Military Airlift:

Structural Problems Did Not Hamper C-141 Success in Desert Shield/Storm

NSIAD-93-75: Published: Dec 29, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Air Force's C-141 aircraft, focusing on the aircraft's: (1) performance during Operation Desert Storm/Shield; (2) structural problems; and (3) planned service life extension programs.

GAO found that: (1) C-141 aircraft were used in more than half of the Air Force's 15,500 missions and carried greater than a quarter of the cargo during Operation Desert Storm/Shield; (2) the Air Mobility Command delayed C-141 maintenance activities, accelerated programmed depot maintenance work, and deferred plans for additional aircraft destined for depot maintenance to make as many C-141 available for deployment as possible; (3) C-141 aircraft nearly doubled their peace time flying hours; (4) structural problems such as wing cracking and weight limitations did not affect C-141 performance; (5) the Air Force has extended the service life of C-141 aircraft to 45,000 hours, but has not completed the necessary service-related work; (6) the lack of funding priority and generalized structural problems contributed to delays in the aircraft's service life extension; (7) wing cracking was attributed to stress encountered during certain types of missions which forced weight, altitude, and mission restrictions; (8) ongoing inspections and repairs reduced the risk of catastrophic aircraft failure, but the level of risk still exceeded acceptable military aircraft standards; (9) the entire C-141 fleet has neared or surpassed the original service life of 30,000 hours; (10) to conserve C-141 usefulness, the Air Force plans to retire and limit the number and types of missions for existing aircraft; (11) the Air Force could experience serious airlift capacity shortages if C-141 delays are not resolved; and (12) the Department of Defense would like to extend the service life of C-141 aircraft to 60,000 hours to complement the ongoing procurement of C-17 aircraft.

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