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The Navy's Multimission Carrier Airwing--Can the Mission Be Accomplished with Fewer Resources?

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-09-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          DOCUMENT _ESUME

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The Navy's Multimission Carrier Airwing--Can the Mission Be
Accomplished with Fewer Resources? LCD-77-r09; B-133118.
September 12, 1977.

Report to the Congress; by Elmer B. Staats, Comptroller General.

Issue Area: Military Preparedness Plans: Lcgistic Support
    Planning for major Equipment (801).
Contact: Logistics and Communicaticns Div.
Budget Function: National Defense: Department of Defense -
    Military (except procurement & contracts) (051).
Crganizaticn Concerned: Department of the Javy.
Congressional Relevance: House Committee on Armed Services;
    Senate Ccmmittee cn Armed Services; Congress.

          In response to budget constraints, the Wavy reduced the
number of aircraft carriers frcm 24 in the mid-1960s to 13
today. While the carriers today are fever in number, they have
more sophisticated weapon systems and other technological
advances which partly offset the numerical difference. This
technclcgv upgrading is a continuous process and can be
illustrated by the introduction of F-14 aircraft, which replaced
the F-4s.   Findings/Conclusions: To cope with the reduction in
carriers and to safisfy their mission requirements, the Navy
combined the formerly separate attack and antisubmarine
capabilities cnto single carrier decks, thereby making carrier
airwings multimission in nature. Recommendations: The Congress
and the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the
Navy to reassess the total aircraft requirements for
multimission aircraft carriers and to determine the minimum
number of aircraft required for each carrier and how to best
satisfy the mission with the least resources. The Congress
should also consider the following two issues: (1) in view of
the alternatives available to the Navy to provide the
flexibility to adjust the carrier deckload, should the
additional aircraft comprising the flexibility component be
procured? and (2) if the Congress should decide that each of the
multinissicn aircraft carriers should have its own unique
airwing including the flexibility component, then Congress
should defer appropriating funds for aircraft in excess of the
basic sea control airwing requirements until the Wavy
demonstrates that it can efficiently and effectively operate the
entire multimission airwing from the carriers under simulated
combat conditions. (Author/SC)
                T-is is an unc!a.zsied digest furnished in lieu of
                a report.containing classified security informnation.   SEP 1   .77

     COMPTROLLER GENERAL'S              THE NAVY'S MULTIMISSION CARRIER
     REPORT TO THE CONGRESS             AIRWING--CAN THE MISSION BE
C)                                      ACCOMPLISHED WITH FEWER RESOURCES?

             DIGEST

             In response to budget constraints, the Navy
             reduced the number of aircraft carriers from
             24 in the mid-1960s to 13 today. While the
             carriers today are fewer in number, it should
             be recognized that they have more sophisti-
             cated weapon systems and other technological
             advances which partly offset the numercial
             difference.  This technology upgrading is a
             continuous process and can be illustrated
             by the introduction of F-14 aircraft, which
             replaced the F-4s.

             Flexibility components and alternatives

             To cope with the reduction in carriers and
             to satisfy their mission requirements, the
             Navy combined the formerly separate attack
             and antisubmarine capabilities onto single
             carrier decks, thereby making carrier air-
             wings multimission in nature.   Of the Navy's
             13 carriers, the Congress has approved 12
             for the multimission airwings to provide the
             flexibility to adjust the carrier deckload
             from one required for sea control including
             power projection ashore to one optimized
             for power projection.   GAO believes that
             the flexibility components making each
             carrier self-sufficient for either mission
             may not be necessary because the Navy has
             options available to provide the flexibil-
             ity to optimize carrier deckloads for power
             projection ashore without furnishing flexi-
             bility components for each multimission
             carrier.   (See pp. 5, 9, 13, 16, 18, and 19.)

             GAO believes the Navy should have arn ade-
             quate number of aircraft to enable it to
             accomplish either sea control or power pro-
             jection.  However, it may not be necessary
             for each multimission carrier airwing to have
             shore-based reserve aircraft to provide the
             flexibility for adjusting the carrier aircraft



                                              i                           LCD-77-409
mix.  Other aircraft source options are avail-
able to the Navy to provide the desired flexi-
bility, such as:

--Aircraft could be exchanged between two or
  more deployed carriers.  (See pp. 10, 30, 38,
  and 39.)

--Aircraft assigned to carriers undergoing
  extensive overhaul could be used to provide
  the flexibility to adjust the deckload of de--
  ployed carriers.  (See pp. 11, 31, 38, and 39.)

--Carrier deployable aircraft operated by the
  Marine Corps could be used to adjust the
  deckload of deployed carriers.  (See
  pp. 11, 31 to 33, 38, and 39.)

--The Navy and Marine Corps Reserve airwings
  could provide the needed flexibility during
  emergencies.  (See pp. 11, 33, 34, 38, and 39.)

--The Navy could establish a pool of aircraft
  specifically for adjusting carrier deckloads.
  Such a pool would require less aircraft than
  providing each carrier with its own flexibility
  component. (See pp. 11, 34, 38, and 39.)

--Highly capable training aircraft could be
  used to provide flexibility to adjust car-
  rier deckloads in emergencies.  (See
  pp. 12, 35, 38, and 39.)

Extent and cost of flexibility components

GAO estimates that the flexibility components
for the 12 multimission carrier airwings will
be over 70 aircraft. Another 30 or more air-
craft will operate in support of training and
overhaul replacement associated with the 70
aircraft contained in the flexibility compon-
ents.  (See pp. 13, 27, and 28.)

