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Military Innovation and Defence Acquisition: Lessons from the F-35 Programme


The F-35 was originally conceived as a multirole air superiority/strike aircraft capable of operating in self-contained formations, or alone, into hostile airspace. As its development proceeded, however, it proved extremely difficult to overcome the trade-off between low observability, and range and weapons payload. This had a significant impact on the evolution of debates on concepts of operations, leading to a consensus over employing the aircraft as a decentralised node for command & control rather than as originally envisioned. Consequently, requirements for its integration into existing force structures among the programme’s partners have not only changed, but have become more demanding and complex, prompting the need to rethink existing defence acquisition organisation and models.