Blackeagle (
Fri, 21 Jul 2000 02:06:24 MST

>I'm sorry. I never meant to contradict your original statement about
>whether or not it was the "Japanese sense of the word prototype." In
>fact, I said that I did not have the first clue what the original
>poster meant by that statement. I just saw the opportunity for an
>interesting discussion about the progression of MS development, so
>started talking.

That's fine, I think this has been a very interesting discussion so far.

>What I will say is that I think the slow rate of modern airplane
>development has more to do with the fact that we have not been
>involved in any major world wars. Most people consider 20 years to be
>the safe service life of an airplane, before it starts to need major
>structural repair, so I see it as no coincidence that we are
>currently running on around a 20 year development cycle. Right now
>aging is the only tangible factor that requires us to replace service
>planes. We are not seeing any major air battles anywhere on the
>globe, so as long as an airforce's deterrent factor remains credible,
>there is no rush to come up with fantastic new aircraft until the old
>planes are so decrepit and aging, that an entirely new production run
>is required.
>This is not the case during war. In an air war, even minor
>improvements can make the difference between who comes out of an
>engagement victorious, and revolutionary aircraft drastically change
>the balance of power in the theatre of operations until the opponent
>can catch up. At times like this you see a much higher rate of weapon
>development than you do in peace time, partly because of larger
>budgets, and partly because you have planes getting shot down left
>and right, rather than just quietly aging on the runway.

Another factor which acclerates the pace of technological development during
war is the fact that the effectiveness of new concepts and new technologies
can quickly be proven or disproven on the battlefield. During peacetime,
you can speculate and test and hold war games but there is no real way to be
absolutely sure that your fancy new gear will work like you expect it to
until the next war comes along (by which time it may be to late).

Another factor is that even when new technology enters service during
peacetime, tactics take a while to catch up. This is what happened to the
French in tank warfare in WWII. Their tanks were better than the Germans,
and they had more of them, but they were essentially using the same tactics
as they used in WWI. Their tactics didn't really exploit the tremendous
advances in tank technology in the intervening years. On the other hand,
the Germans spent a considerable amount of time developing tactics which fit
the newer technology.

However, we can look at civilian airliners, rather than military aircraft in
order to mitigate the effects of wartime development. Civilian aircraft
generally do not leap forward during wartime, as resources are devoted to
military purposes, but they do tend to get a boost immeaditely afterwords as
military technology is applied to civilian uses. To screen out this effect,
why don't we compare two timeframes that are at least a decade removed from
the end of a major war.

Compare the development of civil avation between 1930 and 1939 to the
development from 1960 to the present. Around 1930, the state of the art
passenger aircraft were the old trimotors. However, by the end of the
decade, the trimotors were obselete and airlines had moved on to aircraft
like the DC-3 and the enormous Pan-Am flying boats. These aircraft
represent wholesale shifts in passenger aircraft technology. By comparisom,
state of the art in the early '60s was the Boeing 707. Forty years later
we've got the 777. The 777 is quieter and more efficent, but the basic
technology is still the same. The advances of the '30s seem to be going at
a far greater pace than those of the '60s-present and that's without even
taking into account that the '30s were a time of global economic depression,
which probably held back the pace of technological development. I would say
that this difference in pace is due mainly to the fact that back in the
'30s, avation technology was much less mature, and thus development
proceeded at a faster pace, even in the absence of war.

>I do not necessarily agree that it is an issue of maturity, because I
>do not really think that helicopters, prop airplanes, jets, ducted
>thrust vehicles, and variable control surface vehicles with vectored
>thrust, all belong in the same category. It seems to me that when
>there is a need for a flying vehicle, there are a number of
>solutions, and many of the technologies involved are, to this day,
>still very immature. I think the bigger issue is that there has been
>very little impetus to push development at a break-neck pace.

Well, if you want, you can seperate the monolithic block of aerospace
technology into smaller categories, like piston engined prop aircraft,
turbine engined prop aircraft, jet aircraft, rotorcraft, non-rotorcraft VTOL
aircraft, rockets, reusable space vehicles, etc.

Chris Upchurch a.k.a. Blackeagle

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