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New materials that perform better than previous ones or with unprecedented properties open pathways to new and improved technologies. F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft, still in use by the Air Force today, owe much of their performance advancements to materials technologies that emerged from DARPA materials development programs conducted in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Military platforms—such as ships, aircraft and ground vehicles—rely on advanced materials to make them lighter, stronger and more resistant to stress, heat and other harsh environmental conditions. Currently, the process for developing new materials to field in platforms frequently takes more than a decade. This lengthy process often means that developers of new military platforms are forced to rely on decades-old, mature materials because potentially more advanced materials are still being tested and aren’t ready to be implemented into platform designs.