B-2 Bomber: Initial Flight Tests

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-04.

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


                                                        B-2 BOMBER
                                                        Initial Flight Tests


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GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20648

      National Security and
      International Affairs Division


      September 4,199O

      The Honorable Sam Nunn
      Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Defense
      Committee on Appropriations
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Les Aspin
      Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
      House of Representatives

      The Honorable John P. Murtha
      Chairman, Subcommittee on Defense
      Committee on Appropriations
      House of Representatives

      Section 113 of the fiscal year 1990 Authorization Act requires us to
      review the Department of Defense’s test reports and evaluation docu-
      ments for the B-2 aircraft program and provide periodic reports on our
      findings to the Congress. This unclassified summary discusses our eval-
      uation of the initial flight worthiness testing of the B-2, known as
      Block 1 flight testing.

      We are sending copies of this summary to the Ranking Minority Mem-
      bers of your committees; other appropriate congressional committees;
      the Secretaries of Defense and the Air Force; and the Director, Office of
      Management and Budget. We will also make copies available to others.

      This summary was prepared under the direction of Nancy R. Kingsbury,
      Director, Air Force Issues, who may be reached on (202) 276-4268 if you
      or your staff have any questions concerning this summary. Other major
      contributors to this summary are Robert D. Murphy, Assistant Director,
      National Security and International Affairs Division, Washington, D.C.;

      Page 1                                           GAO/NSIAD-90-284   B2 Bomber

Michael J, Hazard, Evaluator-in-Charge, and Matthew Lea, Evaluator,
Cincinnati Regional Office.

Frank C. Conahan
Assistant Comptroller General

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Page 3   GAO/NfXAD!)O-284   B-2 Bomber
               The B-2 bomber is one of the most costly Department of Defense pro-
Purpose        grams. Its high cost, unique design, and highly classified nature have
               made it the subject of considerable controversy.

               The fiscal year 1990 Defense Authorization Act requires the Department
               of Defense to accomplish certain flight tests before fiscal year 1990 B-2
               procurement funds are obligated. The act also requires GAO to review the
               Department of Defense’s test reports and evaluation documents on the
               B-2 aircraft program and submit periodic reports to the Congress on the
               results of the review. Specifically, GAO'Sreports are to evaluate (1) the
               rigor, realism, and adequacy of the test and evaluation activities, (2)
               whether testing complied with the full performance matrix, which com-
               pares planned test progress with program milestones, and (3) whether
               threat data as agreed with the U.S. intelligence community were fully
               used in the test process. This summary discusses GAO'Sevaluation of the
               initial series of flight tests, known as Block 1.

               The fiscal year 1990 Defense Authorization Act established that the fol-
Background     lowing requirements must be met before the Department of Defense
               could obligate fiscal year 1990 B-2 procurement funds.

             . Block 1 flight testing has been completed.
             . Block 1 flight test data have been reviewed by the Department of
               Defense’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, and a report on
               the results of the review has been submitted to the Secretary of Defense.
               The Secretary of Defense has certified that Block 1 tests identified no
               major flight worthiness problems.
               A second series of tests, known as Block 2, to assess low observable
               technologies, flying qualities, and performance has begun.

               The Block 1 test program was designed to demonstrate basic B-2 flying
               and ground handling qualities, takeoff and landing characteristics, and
               aerial refueling. The primary test objective was to demonstrate B-2
               flight worthiness at the speeds and altitudes needed to conduct early
               Block 2 flight tests later in 1990,

               The Block 1 tests were completed on June 13,1990, and the Secretary of
               Defense certified on August 2,1990, that no major aerodynamic or flight

               Page 4                                           GAO/NSIAD@O-2&i   B-2 Bomber
                             worthiness problems were identified during those tests. The Secretary
                             stated that the primary test objective was satisfactorily achieved. The
                             certification was supported by the Director of Operational Test and
                             Evaluation’s report, which stated that flying qualities, takeoff perform-
                             ance, and initial air refueling performed close to specifications and were
                             successfully demonstrated.

                             The Block 1 tests met the objectives of demonstrating the B-2’s basic
Results in Brief             flight worthiness but were not a rigorous demonstration of the B-2’s full
                             performance capabilities. The tests did not attempt to simulate a real-
                             istic mission environment or a series of realistic operational flight
                             profiles. Accordingly, threat data were not used in the tests.

Principal Findings

Testing Adequate to          Testing was adequate to initially demonstrate basic flight capabilities of
Achieve Limited Test         the B-2 in the limited conditions planned and tested. The act included an
                             estimate that Block 1 testing would consist of approximately 76 hours of
Objectives                   flight tests and 16 flights. The tests included 67 hours of flight tests and
                             16 flights, which is approximate to the estimate in the act. Seven pilots
                             that flew the aircraft commented favorably about its flying qualities.

                             The Block 1 tests are only part of the test results needed to comply with
                             the full performance matrix. The tests comprised less than 2 percent of
                             the estimated 3,600-hour flight test program and measured the aircraft’s
                             capabilities in a limited number of flight conditions,

                             Initial low observable tests, to be accomplished as part of Block 2
                             testing, are also required to achieve the first milestone in the full per-
                             formance matrix.

Rigorous Tests of Full B-2   Block 1 tests were not intended to be a rigorous demonstration of the
                             B-2’s full capabilities. For example, the tests were planned to explore the
Performance Not Intended     aircraft’s performance at medium altitudes and airspeeds and not the
                             more demanding high speed and/or low altitude flight profiles. The
               Y             aircraft took off at significantly lower weights than the maximum gross
                             takeoff weight, Many avionics systems planned for the B-2 were not
                             available for these initial flight tests.

                             Page 6                                              GAO/NSIAD-SO-284 E2 Bomber
Testing in a Realistic    Block 1 tests were not intended to demonstrate the B-2’s capabilities in a
Operational Environment   realistic mission environment or series of realistic operational flight
                          profiles. The aircraft was flown in the area of the Air Force’s Flight Test
Not Intended              Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in a dry, hot climate but
                          did not encounter other adverse temperature or humidity conditions.
                          However, the aircraft did encounter some high crosswinds, which
                          caused some flights to be canceled. Because the flight tests were not
                          designed to simulate operational missions, threat data or simulations of
                          threat systems were not used during the tests.

                          GAO'Ssummary is not making any recommendations.

                          GAOdid not request written agency comments on this summary. How-
Agency Comments           ever, GAOdiscussed a draft of this summary with Department of Defense
                          officials and incorporate their comments where appropriate.

(382637)                  Page 6                                            GAO/NSIAIMO-284   B2 Bomber
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