The Comanche helicopter program was scrapped today after $6.8 billion, 20 years of development, and not a single operational model. The helicopter was intended to oppose non-existent Soviet super-weapons, and after 1990, a non-existent Soviet empire. It took 13 years for the program to catch up with political reality. The helicopter has been featured in numerous movies, computer games, and television shows as the future of military technology. I think an observation made by my IT professor last week is appropriate: “Military contractors operate in a totally different universe. They have absolutely no conception of business reality, budget constraints, or product marketing — and thus have a very hard time applying military technology to civilian applications.”
While the military does need to develop new hardware, the current pork-driven ménage a trois between politicians, local constituencies, and defense contractors is not the right way to do it.