Military Aircraft

Featured

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

  • 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    Department of Defense assistance to partner nations entails supporting helicopter fleets, often composed of outdated and difficult-to-service equipment.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

    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

    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

  • F/A-18C Hornets fly from Andersen Air Base, Guam, during exercise Forger Fury II, 5 December, 2013

    Commentary

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money?

    Joint aircraft programs have not historically saved overall life cycle cost. On average, such programs experienced substantially higher cost growth in acquisition (research, development, test, evaluation, and procurement) than single-service programs.

    Dec 24, 2013

  • joint strike fighter maintenance

    Report

    Enabling Early Sustainment Decisions: Application to F-35 Depot-Level Maintenance

    The U.S. Air Force has long struggled to incorporate new weapon system logistics requirements and support system design considerations into its broader sustainment enterprise early in the acquisition process. RAND developed a framework that helps planners visualize sustainment data and compare new programs with legacy Air Force systems.

    Dec 20, 2013

  • Report

    Report

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money? Technical Appendixes on Methodology

    These appendixes explain the methodology used in an analysis of whether multiservice joint aircraft acquisition programs actually save Life Cycle Cost.

    Dec 16, 2013

  • Report

    Report

    Do Joint Fighter Programs Save Money?

    This report analyzes whether multiservice joint aircraft acquisition programs actually save Life Cycle Cost, and the implications that joint fighter programs can have for the health of the industrial base and operational and strategic risk.

    Dec 16, 2013

  • preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II

    Commentary

    Innovation and America's 21st Century Air Force

    Lost in the US defense budget debates are deeper issues about the relationship between the military and American society. In many ways, these issues are especially stark for the Air Force. Can the US Air Force improve this connection?

    Nov 26, 2013

  • Heide Couch,Travis Air Force Base,60AMW/PA,Base Mulitmedia Service Center,BMSC,TAFB,military,air force,photo lab,us air force photo,-F-RU983-

    Report

    Implications of an Air Force Budget Downturn on the Aircraft Industrial Base

    The U.S. Air Force is facing a number of challenges as a result of the current defense budget downturn. RAND examined the challenge of modernizing the Air Force's aircraft fleet while trying to sustain the industrial base with limited funding.

    Nov 1, 2013

  • Lockheed C-5A Galaxy

    Dissertation

    Capacity Management and Changing Requirements: Cost Effective Decision Making in an Uncertain World

    Explores other options for dealing with excess Air Force fleet capacity and their relative cost effectiveness.

    Oct 30, 2013

  • California Air National guardsmen perform precision water bucket drops near Yosemite

    Commentary

    The Desirability of 'Free' C-27s for the U.S. Forest Service

    Although we believe that a scooper-centric firefighting aircraft portfolio for initial attack would still be preferred, Air Force-provided 1,850-gallon C-27Js could be a cost-effective component of the retardant-bearing portion of the Forest Service's airborne firefighting arsenal, write Edward G. Keating and Daniel M. Norton.

    Sep 6, 2013

  • U.S. helicopter squadron in the Persian Gulf launches an MK-105 Mod 4 Sled

    Commentary

    By Land and by Sea

    There are good reasons for the United States to rethink how it counterbalances Iran, reassures local allies, and projects power with fewer resources. However, tying down large numbers of fighter aircraft in the Gulf is likely only to exacerbate old problems and create new ones.

    Jul 22, 2013

  • Report

    Report

    Costs of Flying Units in Air Force Active and Reserve Components

    Presents a methodology for compiling and comparing the costs of operating Air Force active- and reserve-component flying units and discusses how such comparisons can be used to explore force mix alternatives.

    Jul 9, 2013