New Military Gear Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune — War is Boring — Medium


I didn’t ask to be put in charge of the BRITE project. In fact, given a choice I almost certainly would have declined. The odd little system looked distinctly underwhelming—and promised to be a blip on my radar, a forgettable job to be passed off to someone else as soon as possible.

Boy was I wrong. My work on the Broadcast-Request Imagery Technology Environment—a system for sending satellite imagery to troops on the ground—changed my thinking about how we develop military gear.

Bottom line, new weaponry doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to involve thousands of people and take years or decades to design.

via New Military Gear Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune — War is Boring — Medium.

The 80/20 rule. You can get 80% of the capability for 20% of the cost.

The classic example of a small focused team working on a well defined project with well defined capabilities is the A-12/SR-71 program run by Kelly Johnson in the Lockheed Skunk Works. It’s predecessor, the U-2, and the follow on project, the F-117 were all very successful, especially since they didn’t try to be all things to all people.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “New Military Gear Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune — War is Boring — Medium

  1. Tarl

    I don’t think of U-2 / SR-71 / F117 as examples of the 80/20 rule. None of them was chosen as an “80% alternative” to a much more expensive system.

    In fact I am struggling to think of a real-world example of the 80/20 rule. Help me out here…

    • I was kinda conflating two issues there. No, I don’t think the U-2 et al. were 80/20. But the author’s experience with BRITE versus FIA certainly was an example of 80/20.

      The point with the Skunk Works products was that a focused, lean team, with a clearly identified mission and minimal bureaucratic oversight was able to produce to worthy product. Compare that to the programmatic monstrosity that is the JSF/F-35 program.

      It certainly appears that the only thing increased oversight in acquisition has provided is delay and cost.