Defense Acquisitions: Progress of the F/A-18E/F Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-06-15.

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

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Report to Congressional Committees

June 1999

                   Progress of the
                   F/A-18E/F Engineering
                   and Manufacturing
                   Development Program

United States General Accounting Office                                                              National Security and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                        International Affairs Division

                                    B-281419                                                                                   Letter

                                    June 15, 1999

                                    Congressional Committees

                                    As required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999
                                    (P.L. 105-261), we reviewed the Navy’s F/A-18E/F developmental and
                                    operational test program. We presented the results of our review during
                                    testimony before the Subcommittee on Airland Forces, Senate Committee
                                    on Armed Services, on March 17, 1999.1 This report supplements that
                                    testimony by providing additional data on the aircraft deficiencies
                                    identified during the test program and discusses our conclusions regarding
                                    the E/F’s progress toward achieving established performance, schedule,
                                    and cost goals. Specifically, we (1) determined the extent to which the
                                    aircraft is meeting performance requirements, (2) identified risks
                                    associated with proceeding into operational test and evaluation (OPEVAL)
                                    with unresolved deficiencies, and (3) identified potential cost increases
                                    and risks associated with approving the Navy’s request for multiyear
                                    funding for the program. The act also requires that we certify whether we
                                    had access to sufficient information to make informed judgments on the
                                    matters covered by this report.

                                    Public Law 105-261 requires us to conduct annual reviews of the F/A-18E/F
                                    until the aircraft enters full-rate production. This report covers our first
                                    review under the act. During our next review, we will focus on determining
                                    whether beginning OPEVAL with a significant number of unresolved
                                    deficiencies will result in over reliance on modeling and simulation rather
                                    than actual flight testing. We will also determine whether test restrictions
                                    on the aircraft configuration or missions flown could invalidate OPEVAL

Results in Brief                    According to the Navy, the F/A-18E/F is meeting all performance
                                    requirements. We do not agree with the Navy’s assessment. The Navy
                                    based its assessment on the E model’s performance and assumed some
                                    improvements to the aircraft that have not yet been demonstrated. Without
                                    that assumption, the F model, which makes up over half of the E/F planned

                                     Defense Acquisitions: Progress of the F-22 and F/A-18E/F Engineering and Manufacturing Programs
                                    (GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113, Mar. 17, 1999).

                                    Page 1                                                GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

             buy, is not meeting the interdiction range requirement—a primary
             justification for the program.

             The Navy’s OPEVAL schedule, combined with unresolved aircraft
             deficiencies, could cause the E/F to fail OPEVAL. The Navy maintained its
             original schedule and started OPEVAL on May 27, 1999, even though
             completion of the development effort slipped from November 1998 to April
             1999. Because the Navy is maintaining its original OPEVAL schedule, the
             contractor has insufficient time to correct some critical deficiencies in the
             aircraft that, according to Navy criteria, should be corrected prior to
             OPEVAL. Department of Defense (DOD), Navy, and contractor personnel
             have stated that there is a medium risk that OPEVAL might find the E/F not
             operationally effective and/or suitable. Such a conclusion could result in a
             delay or postponement of the full-rate production decision and the need to
             conduct additional operational testing.

             Corrections of some deficiencies have been shifted to later in the program.
             This will help the Navy stay within the congressionally mandated
             developmental cost cap; however, correcting these deficiencies will
             increase the procurement costs of the aircraft. Congress is considering the
             Navy’s request for multiyear procurement of the F/A-18E/F. A key criterion
             for obtaining congressional approval for multiyear procurement is design
             stability. Correction of some E/F deficiencies could result in contract
             modifications and design changes to the aircraft, which increases the risk
             associated with Congress’s approving the Navy’s multiyear procurement
             request for the E/F at this time. We recommend in this report that the
             Secretary of Defense defer multiyear funding for the E/F program until all
             corrections of deficiencies have been incorporated into the aircraft design
             and successfully tested.

             The Navy and the contractors gave us access to sufficient information to
             make informed judgments on the performance of the aircraft. With respect
             to program costs, we requested estimates to correct the deficiencies
             identified during the test program; however, the contractor told us that
             such estimates are not available. We also requested the procurement unit
             cost comparisons that the contractor and the Navy program office had
             prepared of procuring 548 E/Fs to procuring 548 C/D model aircraft. The
             program office declined to provide us those comparisons.

