How can the evolution of the doctrine of possession of equipment make it possible to extend the format of the armies?

At the end of the 60s and the beginnings of on-board electronic systems, military equipment experienced very rapid growth in performance and capabilities. At the same time, their costs of acquisition and implementation also experienced a doped increase, far exceeding the increase in military budgets. In an attempt to maintain the formats and above all the operational capacities, the military and industrialists undertook to rely on two characteristics made possible thanks to the contributions of electronics and information technology, namely the versatility of the equipment, and their scalability to extend the effective life in the forces. This is how the French Rafale, designed from the beginning of the 80s, made it possible to replace on its own the 8 fighter models in service within the French armies, the plane being both an air superiority fighter as well as the Mirage 2000C and the Crusader, an attack aircraft such as the Jaguar, the F1CT, the 2000D and the Super Etendard, a reconnaissance aircraft such as the F1CR and the Etendard IVP, and a strategic strike aircraft such as the Mirage 2000N. In terms of scalability, the Dassault aircraft, which continues to garner export orders more than 20 years after its entry into service, has experienced no less than 5 iterative standards to date, from F1 air superiority on board to F -3R versatile multirole, and will continue to evolve with the next F4 and F5 standards, bringing the device to the threshold of the 5th generation.

The extension of the lifespan of equipment, thanks to scalability, as well as their versatility, enabled military planners to respond to format and capacity issues under budgetary constraints, further reinforced by the famous "benefits of peace" following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The French air forces, like those of the British or the Americans, experienced deep reductions in size reaching 65% for these 3 countries, and more for countries like Germany or Belgium. However, what was a response to an immediate problem, transformed over time into a paradigm framing not only formats but also equipment ownership policies. Thus, aircraft of the Rafale generation, such as the European Typhoon or the Swedish Gripen, are planned to remain in service beyond 2060, more than 60 years after entering service. As for their successors, such as the NGF of the SCAF program, the Tempest or the NGAD, they will have to keep the line until 2100, while they will enter service from 2035 or 2040. The same applies in the field armour, and to a lesser extent, in the field of combat ships, all of which are now designed for an extended operational life thanks to enhanced scalability.

The SCAF program's Next Generation Fighter is designed to remain in service for over 60 years

Intuitively, this strategy makes sense. An evolution costing much less than to acquire, and therefore to develop a new device, the more one extends the lifespan of an equipment thanks to successive evolutions, the more it should prove to be economical to implement. It is therefore quite natural that the new programs, such as SCAF or MGCS, also aim to design this type of long-life equipment, even if the design, manufacturing and implementation costs are higher. important in responding to this paradigm. Nevertheless, while directing acquisitions for the US Air Roper, Dr. Will Roper shattered these received ideas. According to him, limiting the service life of a fighter aircraft in the forces to 50% of its expected service life, i.e. 15 years, would ultimately cost the USAF less per aircraft and per year, allowing, on budget equivalent, to implement more devices. This statement is, obviously, completely counter-intuitive, and goes against the strategies of possession of military equipment at the heart of the planning of large Western armies. However, reducing the lifespan of a combat aircraft like the Rafale to 15 years in the French forces would effectively save more than 22% of the aircraft's annual ownership costs, and more than 50% if the fleet overall was increased by 50%. Here's how ...

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