Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses:

Air Force Plans

NSIAD-93-221: Published: Sep 30, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1993.

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GAO assessed the Air Force's plans for the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) mission, focusing on: (1) current and future enemy air defense threats; (2) the capabilities of the alternatives the Air Force is considering for future SEAD; and (3) the Air Force's efforts to accommodate the retirement of one of its primary SEAD aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) U.S. conventional combat aircraft will face increased risk in future conflicts if the Air Force proceeds with its plans for future SEAD aircraft; (2) the Air Force will retire the aging F-4G SEAD aircraft and eliminate dedicated SEAD units by the turn of the century; (3) the Air Force expects to assign the SEAD mission, as an added task, to units flying F-15 and F-16 aircraft and to equip them with SEAD systems that are less capable than current systems; (4) the Air Force's plans involve some risk because there will be a time gap between the retirement of the F-4G and the fielding of new SEAD systems; (5) the Air Force has identified a continuing need for SEAD to minimize its losses; and (6) future budget reductions and reductions in force will eliminate single mission units such as the F-4G SEAD force because they compete for funding with the Air Force's high priority F-22 and B-2 programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force is continuing to assess future lethal SEAD options. But, because of budgetary constraints, the Air Force still expects to field a system that is less capable than today's. NSIAD/EDP will be assessing the latest options the Air Force is considering for lethal SEAD in its review of command and control warfare systems (code 707075). This assignment has recently begun. Because the new assignment will address this issue, the recommendation should be closed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reevaluate funding priorities in light of the increased risk associated with reducing SEAD capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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