Background   The F/A-18E/F program began in 1992 to increase the operational
             capabilities of the current fleet of F/A-18 aircraft. The objectives of the

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program are to provide improved capabilities over current F/A-18s in five
key areas–range, payload, carrier recovery payload, growth capacity, and
survivability. Congress capped the development effort at $4.88 billion (in
fiscal year 1990 dollars) and directed that the E/F unit procurement cost
not exceed 125 percent of current C/D model costs.

The F/A-18E/F development flight test program began in February 1996.
The Integrated Test Team, using five single-seat E models and two 2-seat F
models, is conducting the tests. Two early operational assessments of the
E/F aircraft, using wind tunnel data and analytical models, were made in
early 1996 and 1997. Two operational assessments of the E/F aircraft,
based on data obtained during test flights using the engineering and
manufacturing development aircraft, were conducted in November 1997
(OT-IIA) and in June through August 1998 (OT-IIB). The Navy’s Operational
Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR) conducted these assessments.

The Navy has contracted for 62 aircraft under three low-rate initial
production contracts. The first seven of these aircraft will be used to
conduct the next operational flight test phase of the program. That phase,
OPEVAL, is to be conducted during May–November 1999. The OPEVAL
results will be used to determine whether the E/F program should proceed
into full-rate production in March 2000.

We reported in June 1996 that current F/A-18s are not as deficient as the
Navy reported and that the F/A-18E/F would provide only a marginal
improvement in capability over the older F/A-18s at a significantly greater
cost.2 We recommended that DOD reconsider its plan to buy the E/F and
instead buy additional F/A-18C/Ds. DOD did not concur with our
recommendation and continued to believe that procuring the E/F was the
more cost-effective approach to modernizing the Navy’s tactical aviation

In March 1998 we reported that E/F flight test program officials had
identified numerous deficiencies that if not corrected in time could affect
the OPEVAL schedule or possibly cause the aircraft to have an
unsuccessful operational test and evaluation.3 We recommended that the
Navy not be allowed to procure any additional E/Fs beyond the 12 initially

2NavyAviation: F/A-18E/F Will Provide Marginal Operational Improvement at High Cost
(GAO/NSIAD-96-98, June 18, 1996).

    Navy Aviation: F/A-18E/F Development and Production Issues (GAO/NSIAD-98-61, Mar. 13, 1998).

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                       contracted for in March 1997 until the Navy demonstrated, through flight
                       testing, that identified deficiencies had been corrected and incorporated
                       into OPEVAL aircraft. DOD disagreed with that recommendation and
                       stated that testing had not identified any specific deficiencies that would
                       prevent the E/F from achieving an operationally effective level of

Extent to Which        The Navy is nearing completion of its F/A-18E/F development program.
                       The development flight test program began in February 1996 and was
F/A-18E/F Is Meeting   completed in April 1999. During this phase of the program, the Navy
Development            conducted both developmental and some limited operational testing using
                       the aircraft produced under the engineering and manufacturing
Performance            development phase of the program. Based on the results of that testing, the
Requirements           Navy reports that the E/F is meeting all performance parameters.

                       The Navy’s statements about the performance of the E/F reflect the
                       performance of the single-seat E model aircraft, not the 2-seat F model.
                       The second seat in the F model displaces fuel capacity, thereby reducing its
                       range. The Navy’s assessment was also based on estimates of improved
                       performance from anticipated changes to the aircraft, not all of which,
                       according to the contractor, may come to fruition. If these values are not
                       included in the performance estimates, the F model aircraft will be
                       33 nautical miles short of meeting the development interdiction range
                       requirement of 390 nautical miles. This is significant because (1) the F
                       model, which was originally planned to be used as a trainer aircraft and
                       therefore made up only about 18 percent of the total buy, now will be used
                       as an operational aircraft and makes up about 55 percent of the total buy
                       and (2) increased range over the current C/D aircraft was critical to
                       justifying the decision to buy the F/A-18E/F. The Navy formally reports that
                       the F/A-18E/F will have over 40 percent more range than F/A-18Cs.
                       However, initial E/F range predictions have declined as actual flight data is
                       gathered and incorporated into range prediction models. Test data
                       currently projects that the E model will have a range of 434 nautical miles,
                       or about 15 percent greater than the 376 nautical mile range demonstrated
                       by current F/A-18Cs. If the anticipated but not yet demonstrated range
                       improvements are not included in the range estimates, the F/A-18E
                       development interdiction range drops to 405 nautical miles, or about an
                       8-percent greater range than an F/A-18C.

