Replicating Threats in Operational Test and Training Infrastructure

Research Questions

  1. At what rate do China and Russia field new threats against which a training response may be necessary?
  2. What are the typical costs and timelines associated with acquiring a response to a new threat and integrating into USAF OTTI?

There are concerns that the rate at which China and Russia can field new technologies exceeds the rate at which the U.S. Air Force (USAF) can replicate those technologies in operational test and training infrastructure (OTTI). The authors of this report estimate the rate at which China and Russia field new threats and examine the costs and benefits of keeping USAF OTTI at pace with new adversary capabilities.

The authors find that China and Russia are fielding new threats at rates exceeding that at which the USAF has historically been able to field new OTTI and that significant investment is required to keep OTTI at pace with adversary technology developments. This analysis provides a target for funding and fielding timelines that, if achieved, could edge the USAF training community closer to keeping the training environment at pace with new adversary technology.

Key Findings

China and Russia are fielding new threats at rates exceeding that at which the USAF has historically been able to field new OTTI

  • The rate at which new technology is fielded by China and Russia is quite fast, potentially requiring OTTI investment to replicate incremental changes to threats annually and more significant threats every few years.
  • The USAF has historically been able to replicate new threats in virtual OTTI in four to five years and in live OTTI in seven to ten or more years.

Significant investment is required to keep OTTI at pace with adversary technology developments

  • Extrapolating from historical investments in threat replication, the cost to replicate threats in OTTI at the pace of adversary threat development is $300 million per year.

To achieve the full benefit of OTTI investment and to “keep pace,” fielding timelines for OTTI must be reduced to a timescale comparable to the rate at which China and Russia field new threats

  • Although there can never be an instantaneous OTTI response to every newly fielded adversary threat, bringing OTTI fielding timelines closer to the adversary threat refresh rate will diminish the degree to which the USAF falls behind.

Recommendations

  • Focus efforts to collect data on the costs to develop new threats in virtual OTTI, which would enable evaluation of whether replicating threats in the virtual environment could offer a path to faster and more cost-effective replication of threats in the training environment.
  • Invest in efforts to collect better data on pilot proficiency, which can enable more precise tuning of OTTI investments to enhance operational outcomes.
  • If the USAF desires to keep OTTI at pace with new adversary threats, aggressively seek to decrease OTTI fielding timelines, in addition to advocating adequate funding, by pursuing resource allocation and acquisition acceleration strategies.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Background

  • Chapter Two

    Adversary Technology Refresh Rate

  • Chapter Three

    OTTI Investment Costs and Process

  • Chapter Four

    Operational Benefits of OTTI Investment

  • Chapter Five

    Modeling Adversary Threat Fielding and OTTI Investment over Decades

  • Chapter Six

    Recommendations to Improve the Ability of the USAF to Keep Pace with OTTI

  • Appendix A

    Adversary Platform and Variant Details

  • Appendix B

    Additional Methodology Detail

  • Appendix C

    Investment Policies Robust to Uncertainty

Research conducted by

This research was prepared for the Department of the Air Force and conducted within the Resource Management Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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