Military Airlift:

Air Force Analysis Supports Acquisition of C-17 Aircraft

NSIAD-87-97: Published: Mar 20, 1987. Publicly Released: Apr 3, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Air Force's analysis leading to its decision to develop and produce the C-17 aircraft rather than buy additional C-5 aircraft for its long-range airlift needs, specifically: (1) its airlift requirements and capabilities; (2) the alternatives it considered to alleviate the airlift shortfall; and (3) the criteria and assumptions it used to evaluate the alternatives.

GAO noted that: (1) in 1983, the Air Force concluded that the C-17 aircraft was the most cost-effective way for it to meet its airlift requirements; (2) the Air Force has continued research and development on the C-17 and has obligated almost $600 million for the program; and (3) in 1987, the Air Force received an initial $50 million to produce the C-17 and, over the next 5 years, plans to request about $14 billion to develop and buy it. GAO found that: (1) lower operating and support costs could more than offset higher C-17 acquisition costs, resulting in lower C-17 life-cycle costs than the C-5 alternative; (2) the C-5 cannot match the expected C-17 capability to land and operate at a wide range of airfields closer to the battle area; (3) the C-17 alternative could require about 12,900 fewer personnel than the C-5 alternative; (4) the C-5 alternative could allow the Air Force to increase its airlift capability more quickly, since the C-5 is already in production and the first C-17 would not be ready until 1990; (5) if the Air Force continues with the C-17 program, its costs will probably exceed its estimates by about $2.3 billion; and (6) if the Air Force selects the C-5, it would need an additional $3.6 billion over its estimated costs.

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