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As the cost of large air transports has increased to the hundreds of millions of dollars , leasing has become an effective conserver of cash flow for airlines, and the leasing companies have become the source of procurement funds for the contractors. Consistent with the high level of total funds required and with the risk in cost and market, shared investment among suppliers and prime contractors over the entire life of a program has become a more frequent practice as well. The ultimate aim of the effort is the creation of flight vehicles more advanced than their predecessors.

Because of the complexity—i. Aerospace research and development comprises three main activities. Basic research involves investigations that may have no application in existing systems but provide advancement of knowledge for its potential. Applied research is the investigative effort aimed at direct applications.

Development, by definition, is the use of scientific knowledge directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems or methods, including design and development of prototypes and processes; it is the translation into hardware and software of the results of applied research. The primary focus in the aerospace industry is on applied research and development related to the introduction and improvement of products. Since applied research is absolutely vital to the competitiveness of the industry, it is often supported by governments. It oversees the development of spacecraft , and it has its own technological laboratories and extensive facilities for testing spacecraft and components under simulated launch and in-space conditions.

Britain, Sweden , and France also support notable government laboratories. Reducing the weight of aircraft structures has always been a focus of research. In addition to ongoing research into composite materials , investigation of aluminum-lithium and other alloys continues to foster advances in metals.

Materials research for supersonic and hypersonic vehicles focuses on both high-temperature polymers and lightweight metals as well as high-temperature polymer -matrix composites, adhesives , sealants, light alloys, and metal-matrix composites for structural applications see materials science: Materials for aerospace. To improve the all-weather operation of commercial aircraft , enhanced vision systems using video and infrared cameras or millimetre-wave radar are being pursued.

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Other areas of research include fly-by-light techniques that transmit commands through fibre-optic cables rather than electrically. The demand for longer vehicle lifetimes has made vital the development of nondestructive evaluation techniques to measure quality states and estimate the remaining lifetimes of structures.

In the military sector, research studies focus on means to enhance the maneuverability and survivability of flight vehicles. Combat survivability is defined as the capability of an aircraft to avoid or withstand a hostile environment , and related research centres on threat warning, signal jamming, radar deception, reduction of infrared signatures, threat suppression, redundancy and protection of components, passive and active damage suppression, and shielding.

Since the first spacecraft were launched, the size and weight of satellites and probes have increased constantly, as have costs. Much of spacecraft research is focused on reversing this trend by miniaturizing instruments, propulsion systems, power sources, and other components and developing small spacecraft that can replace larger systems. Important research directions include vehicle autonomy , microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems, ion engines, modular architecture and multifunctional systems, and high-efficiency solar arrays that replace silicon cells with significantly more effective photovoltaic materials such as gallium arsenide.

Under an adaptable systems approach, acquisition programs would be engaged simultaneously in development, production, and sustainment, which are not easily disentangled for review according to the traditional milestones. Instead, adaptable systems require continuous communication on requirements, budgets, and acquisition benchmarks. Given this contrast between the DODI Adaptable systems test the limits of the current acquisition system, which is accustomed to acquiring systems in a much more tightly defined and linear manner. Current acquisition budgeting also presents roadblocks for adaptable system given the defense acquisition system orientation around MDAPs.

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Budgets for acquisition programs provide prescriptive funding at levels set years in advance that may be incompatible with the rapidly evolving needs of an adaptable system. Adaptable systems consider multiple new and expanded features for the upgrade cycle simultaneously. They will struggle in a budget process that requires both projections five years into the future for every technology insertion and detailed production and sustainment plans before moving forward on allocating development resources. The multifunctionality of adaptable systems is also a major challenge for a budget process that organizes around distinct program offices and organizational lines of responsibility.

A multifunctional adaptable system is difficult to procure in an acquisition and budget system accustomed to handling major functions such as communications, battlespace awareness, and electronic warfare as separate systems, procured by separate offices, using separate budgets. Not only are the defense acquisition and budgeting processes misaligned for adaptable systems, but so too are the business incentives within the defense industry.

Under the current paradigm, prime contractors derive their return on investment from the integration of known technologies during development and managing anticipated work shares during production. Configuration and design churn from adaptable systems could undermine their profitability and create business uncertainty for first and second tier subcontractors whose offerings may be displaced through upgrades. This complicates the work of prime contractors managing an even more dynamic supply chain.

Furthermore, greater adoption of adaptable systems will likely require prime contractors to derive profitability more from innovation, particularly in software, and less from delivering hardware. Traditional defense contracting vehicles often do not include the mechanisms to properly align incentives, allocate risk, and manage intellectual property at this degree of complexity.

The good news is that there is a growing list of existing enablers to overcome or mitigate these barriers to the acquisition of adaptable systems. These enablers are critical to designing and managing adaptable systems throughout their lifecycle, and include:. While these enablers already exist and do not necessarily need new authorities to be implemented, combining these tools in an effective and coordinated way remains challenging. It is ultimately essential to understand how these enablers work together and begin a larger environmental transition toward their use.

While elements across DoD are taking steps to implement a variety of the enablers listed above, the use of many of them is still comparatively rare, and it is even rarer to see several of them used together. In order to achieve success in the acquisition of adaptable systems, DoD should consider the creation of a clearly defined adaptable systems lane. DoD currently describes its Adaptive Acquisition Framework as one that includes a variety of approaches including the Section Middle Tier of Acquisition approach, rapid acquisition, and traditional acquisition. This framework could be expanded also to include an adaptable systems lane.

Systems in the adaptable systems lane would default to the use of the enablers described above rather than using them by exception. The traditional approaches that contrast with these enablers could still be used, but they would be the exceptions in the adaptable systems lane.


If an adaptable systems lane were created, however, it would be important to ensure that the use of these enablers is not exclusive to a newly created adaptable systems lane. The goal of this effort is to enhance the ability of program managers and other acquisition leaders to use the right tools to acquire adaptable systems, not to impose limitations or straitjackets on them. Deploying systems that are adaptable and agile is not just a technology strategy but a security imperative.

Our current acquisition debate fails to directly address the changing nature of what we need to be buying, and as a result, we may be heading towards another round of acquisition reform recriminations in a few years.

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Andrew P. This report is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS , a private, taxexempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary.

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