                       Also, the Navy’s assessment of the E/F’s performance does not consider the
                       potential degradation of performance as a result of modifications to correct

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               unresolved deficiencies identified during the developmental and
               operational flight test programs. These deficiencies and their potential
               negative impacts relate to the aircraft’s combat range, payload,
               survivability, and ability to accommodate new, future systems. All of these
               areas were cited as improvements by the Navy when it justified the E/F

Combat Range   Potential solutions to problems found during the test program have
               resulted in a reduction in the E/F’s combat range. One of these problems, a
               condition described as “wing drop,” was observed early in 1996 during
               F/A-18E/F development tests and was described as an unacceptable,
               uncommanded abrupt lateral roll that randomly occurred at the altitude
               and speed at which air-to-air combat maneuvers are expected to occur. In
               October 1998, the OPEVAL Preparedness Team reported that the
               anticipated fix to the problem, replacing solid wing fold fairings with
               porous fairings, significantly reduced, but did not totally eliminate, the
               frequency and severity of wing drop. However, the porous wing fold fairing
               has caused buffeting of the aircraft. The magnitude of the buffeting was
               described as severe enough to affect the pilots’ voices and could also mask
               an aircraft malfunction, particularly for aircrews not accustomed to the
               sensation. This buffeting was projected to reduce aircraft range. However,
               the actual range decrease is not yet known because resolution of the
               problem is still being worked on and program officials will not have a
               complete understanding of the impact of the wing drop design fix until
               operational testing is completed at the end of 1999. According to program
               officials, the final production fixes to wing drop may involve something
               other than the porous wing fold fairing.

               Other range-related issues are associated with the Navy’s attempts to
               resolve design problems that had resulted in bombs colliding with each
               other or with the aircraft. To correct this problem, the Navy toed, or
               slanted, the inner wing pylons. However, that fix increased the drag on the
               aircraft and resulted in air loads on the pylons where the 480-gallon tanks
               would be carried that significantly exceed the load limit designed into the
               E/F wings in this area. If uncorrected, this deficiency would preclude the
               E/F from carrying 480-gallon external fuel tanks on each of the two inner
               wing stations specified for the interdiction mission and would prevent the
               aircraft from meeting its required range specification. The Navy is studying
               options for redesigning the pylons and their attachment to the aircraft to
               correct this problem.

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                        Aircraft range will also be affected by the extent to which pilots use
                        afterburner to compensate for deficiencies in the E/F’s climb, turn, and
                        acceleration rates. Using afterburner to overcome these deficiencies will
                        significantly increase fuel consumption and reduce mission range.

Payload and Bringback   The F/A-18E/F reportedly carries a 22-percent greater payload than existing
                        F/A-18s. This increased payload is the result of the E/F’s two additional
                        wing stations. However, development flight tests have revealed that the
                        E/F experiences noise and vibration under the wings and at the wing tips
                        that could damage air-to-air missiles carried by the aircraft. The Navy is
                        determining whether a redesign of the missiles will be necessary for them
                        to be carried on the E/F. Additionally, excessive loads on the inner wing
                        pylons have been caused by the closeness of these pylons to the aircraft
                        fuselage and to the toeing of the pylons. Current plans are to restrict what
                        can be carried on these pylons during OPEVAL until a fix is designed and
                        tested. The restrictions would prohibit the E/F from carrying dual MK-83
                        (1,000 pound) bombs on these pylons during OPEVAL, which would reduce
                        the payload capacity for the interdiction mission. We were told that the
                        aircraft could also have a problem landing on the carrier with unused
                        weapons (bringback) because of the significant stress on these pylons. The
                        Navy is still studying this issue and has not yet identified a final fix.

