Navy Aviation:

F-14 Modernization Initiatives Should Enhance the Aircraft's Operational Performance

NSIAD-97-233R: Published: Aug 14, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1997.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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GAO provided information on the Navy's efforts to modernize the F-14 fleet, focusing on the Navy's modernization initiatives.

GAO noted that: (1) the Navy has upgraded the multirole capabilities of the F-14 by providing it with a precision-strike capability, a digital flight control system, and an enhanced reconnaissance capability; (2) in providing the F-14 with a precision-strike capability, the Navy adapted off-the-shelf technology by using the Air Force's Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system targeting pod; (3) this system provides laser targeting for precision-guided weapons; (4) it is a stand-alone system, which reduces the need for, and avoids the costs of, software modifications and extensive flight testing; (5) according to F-14 program officials, using the LANTIRN system reduced acquisition costs by almost $200 million and resulted in providing the F-14 with precision-strike capability about 2 years earlier than would have otherwise been possible; (6) aircrews flying LANTIRN-equipped F-14s during their first carrier deployment (aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, June-December 1996) reported that the system was able to detect targets at longer ranges and operated at higher altitudes than the F/A-18C equipped with its current targeting forward looking infrared system; (7) since April 1997, carrier battle groups have deployed with LANTIRN-equipped F-14s; (8) current F-14s, equipped with an analog flight control system, have demonstrated undesirable flying characteristics that have contributed to numerous out-of-control flight incidents and aircraft losses; (9) the F-14's operational advisory group, representing the fleet operators, identified the flight control system as a safety-of-flight priority; (10) the Navy's F-14 community is adapting an off-the-shelf Digital Flight Control System (DFCS) in the aircraft; (11) according to the Navy, DFCS, built by GEC-Marconi Avionics Ltd. of the United Kingdom, is expected to correct the current flight control system's deficiencies by limiting the pilot from flying the aircraft in a manner that makes it unstable or that will cause the engine to stall; (12) the Navy, according to F-14 program officials, plans to procure about 200 DFCSs for F-14s, at a total cost of around $84 million, and to install the systems from June 1998 through October 2000; (13) the F-14 uses the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) to perform its reconnaissance missions; (14) the Navy is improving TARPS to include a digital imaging system that can be inserted in place of the pod's forward-looking photographic camera; and (15) according to F-14 program office, the total estimated cost of this program is $8.6 million.

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