Strategy Rethought

You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find/You get what you need
The Rolling Stones

There’s a trend in defense matters to want the absolute best always. We tried to get 132 bombers with long range, massive payloads, and very low radar signatures. We got 21 B-2s. The USAF wanted 750 frontline stealth fighters. It received 187 F-22s. Nobody, it seemed, ever paid close attention to the budgets allocated to missile-carrying aircraft.

We see the same thing now in the US hypersonic missile market. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) thinks it can buy 100 of the Lockheed Martin AGM-183 ARRWs (or a like device) for an average price of $14M (2016$), with a range of 1000 miles. For an agency with “Budget” in its title, you might think they would have done the analysis below. If they had, they’d find their projection is 108 standard deviations past that market’s highly correlated Demand Frontier.

We’ve paid heavily to make our frontline bombers invisible to radar – don’t imagine they need to use missiles with stand-off ranges to accomplish hypersonic missions.

The solution is clear: make any hypersonic missile smaller and cheaper with less range and payload and fly it closer to the target.

China claims to fly them. Russia wants them, too. It makes sense that the USA must also have these hypersonic weapons.

But, as in all budget matters, there are limits. At the current CBO projection for the average cost of the 100th missile of that ilk ($14M in 2016$)1,2 that price point is 108 std devs past the budget limit. The solution is to make a much smaller missile with far less range and fly it closer to its targets.