Embedded Computer Systems:

F-14D Aircraft Software Is Not Reliable

IMTEC-92-21: Published: Apr 2, 1992. Publicly Released: May 4, 1992.

Additional Materials:


Samuel W. Bowlin
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined the status of the Navy's development of on-board computer software for its $6.1 billion upgrade of the F-14D fighter aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) the F-14D aircraft cannot meet its intended mission due in part to software problems that prevent the aircraft from functioning properly; (2) software problems have caused cockpit displays to go blank and erroneous data to be supplied to the mission computer; (3) the Navy's software development testing approach was inadequate and increased the risk that more serious defects may still be unidentified; (4) the Navy did not follow software development standards that recommended independent testing of a contractor's product before acceptance of the use of detailed design specifications as criteria for testing, and thorough testing of each function for compliance with design requirements; (5) the Navy is correcting F-14D software problems, but plans to develop and add the deferred software functions to the aircraft before correcting the problems; (6) the new software depends on the stability and reliability of the existing software; and (7) proceeding with the deferred software effort before ensuring that existing software is reliable will complicate and increase software problems.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress halted production of the F-14D at 55 units for affordability and other reasons, unrelated to the GAO report.

    Matter: If Congress considers any further F-14D procurements in the future, it should wait until Navy developmental and operational testing verifies the correction of software discrepancies and F-14D mission effectiveness.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy believes it can continue software development while it corrects existing software defects, because the new software is not dependent on the defective software. It has been working to resolve all known defects as part of a predeployment update, scheduled for fleet release in September 1993. The Navy was working on correcting these defects at the time of the GAO review and does not acknowledge the GAO role in its action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the F-14D program office to defer development of additional software functions until existing software is thoroughly tested and serious defects have been resolved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy fully concurred with this--its response stated that it is now complying with all software development standards, including 2167A, 2168, and 1521B. While clearly this should result in better software, there is no way to easily confirm or measure the benefits.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should direct the F-14D program office to comply with official Department of Defense software development standards as software development efforts continue.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy


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