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Joint Acquisition: Implications from Experience with Fixed-Wing Tactical Aircraft

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Final rept. Aug 2004-Sep 2005

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This paper is concerned with identifying characteristic failure modes for joint acquisition programs. The paper uses joint acquisition program to mean an acquisition program set up to acquire a single system design, or variants of a single design, for use by more than one of the military Services. The resources available for the paper did not permit the consideration of all Department of Defense DoD joint programs. Attention was limited to Defense Department fixed-wing, tactical aircraft programs, which have a particularly rich, controversial, and well-documented history. In particular, much of the discussion concerns the F-111 begun in 1961 and the F-35 begun in 1993 fighter aircraft programs, which are the only programs the Defense Department has undertaken to both develop and procure fixed-wing, manned, tactical aircraft for use by more than one of the Services. The author concludes that it is extremely difficult to impose requirements that run strongly against a Services doctrines, and that senior Defense Department officials may be most effective in encouraging joint acquisition programs by orchestrating across Service lines consensus on capabilities to be sought within the limits of available technologies. The final section of the paper briefly points out how the Defense Department might apply this conclusion. Comparison of the F-111 program with the first 12 years of the F-35 program suggests the following conclusion Joint programs are feasible if a reasonable consensus on the system to be acquired is achieved otherwise, they may be infeasible within the current institutional arrangements for acquisitions.

Subject Categories:

  • Attack and Fighter Aircraft
  • Administration and Management
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies

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