Pierre Sprey

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Pierre Sprey
Born Pierre Sprey
1937 (age 79–80)[1]
Nice, France[1]
Nationality French/American
Occupation defense analyst, record producer

Pierre Sprey, born in 1937,[1] is a defense analyst and record producer. As a defense analyst working together with John Boyd and Thomas P. Christie, he was a member of the self-dubbed 'Fighter Mafia', which advocated the use of energy–maneuverability theory in fighter design. Sprey took no part in the actual designing of any aircraft.[2]

Sprey was born in Nice, France, and raised in New York.[3] He was educated at Yale, where he studied aeronautical engineering and French literature, and also at Cornell, where he studied mathematical statistics and operations research. He subsequently worked at Grumman Aircraft as a consulting statistician[1] on space and commercial transportation projects. From 1966 to 1970 he was a special assistant at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.[4]

Defense analyst[edit]

During the 1960s, Pierre Sprey belonged to a group of defense analysts who called themselves the 'Fighter Mafia'. At the time he joined them, he had been a "weapons system analyst on the OASD/SA staff". He had an engineering degree but no military experience.[5] The 'Fighter Mafia' group of defense analysts worked behind the scenes in the late 1960s to advocate a lightweight fighter as an alternative to the F-15. The group strongly believed that an ideal fighter should not include any of the sophisticated radar and missile systems or rudimentary ground-attack capability that found their way into the F-15. Their goal, based on energy–maneuverability theory, was a small, low-drag, low-weight, pure fighter with no bomb racks. This group influenced the design requirements of the highly successful F-16, though they were not happy with the design changes made to the YF-16 to make the larger, high-tech multi-role fighter currently in service. He also helped write the initial design requirements for the A-X program that led to the contract for the A-10 and optimized its safety features. The "Warthog" appears ungainly, but is "enormously difficult to shoot down", and "devastating against tanks and other armored vehicles."[3] While Sprey was involved in defining some of the initial design requirements for the A-X and LWF programs, he is often inaccurately credited during his media interviews as being a "co-designer" of both the A-10 and F-16 aircraft. Sprey took no part in the actual designing of these aircraft.[2]

He is a frequent critic of the F-35 program. He argues, duplicating similar earlier arguments against the F-15, that despite its 200 million dollar price tag per plane, it is less agile than the F-16, and flies at altitudes and speeds too high and fast to replace the A-10. Compared to the F-16 or A-10 (in both of whose operational roles it is marketed to operate) he characterized the F-35 as overweight and dangerous, stating “It’s as if Detroit suddenly put out a car with lighter fluid in the radiator and gasoline in the hydraulic brake lines: That’s how unsafe this plane is…" and "full of bugs".[6] The majority of his criticisms are based on his personal philosophies on close air support and air combat, which he developed back in the 1960s.

Record production[edit]

He now records music on his own label "Mapleshade" and sells high-end stereo equipment. His recording with the ARC Choir singing "Walk With Me" appears in Kanye West's hit "Jesus Walks." Sprey said he earned enough royalties from the West song "to support 30 of my money-losing jazz albums." [3]


  1. ^ a b c d "What's Mapleshade?". 
  2. ^ a b Michel III, Marshall L. "The Revolt of the Majors: How the Air Force Changed After Vietnam" (Doctoral dissertation). Auburn University. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  3. ^ a b c Ricks, Thomas E (May 16, 2006), "Whatever happened to… Pierre Sprey?", The Washington Post (article) .
  4. ^ Michael J. Leahey (December 1989). "A History of Defense Reform Since 1970". Defense Technical Information Center. 
  5. ^ Marshall p 80
  6. ^ Cockburn, Andrew (June 6, 2013), "Flight of the Discords: The military–industrial–congressional complex bullies the F-35 Lightning II into Burlington", Heart of empire (World Wide Web log), Harper’s .

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