The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000: Structure, Competition, Innovation

The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000: Structure, Competition, Innovation

The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000: Structure, Competition, Innovation

The U.S. Combat Aircraft Industry, 1909-2000: Structure, Competition, Innovation

Synopsis

Examines what the U.S. fixed-wing combat aircraft industry looked like in the past and how it evolved over time, emphasizing particularly the nature of competition among prime contractors and integrators and the history of innovation in fixed-wing combat aircraft.

Excerpt

After years of technology and design stagnation characterized by persistent retention of the basic airframe/engine configuration already well established by 1916, combat aircraft entered a period of revolutionary advancement in technology and design configuration at the beginning of the 1930s. What changes in the demand and the supply side of the military aircraft market, and in the structure of the aircraft industry, are correlated with the emergence of this technology revolution after so many years of stagnation? This chapter identifies those changes.

NEW MARKETS AND GREATER COMPETITION PAVE THE
WAY FOR INNOVATION

The monoplane revolution, which began in earnest in the early 1930s, was driven by a change in attitude and approach by contractors responding to new market conditions. The most important cause of this change was a transformation in perception: of the potential future sales opportunities offered, first by the commercial market and later, and more important (from our perspective), by the anticipated growth of the global military market. The first major breakthroughs came in the commercial market. Responding to the birth of a viable commercial airline industry, demand emerged for a new generation of high-performance passenger transport aircraft. The new demand stimulated new entrants into the industry to meet those requirements, and stimulated marked new competition and innovation.

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