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View Full Version : Prettier or uglier?



Robert F. Dorr
03-11-2013, 12:04 AM
Some comments on the thread about the general and the tanker got me thinking. When the Air Force must choose between two aircraft for a production contract, should it always pick the uglier of the two aircraft? If that were the sole criterion, wouldn't we save a lot of time and money? Just take 20 minutes, decide which is uglier, and choose that one. It works most of the time.

Let's see now.

B-52 versus B-60:

They chose what must have seemed at the time to be the uglier aircraft and it was the right choice by leaps and bounds. It was a no-brainer that could have been decided in 20 minutes.

A-10 versus A-9:

They chose the uglier aircraft and it was also the right choice.

F-16 versus F-17:

They chose the uglier aircraft (although we've subsequently become accustomed to its proboscis). It was the wrong choice, the other aircraft was better, and after some re-jiggling the other aircraft evolved into the F/A-18A Hornet, albeit with shortened legs.

F-15E versus F-16XL

They chose the prettier aircraft and it really wasn't even a close contest. This is an exception to the rule that ugly is good. They could have made this decision in 20 minutes instead of over several weeks.

HH-60E versus HH-60G:

Well, they both look pretty ugly but the E model had far greater capabilities so they made the wrong choice.

X-32 versus X-35:

This is where they slipped up. The X-32 was not only uglier, it may be the ugliest aircraft ever designed, which is evidence that it's got to be better. But they chose the X-35 to become the F-35 and look at the mess we're in. Proof that ugly wins every time. Almost.

AT-6 versus A-29

Along with the F-15E this is the second exception to the rule. They chose the prettier aircraft and it is also the right aircraft. This was another no-brainer where it was no contest. They could have made this decision in 20 minutes yet this program has been evolving over six years, they've chosen the A-29 twice now, and the Fat Lady hasn't sung yet. And ironically, although they chose an excellent aircraft they chose it for a job that doesn't need to be done.

KC-45 versus KC-46:

Well, they look similar. But the KC-45 is slightly prettier. They chose the better aircraft. Then it got canceled. Then they chose the worse aircraft. This was another no-brainer where it was no contest. It wasn't even close and could have been decided in 20 minutes instead of 14 years. And, in the end, they chose the wrong plane.

F-117 versus Northrop XSL:

Let's not go there.

Your thoughts?

technomage1
03-11-2013, 12:06 AM
Betty or Veronica?

Ain't that the eternal question....

RobotChicken
03-11-2013, 12:27 AM
:plane Now-a day's it is whom has the 'Biggest payola' to our 'leaders and their retirement fund', forget the 'Fat lady singing'. :spy

imnohero
03-11-2013, 01:58 AM
Oh Bob, you really should read the GAO report on the KC45 selection, the full version if you can get your hands on it. Sadly, I no longer have a copy. You might change your mind on which was the "better" aircraft.

Robert F. Dorr
03-11-2013, 10:20 AM
Oh Bob, you really should read the GAO report on the KC45 selection, the full version if you can get your hands on it. Sadly, I no longer have a copy. You might change your mind on which was the "better" aircraft.

Of course I did read it. How could I not have read it?

It was never really necessary to have a contest. The Airbus candidate was superior to the Boeing candidate in every respect. A simple walk-around would have resolved the issue. Airbus had a new generation refueling boom that was already operational when Boeing's had not yet been tested (and still hasn't been). The Airbus aircraft was larger on the interior, giving it greater flexibility. The Airbus airplane had better fuel burn, footprint, turn-around, fuel capacity, and a bunch of other things. The Airbus plane had commonality with new, up-to-date airliners still in production while the Boeing candidate was based ion the 767, an airliner that was never very successful and was near the end of its life on the production line.

Airbus had reent experience building and fielding tankers. Boeing had no one with experience. With the exception of a handful of 767s for Italy and Japan -- disastrous programs, both -- Boeing hadn't assembled a tanker since 1964.

The cost of the Airbus would have been higher. Boeing had an assembly plant and the Northrop Grumman-EADS team didn't (yet) but they had a solid plan.

When the contest was held again, subsequently, the Boeing candidate was less worse than before thanks to minor changes in the design and Northrop Grumman was no longer partnered with EADS. The Airbus aircraft continued to be the better aircraft and continues to this day. It is not even remotely close. I would love it if you could find a single person who is considered an authority of aviation (and not on Boeing's payroll) who would argue that the KC-46 is better. That's simply preposterous.

Robert F. Dorr
03-11-2013, 10:22 AM
Oh Bob, you really should read the GAO report on the KC45 selection, the full version if you can get your hands on it. Sadly, I no longer have a copy. You might change your mind on which was the "better" aircraft.

Next you're going to tell me the AT-6 is competitive with the A-29.

Well, no.

sandsjames
03-11-2013, 12:22 PM
What are all of these letters and numbers you are throwing together?

imnohero
03-11-2013, 12:26 PM
Of course I did read it. How could I not have read it?

It was never really necessary to have a contest. The Airbus candidate was superior to the Boeing candidate in every respect. A simple walk-around would have resolved the issue. Airbus had a new generation refueling boom that was already operational when Boeing's had not yet been tested (and still hasn't been). The Airbus aircraft was larger on the interior, giving it greater flexibility. The Airbus airplane had better fuel burn, footprint, turn-around, fuel capacity, and a bunch of other things. The Airbus plane had commonality with new, up-to-date airliners still in production while the Boeing candidate was based ion the 767, an airliner that was never very successful and was near the end of its life on the production line.

Airbus had reent experience building and fielding tankers. Boeing had no one with experience. With the exception of a handful of 767s for Italy and Japan -- disastrous programs, both -- Boeing hadn't assembled a tanker since 1964.

The cost of the Airbus would have been higher. Boeing had an assembly plant and the Northrop Grumman-EADS team didn't (yet) but they had a solid plan.

When the contest was held again, subsequently, the Boeing candidate was less worse than before thanks to minor changes in the design and Northrop Grumman was no longer partnered with EADS. The Airbus aircraft continued to be the better aircraft and continues to this day. It is not even remotely close. I would love it if you could find a single person who is considered an authority of aviation (and not on Boeing's payroll) who would argue that the KC-46 is better. That's simply preposterous.

How could you not have read it? Because you missed the one salient point about the Airbus aircraft, that it didn't meet the heaviest weighted and single most important requirement, the ability to refuel all US recievers.

The rest of that is stuff you mentioned is all things that the AF pro-airbus people said to defend their choice. Except some of it isn't exactly true. It looks good on paper, that's for sure. But the real world is a different matter entirely. And both you and the AF vastly underestimate the impact of having no production facility to the complexity and cost of the program.