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

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

  • Report

    Crisis Stability and Long-Range Strike: A Comparative Analysis of Fighters, Bombers, and Missiles

    In an international crisis, the United States must balance its threats with restraint while limiting its vulnerability. A RAND study sought to identify which long-range strike assets offer capabilities most conducive to stabilizing such crises.

    Jun 19, 2013

  • Wildfire air tanker

    Commentary

    Firefighting Aircraft: Is Bigger Better?

    An aircraft's capacity and speed largely determine the rate at which water or retardant can be applied to a fire. Very large air tankers (VLATs) certainly have the capacity to apply large amounts of fluids to a fire, but because of the distances travelled they may not be able to get a second load very quickly.

    May 20, 2013

  • Report

    Maximizing Throughput at Soft Airfields

    Because soft airfields can support only a limited number of takeoffs and landings, it is important to understand how to maximize the cargo throughput at these soft fields. This report shows that there is an optimum landing weight that allows for maximum cargo delivery. This optimum landing weight is constant and independent of both aircraft ramp weight and the ability of the soil to resist compressive loads.

    Apr 23, 2013

  • Report

    Commercial Intratheater Airlift: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Use in U.S. Central Command

    Intratheater airlift delivers critical and time-sensitive supplies to deployed forces, but is it cost effective to use commercial, rather than organic Air Force, aircraft to supply this airlift?

    Apr 8, 2013

  • Report

    Assessment of Beddown Alternatives for the F-35

    The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most costly aircraft acquisition program in Defense Department history. RAND assessed the potential for savings by reconfiguring the U.S. Air Force's combat-coded F-35s into larger squadrons, adjusting the Primary Aerospace Vehicle Authorized (PAA) mix across the Active and Reserve Components, and adjusting the percentage of PAA permanently assigned to locations in the continental United States.

    Apr 3, 2013

  • Report

    Reducing Long-Term Costs While Preserving a Robust Strategic Airlift Fleet: Options for the Current Fleet and Next-Generation Aircraft

    The current strategic airlift fleet will be reaching the end of its service life in the next few decades, which has raised concerns about the cost and possible budget spike that would result from the need to recapitalize that fleet. This monograph presents the results of a cost-effectiveness analysis to determine the best way to recapitalize the USAF intertheater (strategic) airlift fleet.

    Jan 31, 2013

  • Report

    Modernizing the Mobility Air Force for Tomorrow's Air Traffic Management System

    Building on RAND work examining the cost-effectiveness of modernizing the U.S. Air Force's KC-10 aerial refueling tanker to comply with airspace modernization mandates, this study extended the analysis to the C-5, C-17, C-130, and KC-135 fleets.

    Dec 6, 2012

  • Report

    Naval Aviation Budgeting: Cost Adjustment Sheets and the Flying Hour Program

    RAND assessed the contribution of Cost Adjustment Sheets (CASs) to the accuracy of Navy's Flying Hour Program budgets, whether CAS usage is correlated with expenditure-per-flying-hour growth, and why CASs have been used more by the F/A-18 program.

    Oct 4, 2012

  • News Release

    U.S. Forest Service Should Consider a Different Mix of Aircraft to Fight Wildfires

    The U.S. Forest Service should upgrade its large airborne firefighting fleet to include more amphibious scooper aircraft, with air tankers and helicopters in a supporting role during the initial attack of fires before they become large.

    Jul 30, 2012

  • amphibious aircraft

    Report

    U.S. Forest Service Should Consider a Different Mix of Aircraft to Fight Wildfires

    The U.S. Forest Service should upgrade its large airborne firefighting fleet to include more amphibious scooper aircraft, with air tankers and helicopters in a supporting role during the initial attack of fires before they become large.

    Jul 30, 2012