Tactical Aircraft:

F-22 Development and Testing Delays Indicate Need for Limit on Low-Rate Production

GAO-01-310: Published: Mar 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 2001.

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The Air Force has made progress in developing the F-22, particularly with respect to fulfilling the criteria for awarding a fully funded contract for low-rate initial production. Nevertheless, it lags significantly in flight-testing because of continuing assembly and manufacturing delays, and it is behind schedule in completing nonflying tests that assess the aircraft's structural integrity These delays increase the risk that the Air Force will likely have to extend the test program past the planned completion date or proceed to the next stages of the program without completing all flight-tests. Moreover, the scheduling delays increase the likelihood that costs will not fall within the congressional cap. The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has indicated that, on the basis of the test program's current status, operational testing cannot be started as scheduled without clearly unacceptable risks and will probably be delayed almost a year. The Director also concluded there was no reason to authorize low-rate production in January 2001 and some justification to delay it. Cost growth in the development program because of manufacturing and design problems and underestimated amounts of labor required to complete scheduled tasks points to a lack of stability in both design and fabrication.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with the recommendation, stating that a 1.5 percent increase in the development cost cap is necessary to complete some of the required and planned developmental testing. DOD said the Air Force planned to budget the additional resources (about $307 million), but DOD said it did not believe that any other notification action was necessary at this time.

    Recommendation: Because the Air Force is unlikely to complete F-22 development within the current cost limitation, the Secretary of the Air Force, as a supplement to the fiscal year 2002 budget request, should provide (1) information showing planned testing not yet completed, (2) information on any additional funding that would be necessary, above the cost limitation amount, to complete the testing as planned, and (3) any actual and proposed changes to the test plans, such as a deletion or postponement of test activities, and the justification for these changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree with the recommendation to limit the number of aircraft in low-rate production lots, explaining that it was premature to comment on, or make adjustments to, F-22 production plans until the Department completes defense program reviews and announces the results. Since the issuance of this report, DOD has completed several program reviews of the F-22 and decided not to lower their planned low-rate production lots. Furthermore, GAO's recommendation stated that the Air Force maintain their annual low-rate production lots to 10 aircraft per year, until the completion of Initial Operational, Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). However, the Air Force has already acquired several low-rate production aircraft and is scheduled to complete IOT&E by the end of August 2004.

    Recommendation: To reduce risks and preclude manufacture and delivery of F-22 aircraft that have not been fully tested, the Secretary of Defense should limit low-rate initial production to no more than 10 aircraft a year until initial operational test and evaluation is completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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