GAO recognizes the importance of mission re-
quirements.   Costs alone should not be the
overriding criteria in evaluating the extent
to which military hardware should be procured
and operated.   However, the cost to provide and
operate more aircraft than absolutely necessary



                     ii
 is expensive.  For example, an A-7E light at-
 tack aircraft, one of the more economical planes
 of the multimission airwing, costs about $7 mil-
 lion to procure. The same plane costs about
 $874,000 a year to operate.  (See pp. 36 to 37.)
In view of the various alternatives available
to the Navy which may provide an adequate num-
ber of aircraft needed to furnish the flexibil-
ity to adjust the multimission carrier deck-
loads, GAO believes that the Navy's practice of
assigning land-based flexibility components to
each of the multimission carrier airwings should
be reevaluated.  (See pp. 12, 37, and 38.)

The Navy's mission and
related carrier operations

The Navy's current role of providing sea control
and power projection ashore remains the same as
it was a decade ago. It is generally recognized
that the United States depends on the sea lanes
for trade, including the import of raw materials,
and the resupply of any potential war effort in
overseas areas.  (See pp. 5, 16 to 17.)
Formerly the Navy operated two distinct kinds
of carriers--one configured for the attack role
and the other configured for antisubmarine war-
fare. Due to the smaller number of carriers op-
erated, this is no longer possible, and the carriers
and airwings were integrated for 12 of the 13
carriers containing both capabilities. (See
pp. 1 to 3.)   In fusing the two capabilities into
single airwings, the Navy encountered a problem--
how to meet the various threat situations and
mission objectives with the limited platform
space available.

The basic difference between an airwing con-
figured for sea control and one optimized for
power projection is the number of antisubmarine
and fighter and attack aircraft carried. If
there is a submarine threat, most or all of the
antisubmarine aircraft assigned to an airwing
are loaded and generally some attack and fighter
aircraft are left behind. The airwing config-
ured for sea control retains most of its fighter
and attack capability and can project substan-
tial power ashore or against other targets.

                    iii
 However, when sea control is not
                                  seriously chal-
 lenged, as was the case in Vietnam,
 rier deckload is optimized for power and the car-
                                       projection
 ashore, then the antisubmarine aircraft
 changed for the attack and fighter       are ex-
 viously left behind.                aircraft pre-
                       (See pp. 6 to 10, 18,
 arnd 19.)

 In essence, each of the multimission
                                         carrier air-
 wings is provided several attack
 land-based resCdve to provide the  aircraft   as a
                                      flexibility to
 adjust the deckload of deployed
                                   carriers from sea
 control to the mode optimized for
                                     projecting
 power ashore.   (See pp. 6 to 10, 18, and 19.)
 Sea control is the Navy's primary
                                     mission and
 is required in the worst case scenario:
war involving the Soviet Union.              a NATO
                                    The Navy has
 identified the airwing size required
                                         to conduct
continuous operations for the sea
                                     control mis-
sion. For conflicts of lesser intensity
involving the Soviet Union when              not
tion ashore is expected to be the power   projec-
                                     carriers' primary
function, it is unlikely that all
                                     carriers will
be deployed simultaneously and various
tives appear to exist to optimize          alterna-
                                     the deployed
carrier deckloads for this power
ashore mode of operation.          projection
                             GAO believes that
airwing resource requirements sno.id
                                        be deter-
mined for the worst case situation,
                                       because the
carrier airwing configured for sea
fulfill the collateral mission of control can
                                    power projec-
tion.   (See pp. 5, 7, 8, 17   to 18.)
Navy's comments   and our analysis
 The Department of the Navy contends
                                       that the
GAO analysis presents a fair assessment
 structure of Navy airwings embarked       of the
 in a peacetime situation.             on carriers
                            For various reasons
the Navy does not agree that the
                                   options sug-
gested could serve the flexibility
in a war involving the Soviet Union requirements
                                       because all
carriers would be deployed.   However, based on
GAO's analysis of available information,
carrier airwing flexibility could           the
by the alternatives suggested and   be  provided
                                    GAO does not
consider the Navy's answer responsive
                                         to the
alternatives.   Not all carriers could be de-
ployed immediately nor would it
                                 necessarily be
prudent to have all assets on board
                                      in such a

                      iv
conflict.   In conflicts of lesser intensity,
GAO believes that the options presented
                                         are
viable alternatives for carrier airwing
adjustments and the Navy should reevaluate
the size and composition of its multimission
carrier airwings in view of the sizeable
                                          sav-
ings available in operating costs and future
procu?-ments.   Such savings could be applied
to other areas to improve the Navy's readi-
ness position.   (See pp. 12, 40 to 44.)

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE 'ONGPESS
AND THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

GAO believes that the following two issues
warrant consideration by the Congress.
                                         First,
in view of the alternatives available to
                                           the
Navy to provide the flexibility to adjust
the carrier deckload, should the additional
aircraft comprising the flexibility comnonent
be procured? Secondly, should
decide that notwithstanding the the Congress
                                 alternatives,
each of the multimission aircraft carriers
should have its own unique airwing including
the flexibility component, then the
should defer appropriating funds for Congress
                                      aircraft
in excess of the basic sea control airwing
requirements until the Navy demonstrates
                                          to
its own and Congress' satisfaction that
                                         it
can efficiently and effectively operate the
entire multimission airwing from the carriers
under simulated combat conditions.

GAO is recommending to the Congress and the
Secretary of Defense that they have the Sec-
retary of the Navy reassess the total air-
craft requirements for multimission aircraft
carriers and determine the minimum number
                                           of
aircraft required for each carrier and how
                                            to
best satisfy the mission with the least re-
sources.




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