Special Operations Forces:

C-130 Upgrade Plan Could Help Fix Electronic Warfare Deficiencies

NSIAD-99-1: Published: Nov 13, 1998. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 1998.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. Special OperationsCommand's (USSOCOM) acquisition strategy for aircraft electronic warfare systems, focusing on the: (1) fixed-wing C-130 aircraft operated by USSOCOM's Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC); (2) soundness of AFSOC's electronic warfare acquisition strategy; and (3) extent to which AFSOC is correcting deficiencies and maximizing commonality in its electronic warfare systems.

GAO noted that: (1) AFSOC's electronic warfare acquisition strategy is sound because it is based on eliminating operational and supportability deficiencies confirmed by an Air Force study, test reports, and maintenance records; (2) this evidence indicates that AFSOC's current electronic warfare systems are unable to defeat many current threat systems and have supportability problems; (3) AFSOC's acquisition strategy is to procure a mix of new systems and upgrades for older ones while maximizing commonality within its fleet of C-130s; (4) amidst budget constraints, USSOCOM is funding only portions of AFSOC's acquisition strategy due to other higher budget priorities, thereby hampering AFSOC's efforts to correct deficiencies and maximize commonality in electronic warfare systems; (5) for example, although USSOCOM is funding an AFSOC effort to make C-130 aircraft less susceptible to passive detection, enhance aircrews' situational awareness, and increase commonality, it has rejected other requests to fund effectiveness and commonality improvements to systems dealing with radar- and infrared-guided missiles; (6) as a result, in the foreseeable future, deficiencies will continue, and AFSOC will have to operate and maintain older and upgraded electronic warfare systems concurrently; (7) an opportunity exists, however, to help AFSOC implement its electronic warfare acquisition strategy; (8) since AFSOC's acquisition strategy was adopted, the Air Force has decided to begin a-$4.3 billion C-130 modernization program (C-130X program) for all C-130s; (9) some of the planned elements of this modernization are common with some of the elements of AFSOC's acquisition strategy that was to be funded by USSOCOM's Major force program-11 (MFP) funds; and (10) if, as required by the memoranda of agreement, the Air Force C-130 avionics modernization program funds these common elements, USSOCOM could redirect significant portions of its MFP-11 funding currently budgeted for AFSOC C-130 passive detection and situational awareness deficiencies to other unfunded portions of AFSOC's electronic warfare acquisition strategy.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force has completed an Avionics Modernization Program Operational Requirements Document and Memorandum of Agreement between itself and the Special Operations Command directing the consolidation of its Avionics Modernization Program and the Special Ops' Common Avionics Architecture for Penetration Program for all common avionics items.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force in procuring common items for its C-130 avionics modernization, to select items that, where feasible, address USSOCOM's Common Avionic Architecture for Penetration (CAAP) requirements or could be modified by USSOCOM to meet those requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force may apply savings from the CAAP program to programs of higher priority than the C-130 electronic warfare deficiencies effort.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct USSOCOM to use any resulting MFP-11 funds budgeted for but not spent on CAAP to address other electronic warfare deficiencies or to expand to the CAAP program to other special operations forces aircraft.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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