Trainer Aircraft:

Plans to Replace the Existing Fleet

NSIAD-89-94: Published: Mar 20, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's master training plan, focusing on the: (1) alternatives for meeting requirements for undergraduate pilot training into the next century; (2) validity of cost comparison data for those alternatives; and (3) soundness of the plan's recommendations.

GAO found that: (1) under the current system, all students receive the same training regardless of their intended aircraft assignments; (2) the Air Force proposed to separate the system into two specialized tracks, one for tanker or transport aircraft and the other for fighter or bomber aircraft; (3) the dual-track system had estimated life-cycle costs of $17.9 billion and the single-track system had estimated life-cycle costs of $18.8 billion, but neither system was clearly advantageous on a cost basis; (4) although the Air Force considered cost in its selection, overriding considerations included anticipated improvements in the quality of pilot training, the need to address aircraft operational and training deficiencies, and the desire to increase pilot production capacity; (5) while the Air Force estimates for the T-38 replacement aircraft were reasonable, their basis of flat percentage improvements over existing aircraft belied the generalized nature of the cost analysis; (6) the Air Force planned modifications to the T-37 and T-38 aircraft that would support pilot production at current levels until 1996; and (7) if the Air Force could increase its aircraft utilization rate, reduce its requirements for backup aircraft, and continue the low attrition rates, it would increase its surge capability, delay initial funding for 5 years, and reduce budget requirements by about $1 billion.

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