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.

  • 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?

    Oct 18, 2019

    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?

  • A Xian H-6K bomber landing at Zhuhai Jinwan airport ahead of Airshow China 2018

    Report

    The Strategy of China's Bomber Flights

    Nov 14, 2018

    Since March 2015, China's PLAAF has conducted a series of long-range bomber flights in the Asia-Pacific region, including over the South China Sea, near Japan, and around Taiwan. What's driving these flights? And what are the implications for U.S. interests in the region?

Explore Military Aircraft

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Afghan National Army commandos board an Afghan National Air Force MI-17 helicopter at a landing zone near Camp Lawton, in Herat province, Afghanistan

    Report

    Cost-Effective Helicopter Options for Partner Nations

    Department of Defense assistance to partner nations entails supporting helicopter fleets, often composed of outdated and difficult-to-service equipment. What is the cost-effectiveness of migrating partner nation fleets to alternative aircraft?

    Mar 2, 2015

  • Paratroopers perform an airborne training exercise

    Report

    Enhancing Army Airborne Forces

    U.S. Army airborne forces could play a pivotal role in key missions in the future, particularly against hybrid threats and in anti-access environments. However, they face serious threats that could become more severe. To overcome these new threats, the airborne force will need new capabilities.

    Jan 23, 2015

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko visit the Russian Defense Ministry's control room, Moscow, December 23, 2014

    Commentary

    Yes, Russia's Military Is Getting More Aggressive

    As Russia's relations with the U.S. and Europe have deteriorated following Moscow's aggression in Ukraine, fly-bys of European neighbors by Russian aircraft have taken on new urgency. How should the West think about these provocative flights in light of understanding Russia's nuclear threat?

    Dec 31, 2014

  • Report

    Air Force Major Defense Acquisition Program Cost Growth Is Driven by Three Space Programs and the F-35A: Fiscal Year 2013 President's Budget Selected Acquisition Reports

    Analysis of weapon system acquisition programs showed that cost growth to date in four large-dollar programs must be contained to ensure the overall affordability of the Air Force's long-term investment plans.

    Dec 17, 2014

  • A pro-Russian separatist at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 in Ukraine's Donetsk region, July 17, 2014

    Commentary

    3 Weapons That Threaten Commercial Planes

    It's relatively rare that commercial aircraft are targeted with weapons built primarily to attack military aircraft, but there are a range of potential threats from such weapons. Given that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was reportedly at 33,000 feet when contact was lost, it seems impossible that the attack could have occurred using a shoulder-fired missile.

    Jul 18, 2014

  • Northrop Grumman test pilots with arm-mounted controllers after successfully launching a drone combat aircraft on the USS George H. W. Bush, May 14, 2013

    Commentary

    Will U.S. Air Power Work in Iraq?

    There are many key questions regarding deployment of U.S. air power to Iraq to halt the progress of the Islamic State. How effective would it be? Would it cause a lot of civilian casualties? Is air power alone enough to achieve U.S. objectives?

    Jun 18, 2014

  • The Colorado River flows through Black Canyon, south of Hoover Dam

    Periodical

    RAND Review Examines Water Management, Military Caregivers, Joint Aircraft, Income Inequality

    Stories in RAND's flagship magazine discuss the implications of climate change for the Colorado River Basin and the Sierra Nevada, the burdens borne by military caregivers, the drawbacks of joint aircraft programs, and growing inequalities across the European Union.

    Apr 1, 2014

  • Congressional Briefing Podcast

    Multimedia

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money?

    In this March 28th Congressional Briefing, Mark Lorell discusses how the need to accommodate different service requirements into a single jet fighter design or common design family leads to increased program complexity and cost growth.

    Mar 28, 2014

  • F35s Diverging

    Research Brief

    The Department of Defense Should Avoid a Joint Acquisition Approach to Sixth-Generation Fighter

    Incorporating different service requirements in a single joint aircraft design can lead to greater program complexity, increased technical risk, and weight in excess of what an individual service needs.

    Jan 22, 2014

  • Blog

    Thomas V. Jones, Risk-Taking CEO Who Propelled Northrop's Expansion, Revolutionized Aerospace Industry

    Thomas V. Jones, the Stanford-educated engineer who authored a bestselling RAND report in the early 1950s on U.S. Air Force transport options before becoming chief executive of Northrop, died January 7 at the age of 93.

    Jan 17, 2014