Acquisition of the C-17 Aircraft

T-NSIAD-87-20: Published: Mar 26, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 1987.

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GAO testified on its evaluation of the Air Force's decision to continue developing and procuring the C-17 aircraft, rather than the C-5 aircraft, to meet its long-range airlift goals. The Air Force analysis concluded that: (1) the C-17 would be operationally superior to the C-5 because of its projected capability to deliver all types of military materiel directly to battle locations; (2) the C-17 would probably be capable of flying 15.2 hours per day, as compared to 12.5 hours per day for the C-5; and (3) the C-17 would cost about $29.3 billion less than the C-5. GAO noted that: (1) the Air Force should be able to more fully implement direct delivery with the C-17; (2) the Air Force would need fewer C-130 aircraft with the C-17 than with the C-5; (3) the Air Force could reach its airlift goal of 66 million ton-miles per day as much as 5 years sooner with the C-5, because the C-5 is already in production and the first C-17 has yet to be built; (4) the Air Force underestimated the acquisition and life-cycle costs of both aircraft; (5) the C-17 should cost about $16.7 billion less than the C-5 on a life-cycle basis; and (6) the Air Force should need 12,900 fewer personnel with the C-17 than with the C-5. GAO concluded that the Air Force made a reasonable decision to proceed with procuring the C-17 because it should provide the Air Force advantages in terms of operational utility, life-cycle costs, and manpower requirements.

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