Thursday, May 09, 2019

Those Who Ignore History: the F-35 and the TFX

The F-35 is our latest and greatest(?) fighter.  Apparently the lessons learned from its development will cause DOD to go a different direction for the next one.

As a layman I understand the key feature of the F-35 is its use by both the Air Force and the Navy.  After all, both need fighters so why not build one to serve both needs?

It's dream we've had before, most notably in the 60's, with the TFX program..  Back then Robert McNamara was blamed for the decision to go for commonality. The TFX was very controversial and, in my memory, it was never deemed a success, though judging by the wikipedia article it was more useful for longer than I remembered.

The lesson I took away from the TFX episode was twofold:

  • it's hard to do a project that meets the needs of two different organizations
  • be cautious when trying to do innovation top down.
The continuing mystery is why I forgot those lessons when applied to projects trying to eliminate USDA silos, like ASCS and SCS.

[Update:  see this GovExec piece on the next fighter after the F-35.]

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