Comparing Ship Versus Aircraft Development Costs
Ferreiro, Larrie D.
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Both warships and military aircraft are highly complex, engineered products that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. But the development cost for an aircraft is frequently many times the cost for a ship, in some cases one to two orders-of-magnitude greater (DDG 51 development cost $3 billion, F22 development cost $30 billion). This paper first examines and compares the top-line development costs for a broad range of ships and aircraft, from commercial (e.g., passenger ships and aircraft) to military (destroyers versus fighters), using publicly available cost numbers. It then takes a deep dive into two cargo platforms, T-AKE Lewis and Clark and C-17 Cargolifter, using cost data from primary sources. It then compares the development expenditures for the two platforms as a function of time and products (e.g., the use or lack of full-scale models as part of the respective development processes). It finally provides a broad historical perspective to explain how these differences between ships and aircraft actually began in their original development communities during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
NPS Report NumberSYM-AM-18-040
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