Tactical Aircraft:

Modernization Plans Will Not Reduce Average Age of Aircraft

GAO-01-163: Published: Feb 9, 2001. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 2001.

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As the Department of Defense (DOD) enters the 21st century, the average ages of its weapon systems and equipment are increasing, primarily because DOD has not routinely replaced items bought during the Cold War. According to DOD officials, the aging of weapon systems and equipment reduce readiness. To keep pace with the maintenance required for aging systems and equipment, the military services have diverted funds from modernization accounts to operating and support accounts. DOD faces major challenges as it continues to implement its current tactical aircraft modernization plans. The Navy and the Air Force will be inable to procure enough new tactical aircraft to reduce the average age of tactical aircraft. During the next 11 years, the average age will continue to increase, especially in the Air Force. The upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review provides an opportunity to assess whether the issue of aging requires concerted attention.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) did not significantly change the DOD strategy for developing tactical aircraft; DOD is still planning to buy the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighters while modernizing the legacy tactical aircraft. And, under the current plans to buy tactical aircraft the average age will increase beyond the predictions in GAO's report. Because the next QDR is not planned until 2005, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: If DOD considers reducing the average age of tactical aircraft as a critical goal for their modernization plans, the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review should consider alternatives to the current tactical aircraft modernization plans to achieve this goal.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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