Close Air Support:

Comparison of Air Force and Marine Corps Requirements and Aircraft

NSIAD-89-218: Published: Sep 19, 1989. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO compared the Army's and Marine Corps' close air support mission requirements, focusing on: (1) how the Army and the Marine Corps use mission requirements to determine aircraft operational requirements; (2) how the Air Force and the Marine Corps meet mission requirements; and (3) procedures for requesting and executing close air support missions during combat.

GAO found that: (1) the Army and Marine Corps had similar requirements for their close air support missions, including complete flight capabilities, communications with ground forces, day-night and all-weather flexibility, varying target-destruction capabilities, and survivability; (2) the Air Force planned to support the Army in established theaters from fixed bases, while the Marines planned to support its expeditionary operations from ships or temporary sites; (3) the Air Force and Marine Corps had similar processes for ensuring that their headquarters validated that aircraft operational requirements incorporated mission requirements; (4) although both services followed their processes for their aircraft, the Air Force proposed the A-16 aircraft for funding before it validated its operational requirements; (5) both services considered their aircraft capable of performing close air support missions effectively; and (6) although both services required similar essential aircraft capabilities and characteristics for effective mission performance, the Air Force's A-16 aircraft would have hardened surfaces to reduce vulnerability, while the Marines Corps' AV-8B aircraft would not have hardened surfaces, but would have vertical takeoff and short landing capabilities.

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