27 July 2009

F-22 RIP (?)


With the Senate's recent decision to not fund additional F-22's, I'd like to take a moment to say, with as much respect and propriety as possible, WOO-HOO!

Ahem.

And I was also thinking that now might be a good time to highlight some of the reasons it's a good idea to not spend more money on the Raptor.

1) The SECDEF, SECAF and CSAF don't want more. In fact, the Secretary and Chief wrote an OpEd in which they said it's "time to move on."

2) Despite going operational in Dec 2005, the F-22 has yet to fly a single combat mission in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Where is it flying? Alaska - where it (ironically) performs the mission that was envisioned for it back in 1981: keeping the Russians away. Yes, I suppose that's important, but hardly the top priority for today's DoD... or tomorrow's... or the day after that...

3) It's too expensive and has all sorts of maintenance problems (both of which probably contribute to #2).

Ultimately, I think the problem with the F-22 is that we've spent too much time and money on it. We made it too complicated (both operationally & technically). The end result is technically obsolete and operationally irrelevant (for example, it can't share data). Did you know we started the F-22 Upgrade program BEFORE it went operational? Um, shouldn't we at least start flying it before we upgrade it? [note: I can't put my hands on the link to support that statement at the moment, but lemme know if you want it & I'll track it down.]

If we'd focused on simplicity and insisted on budget & schedule restraints, we might have ended up with a system that was Affordable, Available when needed and Effective when used.

Instead, we ended up with one that's hugely expensive, not available on time and not suited to the military's needs. And did I mention it can't share the intel it collects (except with other F-22's)?

The lesson for the rest of the world is pretty clear. A lack of restraint, an infatuation with complexity and a dependence on political support to keep the project alive leads down a dark and ugly road.

Rogue Project Leaders take note. Rogue projects are generally quick, inexpensive, simple and unloved and/or ignored by the Powers That Be... and that's a good thing.

3 comments:

Mark said...

Tying this into the previous post...

1) Customers don't want more. i.e. the customer-specified value is zero. The whole program is waste.

2) ditto

3) Maintenance problems are defects. Defects are one of the big types of waste. In fact, ALL maintenance (even scheduled maintenance!) is waste. That is, if you could design a plane that didn't require maintenance, then you wouldn't need schedules, manuals, tools, parts, technicians, hangars, etc etc. Of course, that would represent "perfection" which is more of a concept and direction than a real world goal. But clearly a plane that only needs maintenance every 10,000 hours is less wasteful than one that needs maintenance every 5,000 hours - that is, you could have just as much operational effectiveness with half the maintenance resources (or twice the effectiveness with the same resources).

I'll try to translate your lessons into Lean-speak:

Lack of restraint: the project leaders had no concept of a Value Stream, and little awareness of what the customer valued.

Infatuation with complexity: another misunderstanding of Value. Customers do not value complexity (can you imagine a pilot saying "Wow, that F-22 is great! It's soooo complex to fly!", or a maintenance director saying "I love that we need 3 more hangars just for the parts and tools to keep these planes flying!"), but (some) engineers and program managers think complex=better.

Dependence on political support: sort of like a "push" from an external force instead of a "pull" from the customers. In Lean, push systems tend to be much more wasteful and inefficient, and continuous flow that is controlled by a pull from the customer is the ideal.

PS - bye, bye birdie. We won't miss you!

Dick Field said...

Dang! The precedent just set might just be the death knell for all such politically-based, expensive, untimely, and irrelevant programs. Do I hear the birth cries of a new ethos out there?

The Dan Ward said...

@Mark - Nicely said!

@Dick - I certainly hope so! I happen to know there's a rogueish move afoot among certain influential AF acquisition decision makers... more to follow