Monday, June 7, 2010

Mythical Cost Savings

This post by Ace reminded FLG of something he was thinking about the other day. He'd heard that the F-35 was way over budget. The numbers are even worse when you figure that a lot of the stealth R&D used in the F-35 is probably sitting in the F-22 budget. The takeaway for FLG is this -- Don't try to save money buy building one airplane to do everything for all branches of the military.

The plan with the F-35 was to create one plane for all the branches. The Air Force needed a fighter bomber. The Navy needed a multirole fighter that could takeoff and land on a carrier. The Marines wanted a close air support jet with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. These multiple variants were supposed to share 75-80% of the parts, but last FLG heard, he can't find where he heard it right now, they are only sharing something like 25% now.

This isn't the first time the save money by building one plane thing went bad. Previously, it was with the F-111. The basic problem FLG sees is that each branch has unique needs. The idea that you could mass produce most parts and save money is appealing, but each branch asks for modifications until they end up being separate planes or completely unworkable. At some point, FLG thinks, maintaining the fiction that they are the same plane becomes more costly than it would have been to simply design an individual plane for each task.

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