Paradigms of Development and Employment of Weapon Systems
Author(s)Gillespie, Daniel M.
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Weapons procurement decisions are extremely complex, with an unmanageable quantity of variables to take into account. The human brain, unable to process such a complex problem in a strictly rational way, seeks mechanisms to bound the problem and therefore simplify it. One way this occurs is through the development of paradigms, or common viewpoints held by decision makers that incorporate the irrational, emotional, and qualitative experience and knowledge, as well as quantitative knowledge such as analysis and test results. A paradigm in use by decision makers in the U.S. Air Force is the propensity to buy weapons developed and produced in America. This study traces the origins of this paradigm, and how it evolved over time. Drawing on examples from recent history it identifies the sources of the paradigm which are: a need to maintain the nation’s technological base, the inadequacy of foreign weaponry to meet U.S. needs, the fact that the U.S. economy is able to support a strong defense industry, the ability to advance its policies by transfer of weapons to allies, the desire to share standardized equipment with allies, and the desire to gain the economic benefits from being an exporter of weapons. It concludes that existing paradigms influence what weapon systems the U.S. will procure, and that in turn affects the strategy the nation employs. Relating the paradigm of American-made weapons procurement to the cases of the F-35 fighter and the recently cancelled Air Force tanker program, it asks questions about the future of weapons procurement choices in a global defense environment.
weapons, paradigms, defense
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