Joint Direct Attack Munition: Low-Rate Initial Production Decision

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-03-17.

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

              United 3tates
  AFUJ                Accounting Offiee
              Washington, D.C. 20658

              National Security and
              International Affairs Division


              March 17, 1997

              The Honorable Sheila E. Widnall
              The Secretary of the Air Force

              Subject: Joint Direct Attack Munition: Low-Rate Initial Production Decision

              Dear: Mdam Secretay.W        :::    ::                      ::
              During our review of the Joint Direct Attack Munition's (JDAM) readiness to
              begin low-rate initial production, JDAM officials told us that a contract for the,
              initial production lot could be awarded as early as April 1997, before the Air
              Force concludes developmental testing or begins operational testing. We are
              concerned that the Air Force may make a premature commitment to significant
              production before clearly demonstrating, through operational testing, JDAM's
              key performance parameters. Experience has shown that committing to initial
              production before conducting adequate operational tests raises the risk that the
              system will need costly design changes during production or that the services
              will have to retrofit modifications to deployed weapons.'

              The purpose of this letter is to indicate our concern and to request that the Air
              Force consider this issue and provide us answers to questions contained in this
              letter before signing a production contract or by April 18, 1997, whichever is


              JDAM is a tailkit to be attached to the Mark 84, a 2,000-pound general purpose
              unitary bomb and the BLU-109, a 2,000-pound hard target penetrator bomb that
              are already in Air Force and Navy inventories. A slightly modified tailkit is
              expected to be produced later for the Mark 83, 1,000-pound bomb. JDAM

              'Weapons Acouisition: Low-Rate Initial Production Used to Buy Weapon
              Systems Prematurely (GAO/NSIAD-95-18, Nov. 21, 1994).

                                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-116R Joint Direct Attack Munition
converts these unguided free-fall bombs into precision guided, or smart,
munitions. The tailldkit uses global positioning system aided inertial navigation
to provide accurate, autonomous delivery in adverse weather conditions. The
services expect to deploy JDAM on a number of aircraft platforms, including the
B-52H, B-l, B-2, F-22, F-16, F-15E, F-117A, F/A-18C/D, F/A-18E/F, and AV-8B.
The operational flight program software of these aircraft has to be modified
and, in some cases, hardware components added, to enable them to effectively
use JDAM. The first aircraft to have operational software installed are
expected to be the F/A-18 C/D, the B-52H, and the B-2. The services plan to
buy about 87,500 kits at an estimated average cost of about $32,900 in then-year
dollars. 2

In July 1995, to provide JDAM earlier than originally planned, the Office of the
Secretary of Defense approved acceleration of the initial production decision by
6 months and the full-rate production decision by 15 months. However, the
developmental and operational test schedules were not accelerated.

According to JDAM's accelerated program schedule, the Air Force plans to
make a decision to begin production in April 1997 and will exercise an option
for the first low-rate production lot later that month. The criteria tor the
accelerated low-rate production decision are (1) a favorable operational
assessment and (2) sufficient captive carry test hours3 and guided test drops to
determine that the 2,000-pound tailkit is on track to meet approved program
baseline requirements. Baseline requirements involve six key performance
parameters: (1) operation in adverse weather, (2) accurate delivery using global
positioning system data, (3) the ability to switch from one target to another
while in flight, (4) compatibility with available warheads such as the Mark-84,
BLU-109, and Mark-83, (5) suitability for use on aircraft carriers, and (6)
compatibility with aircraft designated to deliver the weapon.


The developmental test plari calls for captive carry tests and guided test drops
from three aircraft-the F/A-18C/D, the B-52H, and the F-16-before the April
decision point. However, the operational software needed by the aircraft to

2We  calculated this unit cost based on the current approved program baseline.
The Program Manager's most current estimate is an average unit cost of
in captive carry tests, JDAM units are attached to the aircraft and flown

through numerous bombing sequences, but not released from the aircraft.
These tests are used for evaluating, among other things, JDAM's physical
integration with the aircraft.
                               GAO/NSAD-97-116R Joint Direct Attack Munition
 effectively use JDAM is not yet completely developed. The guided drops and
 other tests are being conducted with aircraft software that is still in
 development The majority of flight testing to date has been with the F-16
 aircraft-not one of the initial deployment platforms. Dedicated developmental
 tests with the F/A-18C/D and the B-52H are not scheduled to end until August
 1997. Dedicated operational tests with these aircraft, scheduled to begin in
 September 1997, will not be completed until December 1997-about 8 months
 after the Aix Force plans to contract for the first production lot and only about
 90 days bef - ' possible approval for full-rate production and exercising an
 option for th- second production lot. In addition, the Air Force expects to
 begin operational testing with the B-2 in July 1997, although the B-2 is not
 designated as an initial deployment aircraft for the JDAM.

 According to an Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Command official,
 an operational assessment has been completed for the program. Because
 operational tests have not been conducted, the assessment is based on data
 from early developmental tests.


The Department of Defense Regulation 5000.2R, governing major system
acquisitions, states that the objective of low-rate initial production is to
"produce the minimum quantity necessary to (1) provide production configured
or representative articles for operational tests, (2) establish an initial production
base for the system, and (3) permit an orderly increase in the production rate
for the system sufficient to lead to full-rate production upon successful
completion of operational testing."

The initial production of JDAMs does not appear to be consistent with these
purposes. For example, the Air Force has already contracted for 630
production representative JDAMs-275 more than needed for operational testing.
According to the Air Force, (1) the additional tactical units can be used to
provide a wartime contingency or to provide additional units for testing with
other aircraft (2) by producing these units, the initial production base for the
system will be established; and (3) the quantities now planned by the Air Force
for lots 1 and 2 are much larger than the quantities originally planned. The Air
Force indicated that the services plan to buy as many kits as the budget will
allow-937 in fiscal year 1997 and 3,341 in fiscal year 1998 in contrast to an
earlier plan to buy 425 units for lot 1 and 2,202 units for lot 2.


(1) In the absence of operational test results, how can the Air Force be sure
that JDAM is operationally reliable and suitable and will not need major design
changes after committing to production? What are the cost, schedule, and

                                GAO/NSLAD-97-116R Joint Direct Attack Munition
performance risks of making the production decision before operational testing
is done with the aircraft?

(2) How can the Air Force have confidence in the operational assessment
without any operational test data and only limited developmental test data?

(3) Since none of the primary or test aircraft have a mature operational flight
program that includes JDAM, how can the Air Force rely on the developmental
test results? How can the Air Force determine a favorable operational
assessment for the low-rate initial production decision based on data collected
from the F-16, the F/A-18C/D, and the B-62H aircraft software test tapes?

(4) What impact would delaying the production decision until the services
complete developmental and operational tests with the F/A-18C/D and the B-52H
have on the JDAM production program?

We are sending copies of this letter to appropriate congressional committees;
the Secretary of the Navy; the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition and
Technology; and other interested parties. Your response to our questions will
also be distributed to the same congressional committees. If you or your
designee have any questions, please contact me at (202) 5124841 or Lee
Edwards, Assistant Director, at (205) 650-1411. bMajor contributors to this
assignment were Carol Mebane and Dana Soloman.

Sincerely yours,

Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues


                              GAO/NSIAD-97-116R Joint Direct Attack Munition
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