Tags: Bulava, JSF, procurement strategy, SLBM
“After its firing from the submarine Dmitry Donskoy, the Bulava missile self-liquidated and exploded into the air” – Russian MoD spokesman to Interfax 23 Dec 08
And thus was written the postscript on the latest test of the star-crossed Bulava SLBM. Five failures in eight attempts would seem to call into question the fast-track to IOC/deployment of the missile – but given that there is no alternative to speak of (yes, there is the SS-N-23, but it won’t fit the launchers on the new SSBNs), it looks like the Russians are stuck with continuing to try and make the Bulava work. And maybe not so fast on the IOC…
The Bulava scenario is pregnant with questions for our own procurement process – e.g., putting all your eggs in one basket and hoping it all works as advertised since you’ve pinned the future of a platform/capability on the success of that development (*cough*JSF*cough*). So what happens if we find ourselves in a similar coffin corner with a major program? Cancel it and hope that in the interim we can stretch out the legacy platform until the (next) new one comes on line? Been there, done that. Remember the A-12? Look what that scenario did to the VA and VF communities and our long-range strike capability in particular and TACAIR in general (still feeling the aftereffects today). There’s a lot of discussion out there right now about the F-35, some legit, some politically motivated, but enough that hope alone isn’t COA if it falls short in trials (and here I’m particularly concerned about the F-35B and it’s purported weight and cooling problems). Twasn’t always so – look at the development of the Tomcat out of the ashes of the TFX, but that was a different time. Or was it? What are your thoughts?
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