DOD Should Resolve Certain Issues Concerning the C-X Aircraft

PSAD-81-8: Published: Oct 10, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 1980.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Air Force formed a taskforce with Army and Marine Corps participation to define future airlift requirements for the worldwide deployment of U.S. forces. The taskforce analysis revealed significant shortfalls in the capability of the United States to provide long-range intertheater airlift to meet worldwide rapid mobility requirements. It recognized that the United States does not currently have the capability to airlift large outsize cargo within a theater. It recommended the acquisition of an airlift aircraft with adequate size and range to carry outsize cargo intertheater and also with the capability to land at small austere airfields. To meet these requirements, the Air Force proposed the C-X aircraft. Full-scale production of the C-X could begin about October 1986. The Air Force estimates that a procurement of 200 C-X aircraft could cost about $10 billion to $11 billion (fiscal year 1980 dollars) for development and production. The Air Force is planning to issue requests for proposals to potential contractors for the full-scale engineering development of the aircraft in October 1980. GAO reviewed the C-X aircraft program, addressing major issues concerning the aircraft's range and its load capability.

The Department of Defense (DOD) has not yet completed its strategic mobility requirements study as directed by Congress, nor has a mission element need statement been approved. Nevertheless, the Air Force plans to solicit formal design and cost proposals from potential contractors in the immediate future for the full-scale engineering development of the C-X aircraft. GAO believes that such action, before these matters are resolved, is both premature and contrary to sound acquisition principles. The current design range of the C-X may be inadequate unless substantial refueling is provided at intermediate land bases or by aerial refueling. Proposed modifications to the Army's main battle tank could increase its total combat weight beyond the maximum load capacity of the C-X. Although congressional committees believe there is a need for additional stategic aircraft capability, it is uncertain as to whether the C-X concept proposed by the Air Force is the best way to provide this capability. The DOD strategic mobility requirements study may require the Air Force to revise and reissue requests for proposals and solicit new proposals from contractors. This effort could cost the contractors several million dollars which would be shared in part by the U.S. Government through the allocation of overhead to Government contracts.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to delay issuing C-X requests for proposals or proceeding further with the C-X program until the Air Force resolves the aircraft's range and load limitations and until the mobility requirements study is completed and a mission element need statement is approved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Aug 20, 2020

Aug 14, 2020

Aug 6, 2020

Jul 30, 2020

Jul 27, 2020

Jul 23, 2020

Jul 22, 2020

Jul 20, 2020

Jul 16, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here