Strategic Airlift:

Further Efforts Can Be Taken to Extend Aircraft Service Life

NSIAD-94-222: Published: Sep 15, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) strategic airlift capabilities, focusing on whether DOD aircraft, such as the C-5 and C-141, are being used effectively to ensure their availability for wartime missions.

GAO found that: (1) it is important to find ways to deploy fewer strategic aircraft in peacetime to ensure their availability for wartime; (2) in response to C-141 flight restrictions, the Air Mobility Command (AMC) has temporarily expanded the use of commercial and tanker aircraft for regularly scheduled cargo and passenger missions; (3) AMC plans to upgrade its strategic airlift simulator capability, which will allow it to reduce in-aircraft training; (4) AMC could continue to use commercial and tanker aircraft to fly scheduled missions that do not require the unique capabilities of the C-141; (5) AMC could make maximum use of the upgraded simulators by transferring more of the air refueling and local proficiency training from the C-5 and C-141; and (6) AMC could institute a companion trainer aircraft program for the C-5 and C-141 that would involve flying smaller, less costly aircraft and would be similar to programs the Air Force and AMC have for tanker aircraft.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Missions have been transferred to tanker aircraft (as they are modified with rollers) and to commercial aircraft in support of the CRAF program. Also, missions will be transferred to C-17 aircraft as they come online.

    Recommendation: Because extending the service lives of the C-5 and C-141 aircraft fleets during peacetime is critical to protecting DOD strategic airlift capabilities for wartime, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, to continue using commercial and tanker aircraft for regularly scheduled cargo missions by limiting the use of C-141 to only those instances requiring its unique capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Both the C-141 and C-5 aircraft simulators are being aggressively upgraded. The first active-duty C-5 simulator became operational in August 1996. The C-141 simulator is going through phase II acceptance. Training in upgraded simulators will replace flight time.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, to move as much as possible of the C-5 and C-141 local proficiency training to the simulators when they are upgraded. In addition, increase the amount of C-5 and C-141 air refueling simulator training as soon as the current AMC simulator optimization study is completed, if the study concludes that such an increase is appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The effort to develop a companion trainer program has not been fruitful. Costs associated with such a program and the drawdown of the OSA fleet have made implementation of the GAO recommendation impractical.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, to determine the cost-effectiveness of an airlifter companion trainer program to allow C-141 and C-5 pilots to accomplish many of their experiencing and proficiency training requirements in less expensive aircraft. This could include transferring available operational support aircraft from other DOD activities to AMC.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Flying hour reductions are anticipated based on studies of use of commercial and tanker aircraft and the use of simulators.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, to adjust future airlift flying hour program budget requests to reflect the shift between airlifters and commercial and tanker aircraft, and C-141 and C-5 flying hour reductions made possible by the increased use of simulators and companion trainers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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