Murphy's Law: October 24, 2002


The number of decades (not years) that it takes to get new aircraft from the drawing board to combat units is now 30 years or more. Even in the 1960s and 70s, it took nearly twenty years to get a complex weapons system into the hands of the troops. But with the microprocessor revolution in the 1970s, electronics developed so fast that we now have a problem with new aircraft using relatively ancient electronics. This is because the design has to be "frozen" at a certain point in the development cycle so the new weapon can be tested and put into mass production. As a result, the Air Force's new fighter, the F-22, is using a lot of 1980s electronic components (Intel 286 microprocessors, which were new technology in the early 1980s.) To maintain a source of spare parts, the Department of Defense is subsidizing the production of the 286 microprocessors and the equally obsolete support chips needed to make the 286 work in the F-22's electronics systems. 


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