C-17 Globemaster: Support of Operation Joint Endeavor

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-02-14.

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

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to Congressional Committees

February 1997
                  C-17 GLOBEMASTER
                  Support of Operation
                  Joint Endeavor

             United States
GAO          General Accounting Office
             Washington, D.C. 20548

             National Security and
             International Affairs Division


             February 14, 1997

             Congressional Committees

             The initial use of the Air Force’s newest airlifter, the C-17 Globemaster in a
             major military operation occurred during the North Atlantic Treaty
             Organization (NATO) Peacekeeping Force deployment to Bosnia. At the end
             of fiscal year 1996, the Department of Defense (DOD) had spent about
             $20.5 billion to develop the C-17 and purchase 28 aircraft. It plans to buy a
             total of 120 C-17s at an estimated cost of $43 billion. We have previously
             reported on C-17 development, acquisition plans, and testing results.
             Because of the significant cost of the C-17 and the continuing
             congressional interest in the C-17’s performance, we determined (1) how
             the C-17 was used and how well it performed during the deployment and
             (2) whether deployment transportation requirements included the need for
             airlift aircraft to perform any of the C-17’s expected operational
             capabilities. We are addressing this report to you because it falls within
             the jurisdiction of your committees and because of your interest in the

             Initially, U.S. deployment plans in support of the NATO peacekeeping effort
Background   (known as Operation Joint Endeavor) called for a heavy reliance on road
             and rail for transporting troops and equipment into Bosnia. These early
             plans assumed only minimal airlift support would be needed and that
             would be provided by C-130s based in Europe. However, when the time
             available to accomplish the logistics of moving troops and equipment into
             Bosnia diminished and when various problems, including weather and rail
             strikes limited the use of ground transportation, the U.S. deployment
             shifted to heavy reliance on cargo aircraft. The C-130s in the theater were
             supplemented by C-141s, C-5s, and C-17s from Air Mobility Command to
             meet the increasing need for airlift within the European theater. The range
             of airlift requirements for the Bosnia deployment were confined primarily
             to intratheater1 support, with no airdrop or medical evacuation
             requirements, and only limited support provided from outside the
             European theater.

             The C-17 aircraft, which is being produced for the Air Force by the
             McDonnell Douglas Corporation, is designed to airlift substantial payloads
             over long ranges without refueling. The C-17 is planned to replace the

              Intratheater refers to short distance transportation support within the European theater. Intertheater
             refers to long distance, intercontinental missions.

             Page 1                                                         GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

                   C-141 transport aircraft in the current fleet and to complement the larger
                   but less maneuverable C-5 aircraft. In providing airlift support, the C-17 is
                   intended to deliver cargo and troops directly to forward airfields; fly into
                   small, austere airfields; land on short runways; transport outsize cargo
                   such as tanks; and airdrop troops and equipment.

                   In August 1995, the Air Force completed a 30-day reliability,
                   maintainability, and availability (RM&A) evaluation of the aircraft’s
                   compliance with contractual RM&A specifications. During this evaluation,
                   the C-17’s RM&A performance was assessed during both peace-and wartime
                   missions, including aerial refueling, equipment and personnel airdrops,
                   formation flying, low-level operations, and operations into small austere
                   airfields. Wartime missions ranged from 12.5 to 26 hours, while peacetime
                   missions ranged from 2 to 20 hours. In July 19962 we reported that
                   unresolved questions regarding certain important C-17 capabilities still
                   remained after the RM&A evaluation. The Office of the Director, Operational
                   Test and Evaluation, reported in November 1995 that based on its
                   assessment of the C-17’s operational effectiveness and suitability, the C-17
                   is suitable for the conduct of air-land missions and effective in the airdrop
                   of personnel. However, the report also stated that additional testing was
                   necessary to fully evaluate the aircraft’s capability for the mass airdrop of
                   personnel, and that the C-17 was not effective or suitable for routine
                   aeromedical evacuation missions until certain deficiencies were corrected.

