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.

Explore Military Aircraft

  • Report

    Report

    Preliminary Analysis of Helicopter Options to Support Tunisian Counterterrorism Operations

    Rising costs and delivery delays might mean that Tunisia should look at potential alternatives to the UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter. This report assesses potential alternatives that are cost-effective and capable of performing the assault mission.

    Apr 27, 2016

  • Report

    Report

    Consolidating Air Force Maintenance Occupational Specialties

    This report examines the cost and readiness implications of consolidating maintenance occupational specialties for new and legacy mobility fleets. Implications are derived from an assessment conducted for the KC-135 fleet.

    Mar 9, 2016

  • Report

    Report

    A Review of Selected International Aircraft Spares Pooling Programs: Lessons Learned for F-35 Spares Pooling

    Development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was shared by nine countries, who agreed that F-35 sustainment assets would be managed as a global pool. This report reviews other military aircraft spares pooling programs to identify lessons learned.

    Feb 18, 2016

  • Twelve KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron taxi onto the runway during exercise Forceful Tiger on Kadena Air Base, Japan, April 1, 2015

    Report

    Metrics to Compare Aircraft Operating and Support Costs in the Department of Defense

    This report examines several issues associated with the cost-per-flying-hour (CPFH) metric used in the Department of Defense (DoD), including its use to compare operating and support costs of different aircraft.

    Dec 22, 2015

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Improving the Cost Efficiency and Readiness of MC-130 Aircrew Training: A Case Study

    Examines the respective effects on costs and readiness of existing and potential MC-130 aircrew continuation training policies.

    Dec 18, 2015

  • A 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief marshals a B-2A Spirit bomber during an orientation flight at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., May 27, 2015

    Commentary

    Inside the Fish Bowl: High Stakes Acquisition Protests

    The Boeing-Lockheed Martin team filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office asserting that the U.S. Air Force's selection of Northrop Grumman to build the Long Range Strike-Bomber was fundamentally flawed. Work on the program, valued at approximately $80 billion, is now paused.

    Dec 3, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    Reducing Air Force Fighter Pilot Shortages

    Examines potential paths for overcoming the persistent and critical shortage of fighter pilots that the Air Force has faced over the past several decades.

    Nov 24, 2015

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Improving Standoff Bombing Capacity in the Face of Anti-Access Area Denial Threats

    Addresses the issue of standoff capacity in anti-access/area denial environments using a cost-effectiveness methodology.

    Nov 20, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    Rescuing Downed Aircrews: The Value of Time

    This report describes research to quantify the "rescuability window" of downed aircrews to assist the U.S. Air Force's reassessment of its personnel recovery force structure.

    Nov 9, 2015

  • Staff raise Pakistan's flag in front of the Great Hall of the People ahead of a welcome ceremony for Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Beijing, July 5, 2013

    Commentary

    Pakistan and China's Almost Alliance

    Policymakers in the United States and throughout Asia should take note of why the Sino-Pakistani relationship has endured for so long, what each partner gets from the other, and what inherent limitations prevent the union from developing into a true alliance.

    Oct 16, 2015

  • Men search for survivors at a site hit by shelling in Damascus, Syria, June 16, 2015

    Q&A

    A No-Fly Zone Over Syria: Q&A with Karl Mueller

    Some are advocating a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians from both ISIS and forces loyal to Assad. What constraints complicate establishing a no-fly zone and realizing its expected benefits? And how might Assad supporters, such as Russia, respond?

    Oct 15, 2015

  • The KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft takes off on its maiden flight from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, December 28, 2014

    Commentary

    Lessons from the Past for the Future of the KC-46A

    Analysis suggests that fixed-price contracts have not successfully reduced costs to the DoD associated with developing complex weapon systems. This has implications for the Air Force, given the importance of the ongoing KC-46A program.

    Sep 16, 2015

  • U.S and Korean fighter aircraft fly above Jik-Do Island near South Korea, August 14, 2013

    Research Brief

    U.S. and Chinese Air Superiority Capabilities

    The United States maintains unparalleled air-to-air capabilities. But the modernization of Chinese air forces, combined with the difficulties of operating over long distances in Asia, would make it more and more challenging for the United States to gain air superiority during the beginning of a possible conflict with China.

    Sep 14, 2015

  • A boy waves his U.S. flag as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds fly in the diamond formation during an Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Nov. 10, 2012

    Report

    American Public Opinion of Airpower Over the Past Century

    Americans today do not view airpower or the Air Force with the same fascination and enthusiasm that they did during the “golden age” of aviation, but shortcomings in Air Force narratives are not to blame. Airpower's enormous social currency during the first half of the 20th century was due to real-world events and technological advances, not narratives.

    Jul 17, 2015

  • C-17 Globemaster IIIs sit on the flight line at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in preparation for six-ship formation testing

    Report

    Tankering Fuel on U.S. Air Force Transport Aircraft

    Tankering fuel involves carrying excess fuel when flying from origins where fuel is less expensive than at the destination. Would this practice generate cost savings if used on U.S. Air Force transport aircraft?

    Jun 23, 2015

  • A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III taxis to its parking spot Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2012

    Commentary

    Peacetime Fuel 'Tankering' Could Save $25 Million Per Year

    Fuel tankering is carrying excess fuel on an aircraft when flying from origins where fuel is less expensive than at the destination. Tankering fuel to a conflict zone like Afghanistan is almost always cost-effective, but the story is more complex elsewhere due to how fuel is purchased and resold within the DoD itself.

    May 4, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    Fuel Reduction for the Mobility Air Forces: Executive Summary

    Reducing aviation fuel use is an ongoing goal for military and civil operators, and Air Mobility Command is feeling increasing pressure to further reduce fuel use by implementing and following known best practices.

    Mar 24, 2015

  • Senior Airmen Derek Wilson, foreground, and Noah Lazurka sample the fuel from a tank Feb. 11, 2015, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. Laboratory technicians test all fuel upon receipt, and at various other scheduled intervals. Wilson and Lazurka are both 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels laboratory technicians

    Report

    Fuel Reduction for the Mobility Air Forces

    Reducing aviation fuel use is an ongoing goal for military and civil operators, and Air Mobility Command is feeling increasing pressure to further reduce fuel use by implementing and following known best practices.

    Mar 24, 2015

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Enhancing the Assessment of the Costs and Benefits of International Pilot Training (IPT) Within the U.S. Air Force: Is It Worth It?

    Provides a perspective on valuing the total monetary cost and the operational monetary and nonmonetary benefits of international pilot training that have not been explored previously.

    Mar 18, 2015

  • A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska

    Commentary

    Where Commonality Can Work in a Sixth-Gen Fighter

    The DoD plans to fund a Darpa-Air Force-Navy technology demonstration program aimed at developing critical sixth-generation fighter capabilities. It's a sign that the Pentagon is adopting a cost-effective strategy but it will need to remain vigilant to avoid the pitfalls that have caused previous joint fighter programs to fall short of hoped-for cost savings and to accept unwelcome design compromises.

    Mar 13, 2015