Air Force Procurement:

Current Plans May Provide More Ground-Attack Capability Than Needed

NSIAD-92-137: Published: May 5, 1992. Publicly Released: May 5, 1992.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

David E. Cooper
(617) 788-0555
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's procurement and modernization plans for night-capable aircraft, focusing on its efforts to adjust those plans to reflect changes in the predicted threat and military budget.

GAO found that: (1) in 1982, the Air Force established the need for 700 night-capable aircraft to counter the Warsaw Pact threat and planned to purchase the Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared System for Night for its ground attack force; (2) the Air Force could have nearly 1,000 night-capable aircraft by 2000 if it proceeds with its modernization plan, even though the threat perceived in 1982 has significantly diminished and the military budget has declined; (3) the Air Force's procurement plan does not consider the total night-capable force that would result from its proposed procurements and modernizations; (4) the Air Force also plans to equip aged aircraft and purchase more expensive equipment than necessary; (5) the Air Force Tactical Air Command plans to propose a significant increase in the number of training flights that F-16 and A-10 aircraft pilots should perform at night, but relies on subjective consensus rather than objective, empirical data in determining the necessary amount of night flight training; and (6) noise pollution and other environmental considerations may limit or preclude nighttime training.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On May 10, 1994, the Air Force submitted a revised Close Air Support plan to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Defense Appropriations Subcommittees. The revised plan used less expensive night capability options than originally intended and would result in savings of $1.5 billion. These revisions were based on an Air Force study that followed GAO's recommendations to analyze: (1) the changing threat; (2) the totality of the current force structure, including other nighttime ground attack capability to defeat that threat; and (3) other less costly night-capable equipment to provide the required capabilities. For example, the revised plan recognizes the reduced threat resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union, focuses on modifying existing nighttime capability provided by specially-equipped Block 40 F-16s, and recommends the use of low-cost night vision goggles, rather than the more expensive types of night-capable equipment originally intended for the older Block 30 F-16s.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should not implement the plan to procure close air support night attack capability for the F-16 and A-10 until the Air Force modifies the plan to incorporate the: (1) current and future threats; (2) totality of the force structure and nighttime ground attack capabilities to defeat that threat; and (3) least expensive types of night-capable equipment it needs to provide those capabilities.

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

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In determining training requirements, the Air Force also considers the capabilities required by the force at each base to meet its tasking and has set up procedures to get appropriate clearances for the systems and training at each installation. Accordingly, no further action is planned.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should ensure that the Tactical Air Command establishes a process that, through objective, detailed analysis of empirical data, determines the minimum number of nighttime flights within environmental constraints needed to attain proficiency with the equipment for ground attack operations.

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

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In determining training requirements, the Air Force also considers the capabilities required by the force at each base to meet its tasking and has set up procedures to get appropriate clearances for the systems and training at each installation. Accordingly, no further action is planned.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should ensure that bases that will acquire night-capable aircraft initiate environmental assessments early in the process of developing training plans so that these plans can be based on the number of flights that pilots both need and can perform.

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

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 19, 2016

Sep 12, 2016

Sep 8, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Sep 6, 2016

Aug 25, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here