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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) Air Force's present and future need for airborne controllers; (2) effect of increasing air defense threats on the Air Force's ability to perform the airborne controller role; and (3) cost and operational implications of reassigning A-10 aircraft from an attack role to a controller role.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
The House Committee on Armed Services may wish to consider whether the Air Force's planned changes for its forward air control aircraft should proceed before alternative means of communicating between ground controllers and attack aircraft are assessed.
Closed - Not Implemented
The committee has decided not to act on the recommendation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Air Force 1. Because the Automatic Target and Handoff System being installed on A-10 and F-16 aircraft could improve direct communications from the ground control elements to attack aircraft and thus make airborne controllers unnecessary in high-threat areas, the Secretary of the Air Force should expedite the operational testing of the system and use the results to reassess the need for airborne controllers in high-threat areas.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Air Force has completed the operational testing of the improved communications system called the Improved Data Modem. The test results were successful, and it plans to begin installing the system in 1994 on all close air support and forward air control aircraft. It plans no additional work in this area.
Department of the Air Force 2. Because the Automatic Target and Handoff System being installed on an A-10 and F-16 aircraft could improve direct communications from the ground control elements to attack aircraft and thus make airborne controllers unnecessary in high-threat areas, the Secretary of the Air Force should make the reassessment before more funds are spent to renovate OV-10 aircraft and reassign A-10 aircraft.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD stated that delaying ongoing programs until after analysis of the test results were analyzed and a reassessment is made of the role of the airborne controllers were assessed, would unnecessarily degrade the Air Force support to the Joint Force Commander.

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