Electronic Combat: Services Should Consider Greater Use of New Test Equipment for Their Aircraft

GAO-01-843 Published: Aug 30, 2001. Publicly Released: Aug 30, 2001.
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The armed services have had problems for years with their ability to adequately test their electronic combat systems. The success of the new Joint Service Electronic Combat Systems Tester Program in providing improved test capability is a positive development. Because the tester has identified many more faults in the F-15C and F/A-18C electronic combat systems than has the current test equipment, existing readiness, logistics, and maintenance problems with such systems could worsen. However, pilots would at least have greater knowledge about the readiness and reliability of their self-protection systems and their need for support from specialized aircraft designed to suppress enemy air defenses. GAO believes that it makes sense for the Air Force and Navy to consider using the new test equipment on their non-fighter aircraft.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense Because use of the new tester provides the ability to identify previously unknown faults in electronic combat systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Air Force and Navy to consider expanding use of the new tester beyond fighter aircraft to other types of aircraft.
Closed – Implemented
The Joint Services Electronic Combat Tester program office reported that it has awarded contracts for test program sets for both the Chinook and Apache Helicopters. The Army is now planning to use the tester for its Apache and Chinook helicopters. Both platforms are non-fighter types of aircraft. The development and deployment of the electronic combat tester can be used to better fault, isolate, and detect previously undetected faults in helicopter electronic combat systems. The Army's use of the combat tester is likely to provide more accurate electronic warfare system status and could be used to better assure pilot, aircrew, and aircraft survivability in systems that have been or will be deployed for combat. In addition, the Navy is planning to use the tester for its helicopters.

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