Is the Joint Air Force/Navy Alternate Engine Program Workable? GAO Thinks Not as Presently Structured

PSAD-80-40: Published: May 9, 1980. Publicly Released: May 9, 1980.

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The primary objective of the Department of Defense's (DOD) F101 Derivative Fighter Engine (F101DFE) Program is to modify the F101 engine, designed for the B-1 bomber, for use as an alternative for engines in the Navy's F-14 and the Air Force's F-16 front line fighter aircraft should programs to correct problems with those engines fail. GAO questioned whether the Program is a workable alternative to the component improvement programs for the two engines. It believes that there is no assurance that (1) the F101DFE Program can provide a production engine with enhanced operability, reliability, and durability characteristics; (2) the production F101DFE will be available when and if needed; and (3) the F101DFE is an affordable and cost-effective substitute for these engines if the TF30 and F100 engine improvements fail. DOD and the services state that they fully expect the components improvement programs to demonstrate that the TF30 and F100 engine problems can be corrected by 1981, at which time the F101DFE Program would be terminated.

GAO believes that the F101DFE Program is at least as uncertain of producing a production engine with enhanced operability and supportability characteristics as are the TF30 and F100 improvement programs because of the differences in the three engines' stages of development. The F101DFE Program will not have a production engine available in 1981-82 when the services determine whether their improvement programs have been successful. Neither the services nor DOD have determined what constitutes sufficient failure of the improvement programs or at what point the F101DFE would be affordable and cost effective. Risks and costs of concurrent development and production and the question of the engines availability raise serious questions concerning the worth and affordability of the alternative engines to the Navy and the Air Force.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The congressional appropriations committees should reexamine their objectives for the F101DFE Program and determine whether the program, as presently structured, funded, and managed, satisfies their directive. If the program is continued in fiscal year 1981, Congress should reexamine the program before authorizing and appropriating funds for concurrent full-scale development and initial production of the F101DFE in fiscal year 1982.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Air Force, as the lead service, to: (1) assess the need for, worth, and affordability of the F101DFE Program and define its objectives on the basis of the 1981 and 1983 decision points; (2) complete the risk analysis of the trade-offs between time, costs, and performance that will be required to reasonably assure a credible alternative at the major decision points; (3) formally recognize the increased risks attendant with commencing initial production of the F101DFE in 1982 and full-scale production in 1983 or 1984 if this timing continues to be a program objective; and (4) structure, fund, and manage the program to minimize risks in meeting identifiable program objectives. If the program is not structured, funded, and managed on a reasonably firm basis to assure that it is and will continue to be a competitive alternative to the current component improvements programs, the Secretary should terminate the F101DFE as the alternative engine program.

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