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F-4 Phantom II - Management

Don Malvern, who succeeded David Lewis as McDonnell's F-4 program manager, attributes the success of the F-4 to a combination of good luck and good eng.ineering. In justice, one would also have to add, good marketing. It will be recalled that the early design changed continually as the result of interplay between iewly developed Navy mission requirements and technical possibilities. Design is an iterative process in the aircraft industry by its very nature.

However, whereas in the 1930's and 1940's one man could carry an entire'design for an airplane in his head, by the 1960s the wide variety of subsystems and the corresponding specialties required demand a team approach. Nevertheless, close interrelation between the customer and contractor is still required for any successful aircraft design.

R&D costs are not particularly sensitive to the multiple-purpose adaptability of an airplane, if such adaptability was designed in from the beginning, as it was with the F-4 (and, incidentally, the F-14 as well). The F-4 was designed as a fleet air defense, interceptor, dog-fight fighter and attack aircraft, ab initio. It had been DoD policy that such weapon systems should be multi-purpose to gain maximum cost-effectiveness. Whether or not adaptability or multi-purpose capability is in fact cost-effective requires a more detailed examination in each case. On the surface at least the argument is appealing.

There are also lessons in engineering manpower to be learned from the F-4 program. The manpower growth of the F-4 was well-controlled. Initially, some 100 engineers were involved in October 1957; this number grew to 1,000 at the time of the F-4's first flight in May 1958. Of those, some 360 were design engineers. In 1967 there were a maximum of 3,100 engineers working on the F-4. Most of those were concerned with handling documents related to design changes for the various configurations of the aircraft, as demanded by the 28 different contracts then in effect. Even as late as July 1972, there were still Incidentally, only 25%-30% more engineers were required for the F-15 than for the F-4 at the corresponding period in its development.

Another interesting fact is that the initial design of the F-4 was that of about a dozen engineers. Organizational simplicity was a decided benefit in developing the F-4. Part of the reason for the success in the development of the F-4 was the limited number of reports required. McDonnell Douglas believed that far more time and money would have been required if the F-4 had been developed under subsequent DoD procedures and report requirements.

Particular support for this view was given by the events leading to the decision to produce the F-4E. In the view of McDonnell Douglas that decision was unduly prolonged by DDR&E and DoD systems analysts. Numerous reviews were required which consumed far more time in preparation and defense than had previously been required to initiate development and production of earlier F-4 models. In the words of Mr. Barkey, "The (F-4) program was a success primarily because of the mutual understanding which existed between the contractor's project engineer and program manager. Fortunately, the Phantom was developed befoxe the day of the heavy emphasis on the 'ilities' and the complex decision-making processes."

It might also be noted that, although the F-4 was subject to continued Congressional review, it was not subject to the kind of harassment experienced by the F-14. The need to defend an aircraft program repeatedly and to prepare annual data for appropriations must delay development and increase costs when as much effort is required for the preparation of the necessary documents as has been the case with all aircraft, particularly the F-14.

The McNamara regime's cost awareness was a very definite positive factor, but the McNamara requirement for detailed management control from the top is often viewed as a decidedly negative factor. Proper aircraft development requires decentralized management in the opinion of many aircraft engineers. A closely related problem which had grown steadily since the F-4 was first proposed is that of management layering and excessive staffing. This, is a problem which has been studied and documented with no apparent improvement. It was generally agreed that such layering exists in both Government and industry organizations, and that a significant if undefinable cost is associated. Decentralization could help minimize both problems.

Another DoD attitude which did not appeal to industry engineers is the undue importance given by Defense Department systems analysts to small differences in cost-effectiveness. Policy decisions should not be made on the basis of a 1% or 2% difference in some cost-effectiveness index. In such calculations, those indices are subject to rather extensive simplifications and assumptions. To be truly effective, cost-effectiveness indices should display wide variances.

The early F-4 models evolved without the benefit of management procedures later developed under Secretary McNamara. The situation deteriorated with the introduction of systems analysis review of the F-4E. DoD lost a considerable advantage when it turned to the arm's-length approach required under present concept formulation and contract definition procedures. Concept formulation and contract definition evolved under the McNamara regime in order to counteract "cronyism". They give a degree of standoffishness in contract award which is desirable, but lead to dialogues which are often less than candid and which prohibit the iterative design approach which was so successful with the F-4, in the view of McDonnell engineers.

One of the critical problems in software development is the people and number of lines of code that they are able to write each day. The F-4 had no lines of code in it, the F-15A had sixty thousand lines of code, and the F-16E had something like 2.4 million.

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