C-17 Aircraft:

RM&A Evaluation Less Demanding Than Initially Planned

NSIAD-96-126: Published: Jul 26, 1996. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1996.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's reliability, maintainability, and availability (RM&A) evaluation of the C-17 aircraft, focusing on: (1) RM&A planning, preparation, execution, and results; and (2) whether the evaluation demonstrated the aircraft's wartime surge rate.

GAO found that: (1) the Air Force reported that the C-17 aircraft met or exceeded 10 of the 11 contract requirements during its RM&A evaluation, but the evaluation was less demanding than originally planned; (2) although the revised RM&A evaluation plan increased total flying hours, the number of sorties, and average wartime sortie duration, it decreased the ratio of sorties to flying hours, which weakened the application of RM&A measurement criteria and lessened the stress on the aircraft; (3) the RM&A evaluation also had fewer airdrops and austere airfield landings than originally planned, and the aircraft flew cargo loads that averaged less than one-half the weight projected in contract specifications; (4) three years of operational testing show that the aircraft generally met RM&A requirements with the exception of those related to built-in-test parameters; (5) the RM&A evaluation was not a statistically valid test for determining C-17 fleet wartime utilization rates because the test's duration was too short; and (6) the incentive fee should have been reduced, since the aircraft could not perform the formation personnel airdrop mission under operational conditions, or the aeromedical evacuation mission.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In DOD's response to the final report, it continued to maintain that, even though the C-17 could not perform the formation personnel airdrop and aeromedical missions at the time of the RMA test, the aircraft was considered to be fully mission capable because all of the equipment specified in the minimum equipment list was installed on the aircraft and was operative.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to initiate action to recover the $750,000 in incentive fee overpayment from the contractor.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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