DOCUMENT _ESUME 03398 - tA2513712] (3estricted/Ct ife ,! 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. v
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)