The 80 Percent Solution

The first version of the Long-Range Strike Bomber is “very deliberately” not the final version, Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante said in an interview. LaPlante said the first version could be described as the “80 percent solution” to USAF’s ultimate requirement. In previous programs, he explained, the acquisition community would get nervous that “there would be no second version” of a given program because of cost or funding uncertainty, and tended to load up the initial model with more capabilities than were really needed at the start. That made them more complex, added changes and requirements, and “that’s how you get 15-year development” timelines, LaPlante said. With the LRS-B, the “Block” approach—starting with a well-defined capability that is less than the ultimate requirement and then improving it in stages—is being pursued because there’s “historical evidence” that it works better, he asserted. The F-16, he noted, looks largely the same today as it did when first introduced in the 1970s, but “if you open it up … on the inside” the aircraft is virtually unrecognizable from early models, due to improvements and increased capabilities.