                   During Operation Joint Endeavor, the C-17 accomplished the airlift tasks
Results in Brief   required of it, as did other airlifters such as the C-141, the C-5, and the
                   C-130. Primarily, the C-17 performed short-distance transportation support
                   within the European theater, and a limited number of long distance,
                   intercontinental air transport missions. In particular, the C-17 was used to
                   satisfy the Army’s immediate need for a high-capacity, short distance air
                   transport to move troops, equipment, and outsize cargo from central
                   Europe into the Bosnia area of operations. The C-17 performed about
                   26 percent of the deployment airlift missions and carried about 44 percent
                   of the cargo moved during the deployment. The C-17 also performed a
                   limited number of strategic airlift missions in which it delivered cargo
                   from the continental United States to final destinations in Germany,
                   Hungary, and Bosnia. The average cargo weight carried by airlift aircraft in
                   support of Operation Joint Endeavor compared to their maximum payload
                   capacity showed that no aircraft was over stressed. For example, no airlift

                    C-17 Aircraft: RM&A Evaluation Less Demanding Than Initially Planned (GAO/NSIAD-96-126,
                   July 1996)

                   Page 2                                                    GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

                       aircraft on average carried more than half its maximum payload capacity.
                       According to contractor reports, the C-17 achieved a mission capable3 rate
                       of 86.2 percent during the December 1995 through February 1996 time
                       frame compared to a required rate of 81.2 percent.

                       Transportation needs of the Bosnia deployment did not offer the
                       opportunity for any airlift aircraft to perform or demonstrate several
                       operational roles and/or missions, which are important parts of the C-17’s
                       full range of operational capabilities. Consequently, the C-17 was not
                       required to perform many tasks which it had trouble doing, or did not do,
                       during operational testing. These included several tasks the Army
                       considers important like landing at small austere airfields on short, wet
                       runways; performing strategic airdrops of both troops and equipment; and
                       providing aeromedical evacuation capability.

                       Airlift aircraft, particularly the C-17, performed a major transportation
C-17 Primarily         support role during the Operation Joint Endeavor deployment, which
Performed an           occurred between the December 1995 and February 1996 time frame.
Intratheater Airlift   According to Air Mobility Command (AMC) data,4 the majority of
                       deployment airlift missions flown were intratheater support, as were the
Role During            majority of C-17 deployment missions. (See fig. 1.) Intratheater support
Deployment             involved moving troops and equipment over short distances within the
                       European theater, such as from Germany to the initial staging base in
                       Hungary, or more directly into the American sector in Bosnia. There were
                       few intertheater deployment requirements, which would have involved
                       moving troops and equipment from the continental United States into the
                       European theater. Of the 3,827 airlift missions flown during the
                       deployment time frame, 2,924 or 76.4 percent were intratheater missions.
                       Of the 1,000 total C-17 deployment missions, 917 or 91.7 percent were
                       intratheater missions.

                        An aircraft is considered to be mission capable if it is capable of performing at least one of its
                       assigned missions. The mission capable rate shown is overall, meaning that it includes all missions
                       whether intertheater or intratheater.
                        We relied upon several AMC airlift information systems during the conduct of our work. To the extent
                       that AMC had not completed a reliability assessment of the data contained in those systems, and
                       because AMC representatives expressed concern about the reliability and accuracy of that data,
                       analyses in this report are qualified. (See Scope and Methodology section of this report for more

                       Page 3                                                        GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

Figure 1: Breakout of Deployment Missions

       Intra 76.4%

                                                                               Intra   91.7%

                                                                                                                 Other   8.3%

                                   Other 23.6%

                                                                                                C-17 missions
              All deployment missions

          Intratheater missions                                                                Other

                                            Airlift aircraft moved about 45,369 tons of cargo and about
                                            18,539 passengers during the deployment. Table 1 shows the amount of
                                            cargo and passengers carried by each type of airlift aircraft.

Table 1: Cargo and Passengers Moved
During Operation Joint Endeavor                                 Number of
Deployment by Airlift Aircraft Type                            deployment    Percent of         Tons of                    Number of
                                            Type of              missions     missions            cargo   Percent of      passengers
                                            airlift aircraft         flown       flown           moved cargo moved            moved
                                            C-5                       453               12       12,048           27             5,706
                                            C-17                     1,000              26       19,892           44             5,574
                                            C-130                    1,365              36        4,901           11             2,218
                                            C-141                     987               26        8,391           18             4,815
                                            KC-10                      22              <1           137           <1              226
                                            Totals                   3,827             100       45,369          100            18,539

                                            As this table shows, the C-17 flew about 26 percent of the total deployment
                                            airlift missions and carried about 44 percent of total cargo and 30 percent

                                            Page 4                                                  GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

                                        of total passengers. In total, the C-17 carried an average cargo load of
                                        39,784 pounds per mission compared to the specified average cargo weight
                                        of 48,649 pounds per mission over the lifetime of the aircraft. This is based
                                        on mission profiles in C-17 contract specifications. Overall, all types of
                                        airlift aircraft carried average cargo weights per mission that were less
                                        than their maximum payload capacities. Table 2 provides a comparison of
                                        average cargo loads per aircraft type, carried during the deployment,
                                        versus maximum aircraft payload capacity.

