No national security roundup today, since Dan already commented on the latest events in Syrian Kurdistan. Instead, I have a couple of short pieces at the Diplomat on the ongoing discussion of a new “Century Series” of fighter aircraft. It’s an intriguing idea that’s much more about process than about any specific platform, but I’m skeptical for a lot of reasons. On the domestic side:
Roper seems most interested in developing new ways for design firms, manufacturing firms, and the Pentagon to work together, a process that will not necessarily look anything like the conventional relationship between industry and DoD.
The system would separate the relationship between design and production, allowing design firms to work up new aircraft, while specialized manufacturers (presumably using digital tools and artificial intelligence related applications) would produce small (around 72) runs of aircraft.
Among other things, this new system could overturn the strategy that aerospace firms have used for generations. Part of the political strategy of modern aerospace firms has been to leverage the link between design and production to political actors who can ensure the survival of the project.
And on the export side:
Will the airframes and aircraft be sufficiently similar that a supply chain of the sort that has enabled the F-35 to spread its tendrils across the world develop? Will buyers have access to the hardware and software updates that are supposed to keep the Multitude at the leading edge of capability? Moreover, the short production runs don’t seem to suggest that would-be customers will have much of an opportunity to decide on what they want. Potentially, designs for older fighters could be exported to international manufacturing bureaus. Similarly, manufacturers could continue the production of old designs intended for sale on the export market. Given the complexities of integrating munitions, avionics, and other support systems into new aircraft, it also remains to be seen how easy it would be for export customers to integrate their own systems into whichever of the YF-(50,59) Multitude they decide to purchase.