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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  • Report

    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

    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

    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

    Report

    Assessment of Beddown Alternatives for the F-35 - Executive Summary

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

  • Research Brief

    Research Brief

    Identifying a Cost-Effective Aviation Fleet for the U.S. Forest Service

    This brief provides an overview of a RAND study to support the U.S. Forest Service in determining the composition of a fleet of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires.

    Jul 30, 2012

  • News Release

    News Release

    U.S. Military's Role with Petroleum Is to Assure Security

    Energy purchases made by the U.S. Department of Defense do not influence world oil prices, making cutting fuel use the only effective choice to reduce what the Pentagon spends on petroleum fuels.

    Jun 19, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Understanding Potential Air Force Roles in Promoting International Energy Security

    Energy purchases made by the U.S. DoD do not influence world oil prices, making cutting fuel use the only effective choice to reduce what the Pentagon spends on it. The U.S. military can continue to have an important role in promoting stability in major oil producing regions and by helping protect the flow of energy through major transit corridors and on the high seas.

    Jun 19, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Methodology for Constructing a Modernization Roadmap for Air Force Automatic Test Systems

    The Air Force is planning to modernize its automatic testing capabilities for electronics by moving to modern, common families of test equipment. This report focuses on the economic aspect of this process.

    May 24, 2012

  • A KC-135 Stratotanker prepares to refuel Navy F/A-18 Hornets

    Commentary

    The Path to the Right Active/Reserve Mix: You Need to Understand Cost Per Output

    The cost of providing ready aircrews, maintainers, and aircraft is one measure. But the cost of generating flying hours and satisfying ongoing operational demands must also be considered, writes Albert A. Robbert.

    Apr 16, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Options for and Costs of Retaining C-17 Aircraft Production-Only Tooling

    When production ceases, tools must be used elsewhere, disposed of, or stored; the authors examine these tooling retention issues for the C-17 cargo aircraft.

    Feb 23, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Logistics Applications

    An evaluation of potential logistics applications for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) determines whether they are technically feasible, operationally feasible, and more cost-effective than other options. Six factors are identified that can be used to compare UAS and non-UAS based solutions to logistics tasks.

    Jan 25, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Keeping a Competitive U.S. Military Aircraft Industry Aloft: Findings from an Analysis of the Industrial Base

    Evaluates the near-term and long-term risks and costs of the United States having little or no competition among companies involved with designing, developing, and producing fixed-wing military aircraft and related systems.

    Jan 16, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    RAND Project AIR FORCE Annual Report 2011

    This annual report describes selected RAND Project AIR FORCE research during 2011 in the areas of strategy and doctrine; force modernization and employment; manpower, personnel, and training; and resource management.

    Dec 22, 2011