The Air Force needs to replace its JSTARS radar planes, which provide invaluable reconnaissance to the joint force about enemy ground movements. The current radar is hosted on second-hand Boeing 707 jetliners, and the service figures it could avoid $11 billion in upkeep costs by spending about half that amount on more modern planes. However, there is a big debate about how big the new planes need to be. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman say they can get the job done on high-end business jets. Boeing says its approach — a modified 737 jetliner — is the only solution that offers enough design and growth margin to avoid problems seen in past development projects. It cites extensive research and past program failures to argue that selecting a plane smaller than the 737 would be penny wise and pound foolish. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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