Table 2: Average Cargo Weight Carried
Versus Maximum Cargo Capacity                                                                  Average cargo weight in
                                                                                   Maximum         pounds per mission
                                                                            payload capacity   December 1995 through
                                        Type of airlift aircraft                  in pounds             February 1996
                                        C-5                                         261,000                     53,192
                                        C-17                                        160,000                     39,784
                                        C-130                                         50,000                     7,181
                                        C-141                                         90,000                    17,003
                                        KC-10                                       169,500                     12,454

                                        As this table shows, none of the airlift aircraft carried maximum payload
                                        capacities during the deployment period we evaluated. The C-5 carried the
                                        largest reported average cargo weight per mission of 53,192 pounds while
                                        primarily performing intertheater missions, whereas the C-17 carried an
                                        average of 39,784 pounds while primarily performing intratheater
                                        missions. AMC representatives said that cargo weight data for C-130 aircraft
                                        was particularly unreliable since C-130 operators do not require tracking
                                        of total cargo weight on a per mission basis. In responding to a draft of this
                                        report, DOD noted that cargo weight plays a critical role in airlifter
                                        performance only in relatively rare missions when armored vehicles
                                        and/or ammunition are being carried. Further, DOD stated that less than
                                        maximum cargo weight does not equate to inefficient use of aircraft since
                                        maximum cargo volume, or the maximum volume of cargo that will fit into
                                        an airlifter, is usually reached before maximum cargo weight is reached.
                                        DOD also stated that since most airlift aircraft cargo loads reach maximum
                                        volume first, it would be unusual for any airplane to carry more than
                                        50 percent of its maximum payload weight. Finally, DOD stated that AMC
                                        tracks cargo weight since center-of-gravity information is a safety of flight
                                        issue; however, since cargo volume is not a safety of flight issue, AMC does
                                        not track cargo volume carried on any airframe in the fleet.

                                        Page 5                                         GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

                      The prime contractor for the C-17 used a variety of performance
                      parameters to assess C-17 performance during the deployment. DOD used
                      the same parameters to assess C-17 performance during RM&A evaluation
                      and initial operational test and evaluation. According to the contractor, the
                      C-17 achieved better than required performance levels for five key
                      maintenance and repair parameters during the December 1995 through
                      February 1996 time frame. In addition, the contractor reported the C-17
                      achieved a mission capable rate of 86.2 percent versus a requirement of
                      81.2 percent during the same time period.

                      The C-17’s overall departure reliability and logistics departure reliability
                      rates during the deployment also improved over those achieved during
                      recent RM&A evaluations, according to AMC representatives. Overall
                      departure reliability is the percentage of aircraft leaving no more than
                      20 minutes prior to and no later than 14 minutes after the scheduled
                      departure time. Logistics departure reliability rate is the percentage of
                      aircraft achieving on time departure not counting aircraft departure delays
                      caused by weather. According to AMC, between December 19, 1995, and
                      January 17, 1996, the C-17 achieved a logistics departure reliability rate of
                      97.8 percent and an overall departure reliability rate of 83.9 percent. The
                      C-17 also performed well when moving outsize cargo, according to AMC
                      representatives. Outsize cargo is defined as a single item that exceeds
                      1,000 inches long by 117 inches wide by 105 inches high in any one
                      dimension and requires the use of a C-5 or C-17 aircraft (an M-1 tank, for
                      example). AMC representatives listed the following examples of the C-17
                      moving outsize cargo during the deployment: one C-17 landed at Tuzla
                      with a self-propelled 155-mm howitzer, a support vehicle, and trailer;
                      seven C-17s moved 15 Bradley fighting vehicles plus support in 1 day
                      during the deployment; and three C-17s moved 25 pontoon bridge sections
                      to Hungary.

                      The Bosnia deployment airlift requirements did not include the need for
Deployment Did Not    any airlift aircraft to perform or demonstrate several of the airlift roles and
Include the           missions which the Army considers important operational capabilities for
Opportunity for the   the C-17 in providing support for certain Army missions. The C-17 had
                      trouble performing, or did not perform, several of these tasks during
C-17 to Perform the   operational testing and the RM&A evaluation. For example, Army reports on
Full Range of         the C-17 RM&A evaluation and initial operational testing results have raised
                      questions regarding the C-17’s ability to operate on short, wet runways;
Operational           perform personnel airdrops missions; and provide aeromedical

                      Page 6                                          GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

evacuation. The Bosnia deployment did not provide the opportunity for
any airlift aircraft to demonstrate these capabilities.

