The Air Force LANTIRN Program Must Surmount Some Formidable Difficulties

C-MASAD-82-12: Published: Feb 25, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1982.

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Donald E. Day
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The Air Force's Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared System for Night (LANTIRN), if successfully developed, would provide certain Air Force aircraft with improved navigational and targeting capabilities that would enable them to be used in night operations and under low cloud ceilings. However, the LANTIRN system has experienced considerable cost growth and major technical difficulties serious enough for the Air Force to have recently lengthened the weapon's development and flight testing schedules by more than a year.

Two major assumptions, which were the basis for the Air Force's concluding in early studies that LANTIRN was cost effective, no longer appear to be valid. It is uncertain whether the aircraft can be operated at the low altitudes envisioned by the studies without creating an excessive workload for the pilot. Second, costs assumed in the Air Force studies have more than tripled. New assessments of the system have been significantly changed to reflect the changing circumstances, and questions have been raised about continuing development in view of these problems. Conflicting congressional instructions have served to complicate Air Force efforts to develop the system. GAO found that the LANTIRN program had predictable problems from the start but only recently had the program been subjected to critical reviews normally accorded systems of this magnitude. Thus, LANTIRN skirted the initial development phases of the acquisition process where program risks might have been fully considered.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should take the results of the most recent LANTIRN cost-effectiveness studies into account before providing further funds for the LANTIRN program. If the studies show that LANTIRN is not cost effective, Congress should end the program or direct the Air Force to consider alternative systems.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should designate LANTIRN as a major acquisition program requiring quarterly reports to Congress to keep it informed on how the system is meeting its cost, schedule, and performance goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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