technology-refresh cycle for COTS is typically 18 months or less, which exacerbates the ongoing problem of obsolescence for aircraft with lifetimes measured in decades.
Long weapon-system development and procurement cycles are also part of the problem. The F-22 Raptor program, for example, was begun nearly 20 years ago and is still at least five years away from fielding aircraft in squadron strength. Currently, $50 million a year is being budgeted to replace the “old” F-22 avionics with new hardware and software (Raggio, 2000). By the time the first production F-22 rolls off the line, its avionics systems will have undergone four refresh cycles.
According to Lt. General Robert Raggio, Commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center, the Air Force needs an additional $250 million to $275 million per year to address the problem of aging avionics in both legacy and new aircraft, not including the costs of training maintenance workers, suppliers, and operators (personal communication with Lt. Gen. Robert Raggio, Commander, Aeronautical Systems Center, October 6, 2000).3 Each technology-refresh cycle entails added costs for regression testing, flight testing, training for pilots and support personnel, and configuration and spares management.4
In the 1980s, the Joint Integrated Avionics Working Group (JIAWG) was formed to establish a set of avionics characteristics for all of the services and for multiple platforms. Three aircraft were selected for initial application of the JIAWG principle: the Air Force advanced technology fighter (now the F-22); the Navy A-12 fighter; and the Army Comanche helicopter. The JIAWG also developed hardware standards, including
3 Training costs for design and test engineers, logisticians, maintenance personnel, and aircrews, etc., are not currently included in cost models for aging avionics.
4 No institutionalized processes, tools, or requirements have been developed for configuration management.