Electronic Warfare:

Towed Decoys Could Improve Survivability of Current Navy Aircraft

NSIAD-97-94: Published: Sep 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 4, 1997.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) acquisition plans for the ALE-50 towed decoy system and the Radio Frequency Countermeasures System (RFCM), which includes a more advanced towed decoy, focusing on whether towed decoys could improve the survivability of certain Navy and Air Force aircraft.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD's effort to improve the survivability of its aircraft through the use of towed decoys has demonstrated positive results; (2) according to test reports and test officials, the ALE-50 has done very well in effectiveness testing and the future RFCM decoy system is expected to be even more capable; (3) the Air Force is actively engaged in efforts to field towed decoy systems on a number of its current aircraft, including the F-15, F-16, and B-1, while the Navy is planning towed decoys only for its future F/A-18E/F; (4) in the year 2010, almost 50 percent of the Navy's tactical fighter inventory will still be current generation fighter aircraft such as the F/A-18C/D, even if new F/A-18E/Fs are procured at the rates desired by the Navy between now and then; and (5) improving the survivability of the F/A-18C/D, as well as other current Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, potentially offers the opportunity to save additional aircraft and aircrew's lives in the event of future hostilities and also addresses congressional concerns expressed for F/A-18C/D survivability.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because the Navy is trying to figure out how to best install the towed decoy on its F/A-18 aircraft, the Congress does not need to act on the matter for consideration.

    Matter: In light of the demonstrated improvement in survivability that analyses and test results indicate towed decoy systems can provide, and recognizing that in the year 2010 almost 50 percent of the Navy's tactical fighter inventory will still be current generation fighter aircraft such as the F/A-18C/D, the Congress may wish to direct the Navy to find, as it has done for its F/A-18E/F and the Air Force has done for the F-16, cost-effective ways to improve the survivability of its current aircraft.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy conducted the engineering analysis as GAO recommended. The Navy determined that a centerline installation was possible, but decided not to recommend installation of a towed decoy on the F/A-18C/D.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to make a detailed engineering analysis of the modifications needed to adapt the towed decoy to the F/A-18C/D.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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