Tactical Aircraft:

F-22 Delays Indicate Initial Production Rates Should Be Lower to Reduce Risks

GAO-02-298: Published: Mar 5, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 2002.

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The F-22 aircraft is designed to be less detectable, capable of flying at higher speeds for longer distances, and able to provide the pilot with substantially improved awareness of the surrounding situation than the F-15 it will replace. The Air Force began the F-22 development program in 1991 and plans to complete it by March 2004. In 1998, following repeated increases in the program's estimated development cost, Congress capped developmental costs at $20.443 billion. The F-22 program did not meet key schedule goals for 2001, the cost to complete planned development is likely to exceed the $21 billion reported to Congress, and the program is not far enough along in flight-testing to confirm Air Force estimates of the aircraft's performance. Despite progress in testing the aircraft's capabilities, problems and delays continue to plague the assembly and delivery of development test aircraft, and the flight-test program is less efficient than planned. Furthermore, flight-test delays make it unlikely that the planned development program can be completed within the current cost goal. On the basis of initial testing, the Air Force projects that the F-22 will meet or exceed its performance goals by the end of development. However, testing to demonstrate performance is not far enough along to allow the Air Force to confirm its projections. The Air Force has implemented process and manufacturing changes to the horizontal tail section and for cracking in the cockpit canopy that GAO reported on last year. Although the results to date appear adequate, the Air Force continues to monitor the results to ensure the corrective actions will be sufficient. In September 2001, the Air Force submitted to Congress a revised acquisition plan to increase the number of aircraft committed to low-rate production before the completion of operational testing. Buying production articles before they are adequately tested can be costly if further testing identifies problems that then require costly modifications. Moreover, an increase in production commitments could occur without the F-22 program office knowing if the contractor's key manufacturing processes are adequate.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: Because of Congress's past and continuing interest in the cost of the F-22 program, it is important that it be kept apprised of the current cost to complete the F-22 development program. Therefore, the Secretary of the Air Force should reassess the cost to complete the F-22 development program and, as a supplement to the fiscal year 2003 budget request, provide information on any funds that would be necessary above the $21 billion previously reported to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force did not submit, as a supplement to its fiscal year 2003 budget request, information to Congress about any funds that would be necessary to complete development above the $21 billion previously reported to Congress. The F-22 program office is currently (September 2002) working on a new Estimate At Completion (EAC) which is an exercise to develop an updated estimate of the total cost of completing development. Additional development delays since issuance of GAO's March 2002 report, would indicate this EAC would be higher than $21 billion.

    Recommendation: To help minimize the risks of producing large quantities of aircraft that may require costly modifications, the Secretary of Defense should limit aircraft production to no more than 13 aircraft a year until operational testing is completed and key manufacturing processes are in control.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense, has placed requirements on DOD in the fiscal year 2003 Senate Appropriations Act. The Act mandates that none of the funds in the Act may be obligated for acquisition of more than 16 aircraft until DOD provides the congressional defense committees a formal risk assessment which identifies and characterizes the potential cost, technical, schedule, or other significant risks resulting from increasing the F-22 procurement quantities before operational testing is complete. Conference with the House has not been held.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that manufacturing and assembly problems with the development test aircraft do not carry over to the production program, the Secretary of the Air Force should direct the F-22 program office to monitor the status of key manufacturing processes by accumulating statistics on the percentage of key manufacturing processes in control as the program continues to proceed toward high-rate production.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary of the Air Force has not directed the F-22 program office to monitor the status of key manufacturing processes by accumulating statistics on the percentage of key manufacturing processes in control as the program continues to proceed toward high-rate production.

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