C-5A Wing Modification:

A Case Study Illustrating Problems in the Defense Weapons Acquisition Process

PLRD-82-38: Published: Mar 22, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 1982.

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GAO was asked to answer questions and review allegations about the procedures followed by the Air Force in identifying and assessing C-5A Aircraft wing problems and in approving the H-mod program.

Due to financial problems, the C-5A contract was converted to a cost-reimbursement, fixed-loss contract. Later it became apparent that the aircraft's wing might require major modifications, because the firm which received the contract for producing the C-5A aircraft deviated from contract specifications by reducing wing material thicknesses. Circumstances affecting the program left the Air Force little choice but to accept the deficient aircraft. Late scheduling of structural tests prevented the incorporation of design changes without disrupting production. The revised design and test requirements and existing oversight procedures should provide more timely test results. GAO found that: (1) there should be no need for an independent test capability for identifying problems; (2) reasonable steps were taken to acquire the best data available on C-5A wing problems and solutions; (3) no viable wing modification alternatives other than the H-mod now remain; (4) the sole-source award of the H-mod design contract was appropriate; and (5) the limited warranties in the H-mod contracts apparently are consistent with commercial warranty policies. Some considerations which would prevent problems like those which beset the C-5A aircraft include: (1) using contracting as an important tool of system acquisition; (2) encouraging the government and contractors to work together toward achieving the most cost-effective approach; (3) limiting concurrent development and production; and (4) avoiding dependence on contractors for identifying problems in new systems.

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