During initial operational testing, concerns surfaced regarding the C-17’s
ability to operate on short, wet runways. The Army defined a short austere
airfield as a 3,000-foot long runway, either paved or unpaved, for the
purpose of operational testing. Simulations have shown that, during a
landing on wet unpaved surfaces, the C-17 would slide off the end of a
3,000-foot long runway. Rather, simulations suggest that C-17 landings
with a full payload on a wet (paved or unpaved) surface would require a
5,000-foot runway. Since none of the runways used by any airlift aircraft
during the deployment were less than 7,8745 feet, the Bosnia deployment
did not provide the opportunity to assess any airlifter’s ability to operate
on short, wet runways.

The C-17 also did not have the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to
support personnel airdrops since no airlift aircraft had to fly such missions
during the Operation Joint Endeavor deployment. The Army considers
personnel formation airdrops a logical extension of its personnel airdrop
requirement and, primarily due to safety concerns, it did not certify
personnel formation airdrops for the C-17 during operational testing.
According to DOD, the Army and the Air Force are jointly working to
address C-17 formation personnel airdrop issues.

Airlift aircraft were also not required to perform aeromedical evacuations
during the Bosnia deployment. According to the Army’s report on C-17
initial operational test results, the C-17 demonstrated the capability to
move 36 patients versus an Army requirement to move 48 patients in an
aeromedical evacuation. Further, the Army notes that initial operational
testing found a number of other deficiencies in the C-17 aircraft that make
it unsuitable for use in performing routine aeromedical evacuations. But,
according to AMC, all current C-17s will be capable of fulfilling designated
aeromedical airlift roles by June 1997. According to DOD, in August 1996,
based on the AMC Commander’s recommendation to amend the published
C-17 aeromedical evacuation requirement, the requirement was changed
from 48 to 36 patient litters. DOD notes that while the AMC Commander
cannot change the requirement, the Commander can make declarations of
capability, and the new capability for 36 litters will be reflected in an
updated C-17 Operational Requirements Document.

 According to DOD, although the full 8,530-foot runway length at Sarajevo was available to the C-130, a
tunnel dug under the runway during previous fighting in Bosnia weakened the runway beyond
5,860 feet. For this reason, both C-141 and C-17 aircraft were restricted to using the first 5,800 feet.

Page 7                                                         GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

                  DOD  believes the C-17’s performance in the Bosnia deployment validates
Agency Comments   the November 1995 Defense Acquisition Executive’s decision to procure
                  an additional 80 C-17s, for a total of 120 aircraft. The scope of work for
                  this report did not include a validation/invalidation of that decision.
                  However, in our report, Military Airlift: Options Exist For Meeting
                  Requirements While Acquiring Fewer C-17s (GAO/NSIAD-97-38, Feb. 1997), we
                  suggested that Congress consider funding only 100 C-17s, which would
                  save over $7 billion in life-cycle costs over the 120 C-17 aircraft program.
                  We reported that DOD can meet mission requirements with 100 C-17s by
                  employing various low-cost options and by extending the use of
                  alternatives for accomplishing the extended range brigade airdrop.

                  DOD  also stated that it was inappropriate to include any discussion
                  regarding C-17 capabilities to perform short-wet runway operations,
                  personnel airdrops, and aeromedical evacuations in our report, since
                  during the deployment there were no missions requiring those capabilities.
                  We disagree. Our scope of work included an examination of the missions
                  that the C-17 performed during the deployment and a comparison of how
                  it was used versus its expected capabilities. A discussion of whether the
                  C-17 had the opportunity to perform the stated capabilities during the
                  deployment is appropriate to the discussion, since these are C-17
                  operational capabilities that have yet to be fully demonstrated. DOD also
                  provided suggestions for additional comments to be included in the report.
                  To the extent practical, those comments are reflected in the body of our
                  report. DOD’s written comments are included in appendix I.

