Tactical Aircraft:

F-15 Replacement Is Premature as Currently Planned

NSIAD-94-118: Published: Mar 25, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1994.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the F-22 aircraft as the planned replacement for the F-15 aircraft, focusing on the: (1) potential threats that could be encountered in air-to-air combat; (2) capabilities of the F-22 and F-15 weapon systems; and (3) potential of the F-22 to be a multiservice and multimission aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) the F-22 was designed to meet the threat of superior hostile aircraft, but the threat of hostile aircraft has declined with the changing world political structure; (2) potential adversaries are not likely to purchase many high-performance fighters because of their cost; (3) the U.S. Air Force has more fighter aircraft than any other individual country; (4) the F-15 outperforms the most advanced fighter aircraft in most performance categories; (5) the Air Force has additional personnel and equipment capabilities that potential adversaries lack; (6) the 918 F-15 aircraft in inventory can be economically maintained until 2015 or later; (7) the F-22 was not designed to emphasize multiple missions or joint use among the services; (8) the lessened air threat, greater economic constraints, and reduced quantities of combat aircraft make the use of common aircraft or components more attractive and allow for a greater degree of compromise in design; and (9) production of the F-22 can be delayed for 7 years.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The fiscal year 1999 budget request includes funding to initiate production of F-22s. The issue of when to begin F-22 production has been considered and evaluated by the Congress.

    Recommendation: Because F-15s, by most measures, are more capable than the most likely threat related to the air superiority mission and because F-15s are expected to have service lives extending until 2014, the Secretary of Defense should defer the initial operational capability of the F-22 7 years and adjust the currently planned production start date accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Hearings and discussions in connection with fiscal year 1998 and 1999 budget deliberations included substantial consideration of the roles, missions and funding requirements for future tactical aircraft. DOD decided to provide for an air-to-ground capability for all F-22s as they are initially delivered to the operational forces.

    Recommendation: Because the F-22, as designed, does not incorporate the features of multiservice use and multimission capability being articulated by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, the Secretary of Defense should reconsider whether it is appropriate to continue the development of the F-22 as a single-service aircraft designed principally to perform only the air superiority mission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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