Strategic Airlift:

Improvements in C-5 Mission Capability Can Help Meet Airlift Requirements

NSIAD-96-43: Published: Nov 20, 1995. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1995.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the reliability and mission capability of C-5 aircraft and the Department of Defense's (DOD) plan for modifying C-5 aircraft.

GAO found that: (1) DOD is relying on C-5 aircraft to deliver about half of the wartime cargo carried by military aircraft, but C-5 mission-capable rates have fallen short of the Air Force's goal and those of other aircraft, because of a lack of spare parts and the complexity and poor reliability of the C-5; (2) the Air Force could improve the C-5 mission capable rate by conducting a readiness evaluation similar to the one it completed for B-1B aircraft and by giving a higher priority to certain C-5 modernization initiatives; (3) the Air Force has not prioritized proposed C-5 modifications and decisionmakers have not fully assessed the impact that these proposed improvements would have on overall aircraft mission capability; and (4) if peacetime C-5 mission capable rates were raised to the Air Force's goal, DOD could better meet its airlift requirements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree that a readiness evaluation was needed, but stated that it had initiated some actions that would satisfy the intent of the recommendation. These actions include conducting a 1994 logistics demonstration project to improve and streamline the C-5 management structure and policies for handling spare parts and repairing components, as well as incorporating lessons learned from the B-1B readiness assessment to better manage the C-5 program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct a readiness evaluation to determine how C-5 peacetime mission capability can be improved and the costs of such improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not agree with the recommendation, stating that the potential cargo capability increase would not translate directly into increases in cargo delivered to a theater of conflict because of the limited airfield infrastructure (including ramp space, refueling facilities, and material handling equipment). GAO responded that the potential capability still exists under more unconstrained scenarios, and that many available airfields or fields have areas large enough to accommodate substantial numbers of C-5 aircraft.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Transportation Command, to include in its strategic mobility planning the potential increase in airlift cargo capability made possible by a higher C-5 mission capable rate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 1996, the Air Force completed development of a computer model (CREST) to assess the effect of proposed C-5 reliability and maintainability improvements on mission capability. DOD expects this model to help improve the method for prioritizing C-5 modifications. However, it stated that, to date, the CREST model has not shown a need to reprioritize any planned C-5 modifications.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to assess the impact of proposed aircraft modifications on C-5 mission capability and then reprioritize the proposals according to the results of the assessment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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