                  To determine (1) how the C-17 was used during the deployment and
Scope and         (2) whether the deployment required airlift aircraft to perform any of the
Methodology       unique operational capabilities the C-17 is expected to perform, we
                  interviewed officials and obtained, reviewed, and analyzed reports and
                  electronic airlift transportation performance information. This information
                  was provided by the U.S. Transportation Command and AMC. We also
                  interviewed deployment airlift customers and analyzed reports and data
                  available from the U.S. European Command; the U.S. Army, Europe; and
                  the U.S. Air Forces, Europe; as well as discussed and documented their
                  observations concerning the performance of the C-17 from a customer

                  To determine the operational capabilities required and actually performed
                  during the deployment, we interviewed C-17 pilots, maintainers, and
                  loadmasters at the 437th Air Wing, Charleston Air Force Base, South

                  Page 8                                        GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

Carolina; and conducted interviews and analyzed reports on C-17
deployment experience from representatives of the 621st Air Mobility
Operations Group at Travis Air Force Base, California, who comprised and
operated the Tanker Airlift Control Elements at Zagreb, Croatia, and
Taszar, Hungary. The scope of our work did not include an assessment of
the cost-effectiveness of using one airlift aircraft to provide intratheater
airlift support versus another. However, we are currently assessing DOD’s
intratheater airlift requirements and will address the cost-effectiveness
issue in that report.

To assess reported airlift activity by aircraft type during the deployment,
we analyzed data contained in AMC’s Military Airlift Integrated Reporting
System (MAIRS) and the AMC History System (AHS). AHS is a database of
airlift sorties and is intended to replace MAIRS; however, AMC was using
both systems at the time of the Joint Endeavor deployment. AMC
representatives expressed concern about data accuracy and reliability of
both databases. At the time of our review, AMC officials could not provide
us with a statistical error rate or confidence level with which they, or we,
could rely on data derived from these systems. However, AMC used this
data to support some of its C-17 performance claims.

Our assessment of those databases supports various AMC representatives’
concerns regarding data reliability and accuracy. Our review of data within
these systems identified records containing questionable information. For
example, 57 records indicated that aircraft took off but never landed,
11 records indicated sorties had negative flying hour lengths, and
438 records indicated that airlift aircraft flew missions into Bosnia and/or
Hungary but carried no cargo or passengers. We presented our
observations in a fact sheet to AMC officials who agreed that our analysis
highlights some problems it needs to address. Further, they indicated
these problems could be the result of data input errors, lack of proper
review of data input in the theater, or a lack of system validation. AMC
officials also said that some of our concerns may have resulted from
problems with our analysis; however, AMC will need to perform a more
detailed review of the data to make that determination. AMC officials are
aware of inaccurate data and reliability problems associated with these
systems and have had an outside contractor working to resolve them since
March 1996. AMC said that the contractor underestimated the effort
required and had revised its completion date to the end of October 1996.
However, the contractor had not completed work by the time we prepared
this report in December 1996.

Page 9                                         GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

Although the accuracy of AMC’s data covering the activities of its airlift
aircraft is questionable, we attempted to obtain an accurate picture of how
the C-17 was used and how well it performed by contacting and
interviewing Air Force operational, maintenance, and loadmaster
personnel who were directly involved with operating the C-17 during the
Joint Endeavor deployment. We also interviewed AMC’s customers in the
European theater, including high-level Army and Air Force officials. In
addition to working with AMC to resolve data issues, we have drafted a
letter of inquiry for the Secretary of Defense regarding concerns we have
about the potential effect of unreliable and/or inaccurate airlift
performance and operational data. We are confident that, in general, we
have a fairly accurate picture of how the C-17 was used and how it
performed during the deployment, although AMC has not taken a formal
position on the reliability and/or accuracy of the specific data in its
databases. Since AMC had not performed a reliability assessment of these
systems, and because it is not able to provide a statistical error rate or
confidence level for data derived from these systems, all of this data must
be qualified.

We conducted our review from May to December 1996 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. We provided a draft of
this report to DOD and incorporated their comments where appropriate.
The department’s written comments are included in appendix I.

We are providing copies of this report to the appropriate House and
Senate Committees and the Secretaries of Defense, the Air Force, and the
Army. We will also provide copies to other interested parties upon request.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please call
me on (202) 512-5140. The major contributors to this report were William
C. Meredith, John G. Wiethop, and David J. Henry.

Mark E. Gebicke
Director, Military Operations
and Capabilities

Page 10                                       GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster

List of Congressional Committees

The Honorable Strom Thurmond
The Honorable Carl Levin
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate

The Honorable Ted Stevens
The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Floyd Spence
The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on National Security
House of Representatives

The Honorable C.W. Bill Young
The Honorable John P. Murtha
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on National Security
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

Page 11                             GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster
Appendix I

Comments From the Department of Defense

(703151)     Page 12          GAO/NSIAD-97-50 C-17 Globemaster
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