The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000

The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000: Structure, Competition, Innovation

Mark Lorell
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 158
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mr1696osd
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  • Book Info
    The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000
    Book Description:

    Drawing on primary and secondary sources on the aircraft industry, this report provides a brief survey of industry structure, innovation, and competition in the U.S. fixed-wing combat aircraft industry from its earliest days to the present. It supports a much larger research effort examining the future of the structure, innovation, and competition of the U.S. military aircraft industrial base that responds to congressional concerns about that future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-3605-6
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. FIGURES
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. TABLES
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. SUMMARY
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  7. ACRONYMS
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  8. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    Recent RAND research (for example, Lorell and Levaux, 1998) suggests that a close historical relationship may exist between robust competition in the U.S. fixed-wing combat aircraft industry and technological innovation. This report provides a broad-brush, high-level overview of the history of competition and innovation in the U.S. fighter aircraft industrial base from selected periods from 1909, before World War I, to 2000.

    The purpose of this survey is to identify issues relevant to the current policy debate over maintaining adequate levels of competition and innovation in fixed-wing combat aircraft development over future decades. These issues have arisen from two recent...

  9. Chapter Two INDUSTRY STRUCTURE AND COMPETITION IN THE BIPLANE ERA
    (pp. 13-32)

    The United States, with such aviation pioneers as Orville and Wilbur Wright and Glenn H. Curtiss, led the world in innovation in heavier-than-air aircraft at the beginning of the twentieth century. During much of the first decade of aviation history, the aircraft industry remained a highly competitive but tiny specialized cottage industry that designed and produced small numbers of handcrafted airplanes in small workshops for wealthy enthusiasts (Vander Meulen, 1991).¹

    From 1903 to 1914, aviation pioneers in the United States and Europe proved to be extremely innovative and produced spectacular advances in performance capabilities. In December 1903, the Wright Flyer’s...

  10. Chapter Three THE MONOPLANE REVOLUTION
    (pp. 33-56)

    After years of technology and design stagnation characterized by persistent retention of the basic airframe/engine configuration already well established by 1916, combat aircraft entered a period of revolutionary advancement in technology and design configuration at the beginning of the 1930s. What changes in the demand and the supply side of the military aircraft market, and in the structure of the aircraft industry, are correlated with the emergence of this technology revolution after so many years of stagnation? This chapter identifies those changes.

    The monoplane revolution, which began in earnest in the early 1930s, was driven by a change in attitude...

  11. Chapter Four THE SUBSONIC- AND EARLY SUPERSONIC-JET REVOLUTIONS
    (pp. 57-76)

    On the eve of Pearl Harbor, predicting which U.S. companies would emerge as the new leaders in development of the modern fighter types that had resulted from the monoplane revolution of the mid-1930s was still not obvious. The Lockheed P-38, Bell P-39, Curtiss P-40, Grumman F4F, and Brewster Buffalo were the most modern U.S. Army and Navy fighters in the active inventory when the war started. Yet, with the exception of the P-38—which was available in only very small numbers at the beginning of the war—these fighters were generally outclassed by the leading Japanese and German fighters against...

  12. Chapter Five THE AGILE SUPERSONIC TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION
    (pp. 77-96)

    Changes in operational doctrine and other factors caused the 1960s and 1970s to witness shifts in the design emphasis and technology focus for new fighter aircraft. The technological focus on incessantly increasing speed and ceiling, which dominated the 1950s, disappeared in the following decade, replaced by a focus on maneuverability, maintainability, and systems integration. Considered by many as the most capable fourth-generation fighter, the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 nonetheless boasted approximately the same empty weight, ceiling, and top speed as its immediate predecessor, the McDonnell-Douglas F-4. Other highly successful fourth-generation fighters, such as the General Dynamics (now Lockheed) F-16 and McDonnell-Douglas F-18,...

  13. Chapter Six THE STEALTH REVOLUTION
    (pp. 97-114)

    The dawn of the stealth era is an excellent example of the dynamic of second-rank contractors taking greater technological risks and emphasizing innovation in order to unseat the established industry leaders. As during the monoplane revolution and subsequent technology eras, second-rank prime contractors often led the way in new-technology innovation in the course of intense competition with those leading prime contractors that dominated the market for conventional-technology combat aircraft.

    The stealth era, which got fully under way in the mid-1970s, behind a wall of strict secrecy, ushered in a new era of rapid technology change. Armed with precision-guided munitions, the...

  14. Chapter Seven AN END TO COMPETITION AND INNOVATION?
    (pp. 115-122)

    The wrenching consolidation and downsizing of the U.S. aerospace industry that began in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and with the end of the Cold War had, by the end of the 1990s, reduced from seven or eight to just two the number of prime contractors with credible capabilities to develop new combat aircraft: Lockheed-Martin and Boeing.¹

    Although the pace of first-tier consolidation slowed after the government blocked the Lockheed-Martin/Northrop Grumman proposed merger deal, concerns persisted about the reduced levels of competition in the industry and its effects on innovation and price. Uneasiness over declining...

  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 123-134)