Aerospace Industry Rethinking How to Build Military Aircraft

Aerospace Industry Rethinking How to Build Military Aircraft image
January 19, 2016 | Source: Sandra I. Erwin, National Defense Magazine

Tom Vice, President of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, "...if only 20 [Saturn] cars had been built, each would have cost $350 million."

Ben Diachun, President of Northrop Grumman owned Scaled Composites, "On average we do one new aircraft type to first flight per year.”

PALMDALE, Calif. — “Exploratory teams” of government officials periodically are seen in this part of southern California, checking the pulse of the aerospace industry at a time when the Pentagon is under growing pressure to innovate and can no longer afford to do business as usual.

The changing defense market is putting the squeeze on companies that design and build cutting-edge aircraft. The focus is now on rapid prototyping and other techniques that let buyers experiment with new systems before they commit to major investments.

“I’ve been hearing about a paradigm shift,” says Kevin Mickey, vice president of advanced design at Northrop Grumman.