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R&D Hypothetical: What would you do?

pathology_doc

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The premise:

It's the late 1950s/early 1960s and you have just completed research and development on an air-to-air guided missile using valve technology. It's your nation's first AAM. The stars aligned, the team got it right the first time, early prototypes passed the initial live-firing tests... and although improvements are possible, you have a workable AAM.

Suddenly a reliable transistor appears!

Do you...

a) Proceed with a production batch as currently exists - it hasn't formally been ordered yet, large-scale production isn't fully set up, but the components as they stand all have their blueprints drawn up and it wouldn't take much to start a first run. Save the new tech for a Mark 2 (or however you want to run your designation system).

b) Completely rework the design around transistor technology, accepting the delays that might occur.

Justify your answer.
 

1635yankee

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Start production (option a). My reason is simple: it's here and it works. This is much better than it's not here no matter how well it may work.
 

Grey Havoc

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Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; go with the design that is ready for production. You don't know how long it will take your team to reliably adapt the new technology to your design, and your military will need the missile ASAP with the way the Cold War is going. Not to mention that you don't know all the pluses and minuses of the new technology yet, especially with regards as to aerospace applications. Furthermore, having a successful missile already in service will get you more R&D funding for experimenting with the new technology, both in regards as to potential future upgrades of your design as well as new missile designs. In some designs and roles it may even make sense to try to combine old and new technologies.
 

Apophenia

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b) Completely rework the design around transistor technology, accepting the delays that might occur.

As soon as transistors prove to be more reliable and less fragile than valves, the redesign is worthwhile. However, I'd question your "Completely rework' phrasing.

Those transistors are going to much smaller and lighter than the designed-for valves. They will also be less power-hungry, reducing battery requirements. My guess is that your original missile design will now have a bunch of empty space = future growth potential?
 

Dilandu

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Justify your answer.

This depend on several factors:

1 - how urgent the missile is needed?
2 - could we produce transistors of reliable design in rational quantity in time?

Generally, I'm for A: start production, albeit maybe limited in numbers. Besides transistors, missile actually have many parts that would not change much; rocket motor, autopilot gyros, servomechanic, aerodynamic controls. The sooner we would have at least some missiles in service, the sooner we could find and fix all possible bugs in them.
 

pathology_doc

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However, I'd question your "Completely rework' phrasing.

Those transistors are going to much smaller and lighter than the designed-for valves. They will also be less power-hungry, reducing battery requirements. My guess is that your original missile design will now have a bunch of empty space
Exactly. That's going to affect the centre of gravity, which - all else being equal - is going to affect the aerodynamic transfer function (how the missile responds to a particular gust of wind or other unwanted disturbance, or to a given control deflection), harmonics and bending moments of the airframe, etc., and that might require a complete reprogramming of the degree of deflection a control surface needs to make for a given manoeuvre with the greatest efficiency.

Avoiding all that might require considerable internal rearrangement.

Either way, you're going to have a significantly altered weapon. The ability to reprogram all this in software is still at least 20 years in the future.
 

zen

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The premise:

It's the late 1950s/early 1960s and you have just completed research and development on an air-to-air guided missile using valve technology. It's your nation's first AAM. The stars aligned, the team got it right the first time, early prototypes passed the initial live-firing tests... and although improvements are possible, you have a workable AAM.

Suddenly a reliable transistor appears!

Do you...

a) Proceed with a production batch as currently exists - it hasn't formally been ordered yet, large-scale production isn't fully set up, but the components as they stand all have their blueprints drawn up and it wouldn't take much to start a first run. Save the new tech for a Mark 2 (or however you want to run your designation system).

b) Completely rework the design around transistor technology, accepting the delays that might occur.

Justify your answer.
If you have achieved a working AAM, it ultimately has to be because you felt you needed it. Unless that need has faded away..... it's best to have at least a limited production run.

If you've just learned about transistors, then it will take time to gain some and learn how they work and effect the design of electronics.

So it's best to field your missile now while turning a Electronics Research Group onto transistors.

Besides if you have a small valve technology production industry. This will be busy turning out civil and military electronics. The major shift to transistors is going to take time and money.
 

jeffb

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There's a supply chain behind the equipment you're already building with, suppliers, stores already purchased, etc, etc. The cost of ditching all that may be substantial.

There's the quality assurance angle as well. Until you can verify the performance of the new technology you can't change the design without risking building a batch of equipment that may fail unexpectedly.

Combination of those factors suggests you continue building the existing batch while you test and find suppliers for the new technology.
 

Hood

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Option A is always better, as long as its fully understood that transistors are likely to result in enough changes to create a different missile more optimised given the weight and electrical power savings and increased reliability. Then the temptation to just fiddle with the old valve design is removed, which will waste time and money.

What is more likely is that the Ministry reviews A and B, dithers for 6 months, asks for prototypes of B, considers option of buying a foreign guidance system which becomes C. The builders of A cry for a production order, A is ordered. C is considered against B, the makers of A asked to expediate B so that its R&D effort impinges on the production of A. C is dismissed as too expensive. The Air Force can't decide if the enemy bombers are going to be Mach 1 or Mach 2 types, maybe Mach 3, no wait, Mach 2, sure? Maybe compromise it has to engage a Mach 1.75 target, so rewrite all specifications at least five times. B reaches the start of trials, then the Ministry decides only A will do and orders mass numbers. Then two weeks later decides it wants a different homing system, leading to A* which morphs into D which is then compared against an improved B*. Are you sure the bad guys won't have a Mach 3 bomber? Sush, we will stick with a threat of Mach 1.75 in the Specs, or ok, we'll nudge it to Mach 2.15. The Ministry considers making B* instead of A but instead cancels A* and B* efforts as Ruritania has a good missile they can licence-build, the E, and so after two years delaying changing all the innards of E for home-built parts as the E/F the trials begin which take another two years and the air force gets its missile.
 

zen

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This is the sort of question I've pondered for my fictional states.
It really depends on the perception of the threat.

That was part of the problem for the UK. Perception changed on both the threat, the solutions constantly changed and the finances were all over the place.

If say the threat is a detachment of V-Bombers and Canberras. Then a good enough valve based AAM will do if produced in sufficient quantities and equipping a reasonable fighter.
 

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