National Aeronautical Facilities Program:

Issues Related to Its Cost and Need

LCD-75-329: Published: Mar 23, 1976. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1976.

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In fiscal year 1977 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requested about $25 million to start acquisition of the National Transonic Facility, and the Department of the Air Force requested about $437 million for the Aeropropulsion System Test Facility. The Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA requested these facilities for the National Aeronautical Facilities program in order that U.S. manufacturers may develop superior civilian and military aircraft that will be competitive with foreign aircraft.

The design of the Aeropropulsion System Test Facility (ASTF) includes two altitude test cells, one principally for subsonic engines for transport and cargo aircraft, and the other mainly for supersonic engines for fighters, bombers, and potentially supersonic transports. The planned capability of this facility appears to be based on the assumption that large engines would be required for the next generation of aircraft for civilian and military use. A private study concluded that only two new types of engines would be developed within the next 20 years, and that the facility would be cost effective if used in the development of both new types of engines. The Air Force replied, however, that more than two new types of engines would be developed. The planned capability for the National Transonic Facility represents a compromise between the full-scale capability planned by the Air Force, and the lower capability planned by NASA. Since the planned capability for the facility represents a compromise and it cannot be later expanded, the usefulness of the facility is not clear.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: In deciding whether to fund the ASTF, Congress should: require the Air Force and NASA to identify the specific types of future aircraft developments, including engine thrust levels, requiring the facility's planned capability; require the Air Force to clarify the importance of the development of combat aircraft as opposed to development of larger transport aircraft; determine whether the facility is needed if engines are not expected to grow in the next 20 years; require the Air Force to identify all possible alternatives to the facility; and explore the possibility of funding the planned expansion of the facility now rather than later. In deciding whether to fund the National Transonic Facility, Congress should require the Air Force and NASA to identify research and development programs for future aircraft that will require the facility's planned capability.


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