Operational and Support Costs of the Navy's F/A-18 Can Be Substantially Reduced

LCD-80-65: Published: Jun 6, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1980.

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The Navy is planning to buy 1,366 F/A-18 Aircraft which are being developed to replace the Navy F-4 and A-7 aircraft, the Marine F-4 aircraft, and possibly the Marine A-4 and AV-8A aircraft. In response to broad congressional interest in reducing life cycle costs of major weapon systems, a review was made of the Navy's logistics support planning for the F/A-18 and how substantial reductions in its ownership costs can be achieved.

The Navy's logistics support planning for the F/A-18 is comprehensive and should provide adequate support. However, like any new weapon system, there are still unknowns which could affect the system's readiness and logistics support costs. Introduction of the system and logistics support costs are highly dependent on the Navy receiving peculiar automatic test equipment on schedule; any delays will cause costs to rise. Operational and support costs will be higher than expected and alternative concepts should be considered to reduce them. GAO identified several alternatives which could potentially reduce the F/A-18 operational and maintenance costs by as much as $4 billion.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should: adopt the McDonnell-Douglas proposal to use dual or multiport automatic test equipment for testing F/A-18 avionics components and use multiport radar test equipment if proven feasible; review the need for 96 VAST stations and use components from any excess units to satisfy the Government-furnished equipment requirement for the F/A-18 avionics tester; determine if it is still in the Government's interest to accept the high development risks now present in the contract for the F/A-18 automatic test equipment; consolidate all F/A-18 avionics component repairs for Navy and Marine Corps units at Lemoore and Cecil Air Stations and establish overseas repair facilities to support deployed Navy carriers and Marine Corps units; combine fleet readiness and proficiency training requirements and use the pilot trainers 6 days per week; use the OFT in place of the more expensive WTT for proficiency training at El Toro and Beaufort; cancel the planned purchase of an OFT for the overseas base of Iwakuni; reconsider using OFT's for proficiency training if WTT unit costs increase; reassess present deployment plans for the F/A-18 and evaluate the merits of consolidation as a means to overcome small-scale inefficiencies and reduce ownership costs; require the full implementation of the RCM concept for the F/A-18 and cancel plans for depot overhauls on a cyclical basis; reassess the need for pipeline aircraft considering the expected higher operational-available time of the F/A-18 and reduce depot turnarounds; review planned depot expansion and modifications at North Island; determine the number of accoustical enclosures and engine test cells needed for the Lemoore Naval Air Station, considering the higher reliability and maintainability aspects of the F/A-18; and reevaluate the number of mobile maintenance van pads planned for El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The Secretary of Defense should reevaluate the present Department of Defense policy of not allowing long-lead funding for initial spares given the Navy problem of using SAIP. The Navy should be allowed to use long-lead funding so that it can buy initial spares and aircraft installed parts concurrently and reduce the F/A-18 initial provisioning cost.

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