrival of the F-35As, the 354th Fighter Wing is now home to fourth and fifth-generation fighter aircraft, photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Fighter Basing Options to Improve Access to Advanced Training Ranges

    The U.S. Air Force has determined that its fighter pilots do not currently have sufficient access to training ranges that are capable of representing advanced potential adversaries. What squadron restationing and range upgrade policies maximize access to advanced training ranges?

    Feb 5, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    Trends in U.S. Air Force Aircraft Mishap Rates (1950–2018)

    The authors describe trends in U.S. Air Force aircraft mishap rates and assess the impact of such factors as aircraft age on those rates over time.

    Nov 30, 2020

  • Tool

    Tool

    A Modeling Framework for Optimizing U.S. Air Force Fighter Pilot Access to Advanced Training Ranges

    This tool presents the technical details of an optimization model for the U.S. Air Force to analyze the potential effectiveness of different combinations of range upgrades and squadron restationing to improve access to advanced ranges.

    Sep 24, 2020

  • Senior Airman Colby Cook, 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects an F-35A Lightning II before takeoff at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Nov. 16, 2017. The F-35A is the Air Force's latest low observable fifth-generation fighter incorporating stealth technology, photo by Naoto Anazawa/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Evaluating Alternative Maintenance Manpower Force Structure Concepts for the F-35A

    The authors of this report evaluate the costs and benefits of maintenance manpower force structures in the U.S. Air Force that merge maintenance career fields in different ways, including alternatives that are being explored by the Air Force today.

    Sep 3, 2020

  • A Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system fires a missile during the International Army Games 2017 outside Astrakhan, Russia, August 5, 2017, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Commentary

    Drone-Era Warfare Shows the Operational Limits of Air Defense Systems

    External powers have intervened in the civil wars in Libya and Syria, supplying advanced conventional weapons that have intensified the conflicts. But not all of the weapons have performed as claimed.

    Jul 2, 2020

  • A Yakovlev Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft performs during the International Army Games 2016, in Dubrovichi outside Ryazan, Russia, August 5, 2016, photo by Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Value of Systematic Assessments of Weapons Procurement

    Considering the COVID-19 pandemic and inevitable economic difficulties, national governments should be encouraged to weigh their military requirements in a more cost-effective manner. Countries need to think strategically about the life cycle costs of equipment, not just the original purchase price.

    Jun 8, 2020

  • Nine U.S. Coast Guard aircraft sit on a runway at Manassas Regional Airport, June 17, 2016.

    Report

    Meeting U.S. Coast Guard Airpower Needs: Assessing the Options

    Researchers assessed what airpower fleet mixes could best posture the U.S. Coast Guard to execute its various missions globally to meet future operational requirements. This report provides their findings and recommendations.

    Apr 21, 2020

  • Australian flag waving in blue sky, photo by MicroStockHub/Getty Images

    Commentary

    B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber Is Handy, but It May Not Be the Perfect Fit

    Some in the Australian security community have called for significant changes to the Australian Defence Force structure in response to changing global strategic conditions. Before Australia considers any new long-range strike capabilities, an analysis of alternatives that examines both cost and capability is essential.

    Dec 2, 2019

  • A solider using an RQ-11B Raven, a small hand-launched remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle, in 2006, photo by SFC Michael Guillory/U.S. Army

    Report

    Could Autonomous Drones Make Blood Deliveries?

    Blood must be transported and stored in a certain way, and it has a finite shelf life. Unmanned systems offer flexibility in chaotic or uncertain environments. Could autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles make the military's blood supply network more resilient?

    Oct 18, 2019

  • KC-46 refueling F-15E, photo by John D. Parker/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    The tanKer Aerial Refueling Model for Analysis (KARMA)

    This report describes the algorithms used in the tanKer Air Refueling Model for Analysis (KARMA) and explains how to use the model. KARMA simulates the extent to which a tanker force can aerially refuel combat aircraft in a denied environment.

    Sep 4, 2019

  • Report

    Report

    Future collaboration opportunities for light and medium multirole helicopters in Europe

    RAND Europe examined the scope for collaboration between European states in light and medium multirole helicopters throughout their life-cycle (incl. maintenance, procurement, upgrade and R&D), in support of the European Defence Agency (EDA).

    Jul 19, 2019