A study on the differences in the perceived importance of jet fighter performance improvement factors
Keywords:performance advances in fighter aircraft, performance improvement index, Fuzzy-AHP, product life cycle, cost-effectiveness
The rapid advancement in software-based technology has significantly shortened product life cycles, leading to the proliferation of new products. However, the high initial investment makes it practically impossible for armed forces to rapidly replace existing weapons systems with new ones due to technological obsolescence. A more realistic alternative is to focus on performance improvements (or weapon upgrades) in existing systems. The challenge lies in making the right upgrades with the right technology at the right cost and time given the limited defense budget. Unfortunately, weapons upgrade decisions have mostly been based on costs and politically considered budget allocations to different branches of the armed forces rather than by considering a comprehensive range of decision factors. In light of the escalating national security threats, it is necessary to maximize the cost-effectiveness of weapons upgrade projects and effectively address rising national security challenges. The objective of this study is to develop a performance improvement Decision Index that quantifies the opinions of field-operating experts. Field experts are believed to possess the necessary expertise to select the appropriate fighter types, technologies, and upgrade timings, making it beneficial to factor in their opinions to determine what, how, and when to upgrade. Specifically, this study aims to establish weighted values for major decision factors regarding fighter performance improvement programs in the Republic of Korea Air Force. To achieve this, we collected survey data from 134 active-duty pilots and maintenance, operations, and repair (MRO) personnel from major fighter wings of the Republic of Korea Air Force and analyzed the data using the Fuzzy-AHP (Analytical Hierarchy Process). The analysis results indicate that the highest weighted value is given to the “relative (fighter) performance”against hostile nations, followed by “operating rate,” “durability,” “performance improvement cycle,” and “budget.” Furthermore, this study identified perceptual differences among field experts—particularly between pilots and MRO personnel—regarding the importance of relative performance, budget, performance improvement intervals, and operating rates of different fighter types. The proposed performance improvement index aims to provide a quantitative tool that incorporates field experts’ opinions into the decision-making process to upgrade weapons, facilitating balanced decisions and departing from a policymaker-centered approach. This balanced approach to weapons upgrade decisions will contribute to maximizing cost-effectiveness and, eventually, enhancing combat readiness.
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