Air Force Rationale for JDAM Production Decision
NSIAD-97-176R: Published: Jun 13, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 1997.
GAO reviewed the Air Force's response to its letter expressing concern that the Air Force might be making a premature commitment to significant production of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) before demonstrating through operational testing that the JDAM could meet key performance parameters.
GAO noted that: (1) its review indicates that, although the initial production decision was made in April 1997 and the low-rate production contract signed on April 30, 1997, dedicated developmental testing with the B-52H and the F/A-18C/D will not end until August 1997; (2) moreover, initial operational testing will not begin until September 1997; (3) the Secretary of the Air Force's response stated that the Air Force conducted some operational testing with the F-16 in January 1997; (4) however, an official of the Air Force Test and Evaluation Command stated that the January testing was not the same as operational testing because the Air Force used the F-16, which is not one of the threshold aircraft, and it did not have operational flight software; (5) the same official further stated that even the threshold aircraft, the B-52H and the F/A-18C/D, would have to be certified as using operational software in order to be judged ready to conduct operational testing; (6) the January tests evaluated four areas of JDAM development, rating two as having no problems, while rating the other two as having issues that required attention; (7) however, this assessment is not the same as an evaluation prepared after dedicated operational testing; (8) according to Air Force officials, the purpose of this assessment was to evaluate performance to determine if the weapon will be ready for dedicated operational testing; (9) because of JDAM's developmental phase and consequent lack of data, some critical operational issues were not evaluated, in areas that were subsequently assessed as having no issues; (10) in response to GAO's question about the potential impact of delaying the initial JDAM production decision until the services complete developmental and operational tests with the F/A-18C/D and B-52H, the Secretary replied that such a delay would abrogate the production contract with McDonnell Douglas, would result in substantial contractor claims, and delay delivery of production tailkits; and (11) however, until the contract option for JDAM production was awarded on April 30, 1997, there would have been no basis for contractor claims.