Defence procurement in perspective: what the history of the aircraft industry can tell us about UK defence procurement

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Defence procurement in the UK has drawn a large degree of political and academic attention due to large-scale projects regularly being delayed and costing significantly more than the original estimate. The focus on contemporary defence procurement, however, suffers from one major drawback: a lack of historical contexualistation. This article redresses this imbalance between the focus on contemporary defence procurement and the problems faced purchasing military equipment in the past. The defence industry most representative of the contemporary procurement environment is the British aircraft industry in the inter-war period. This was an industry that was not publicly owned and presented dynamics that are comparable to today. This article explores the problems associated with twenty-first century defence procurement through this historical lens, demonstrating that many of the problems faced, and solutions proposed are not necessarily as new or innovative as has been claimed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-33
Number of pages18
JournalDefense & Security Analysis
Issue number1
Early online date27 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023


  • Aircraft Industry
  • Inter-war period
  • UK
  • Defence Procurement
  • Contemporary

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