In the late 1990s, the U.S. government decided it could save a lot of money in the long run by building one fighter plane for all three military branches.
The idea was sort of like the Model T plan, but for war machines: if they could increase volume by making the platform appealing to more users, production costs would decrease enough to offset all the development costs.
Two decades and one trillion dollars later, we have the F-35 and it’s actually starting to see some action. And the plan worked: the per-unit cost of an F-35 is expected to decrease to around $80 million soon, which is pretty much what an old F/A-18 Super Hornet costs.
However, a trillion dollars would have paid for a lot of more specialized but less complicated and compromising planes. And as this piece from the New York Times makes clear [~19 minute read]
, it’s been anything but a cut-and-dried success.
Worth a read to remind yourself just how hard it is to do something complicated.
What we really need is to capture an alien fighter saucer, have Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum use it to upload a hastily-written computer virus into the mother ship, and then reverse engineer it to super-charge our fighter jets without breaking the bank, while simultaneously rallying together as the human race and stopping all this silly bickering between nations. Come on, politicians! Get your acts together! If Bill Pullman can do it, you can do it.