Hughes Aircraft

Hughes Aircraft Case: Part 1
(Narrated by Ken Cooper) 9:37 minutes
Hughes Aircraft Case Part 2 – The Back Story
(Narrated by Ken Cooper) 3:51 minutes


Name First Aerospace Use of SD Project Modeling
Modelers Ken Cooper
Client/Participant Hughes Aircraft Company
Client Type Corporation
The Official Website For added information, or with any questions, see, or contact Ken via email: [email protected]


The Issue You Tackled Hughes faced what seemed to be stalled progress and out-of-control costs on their most important aerospace program, the AMRAAM missile development. The future of the program and relations with DoD and Congress were in jeopardy. We needed to define the true scope of the problem and seek effective corrective action.
What You Actually Did

We designed and built a SD model of the AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) development program. This was the first SD model of an aerospace program, altered from our early shipbuilding program simulations. For example, we built additional sectors to portray prototype production and flight testing (not a big issue on ships…).

The senior program manager related that one year earlier the program was estimated to be 70% complete. After the past year, with 1000 engineers at work, the program seemed to be at …70%! He called it “The Lost Year”. The Company Board, auditors, Defense Department, and Congress were all demanding answers to what seemed to be rapidly escalating costs. Our objective was to identify where things really stood and find corrective action.

The Results

We were able to identify the causes of “The Lost Year” and explain them to the program, Corporate, and other reviewers. New initiatives were identified and implemented. The program went on to progress as simulated.

In the end, the AMRAAM program became one of the most successful programs in DoD and for Hughes. After that uncertain start, the AMRAAM has been in production for over 25 years. It flies at Mach 4 from most advanced fighter jets today, the F15, F16, F18, F22 and more. The AMRAAM is still known as “the world’s most sophisticated air dominance weapon”.


Related Publications The Rework Cycle: Why Projects are Mismanaged Download


Did You Know?

Commercial Applications of System Dynamics as Oral Histories page

In the winter of 2016, Ken Cooper visited the System Dynamics Society home office. During that meeting, a series of videos were recorded in which David Andersen interviewed Ken Cooper. In these videos, Ken narrates several of the high impact and more interesting commercial applications from his distinguished career. This series of nine short videos can now be found on the Commercial Applications of System Dynamics as Oral Histories page.