Survivability           The Navy planned to improve F/A-18E/F survivability relative to existing
                        F/A-18s by reducing its susceptibility to detection and if detected the
                        probability of being destroyed. Initial operational tests cite concerns about
                        E/F survivability systems. While the specifics on E/F survivability are
                        classified, the unclassified portions of the test reports identify concerns
                        with the ALE-50 towed decoy and the ALR-67 radar warning receiver. The
                        ALE-50 towed decoy is designed to improve F/A-18E/F survivability by
                        attracting enemy missiles to the decoy and away from the aircraft. The line
                        that tows the decoy has been burning off when it crosses the heat path of
                        the engine when the engine is in afterburner. The problems relative to the
                        ALR-67 radar warning receiver involve the receiver’s ability to provide
                        accurate information on the direction of arrival of enemy threats. The
                        Procurement Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft identified E/F
                        survivability issues as the major challenges facing the E/F program.

Growth Space            In justifying the need for the F/A-18E/F, the Navy stated that it needed more
                        space than was available on existing F/A-18s to accommodate additional

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                      new systems without having to remove existing capability. The Navy
                      reports that the F/A-18E/F will have 17 cubic feet of growth space.
                      However, program documents show that only 5.46 cubic feet of that space
                      will be usable for growth. We reported in 1996 that growth space was
                      available within the C/D. The Navy’s F/A-18 upgrade road map shows that
                      most of the upgrades planned for the E/F are also planned for installation
                      on C/Ds, which demonstrates that the C/Ds have growth space.

Test Schedule and     The objective of OPEVAL is to field test the E/F under realistic combat
                      conditions to determine the aircraft’s operational effectiveness and
Unresolved            suitability for use in combat by typical military users against threat forces
Deficiencies Cause    and targets. For OPEVAL tests, the Navy plans to use production-
                      representative aircraft that are being produced under the first low-rate
Risks to Successful   initial production contract. The OPEVAL results will be used to determine
OPEVAL                whether to proceed into full-rate production of the F/A-18E/F. Accordingly,
                      the primary questions are whether the aircraft is ready to advance into
                      OPEVAL and whether successful completion of that evaluation is highly
                      probable. Test results indicate that the Navy faces significant challenges
                      regarding each of those questions.

                      F/A-18E/F development was scheduled to be completed by November 1998,
                      with OPEVAL beginning in May 1999. That schedule would have provided
                      time to correct deficiencies in the aircraft before their use during OPEVAL.
                      However, additional test requirements, caused by the need to test
                      corrections of deficiencies such as wing drop, have caused the completion
                      of the development flight test program to slip to April 1999. As a result of
                      the development program delay and the Navy’s decision to begin OPEVAL
                      in May 1999 as originally scheduled, the contractor will not have time to
                      correct some aircraft deficiencies that according to the Navy’s criteria
                      should be fixed before OPEVAL. In that regard, the OPEVAL Preparedness
                      Team, which comprises DOD, Navy, and contractor personnel, meets
                      periodically to determine whether the E/F is ready for OPEVAL. On
                      February 25, 1999, the team held its final meeting before the scheduled
                      start of OPEVAL. At that meeting, the team concluded that 71 E/F
                      deficiencies would not be corrected until after OPEVAL. The Navy’s
                      criteria indicate that 23 of those deficiencies should be corrected prior to
                      OPEVAL. These deficiencies consist of the problems associated with the
                      ALE-50 towed decoy, the ALR-67 radar warning receiver, and the wing
                      pylon loads. In addition, they include such things as vibration that damages
                      ordnance, delamination of the composite surface layers of the horizontal
                      tail, and problems with the nose landing gear tires and wheels during

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catapult testing. The Preparedness Team concluded that there is a medium
risk that the E/F will not successfully complete OPEVAL without first
correcting these deficiencies. The Preparedness Team’s agreement to
proceed into OPEVAL was based on the existence of correction plans to
address these deficiencies.

The Navy began OPEVAL on May 27, 1999. However, it plans to impose
some operational limits on the aircraft during OPEVAL as a result of
deficiencies that cannot be corrected prior to OPEVAL. For example, as
previously discussed, the E/F will not be permitted to carry dual MK-83
bombs because of the excessive air loads they put on the inner wing

The E/F operational test team has completed two operational assessments,
using aircraft produced during the EMD phase of the program, that relate
to the potential for a successful OPEVAL. Those assessments, referred to
as OT-IIA and OT-IIB, were conducted in November 1997 and from June
through August 1998, respectively. Based on these assessments, the
operational testers assigned a level of risk relative to a successful OPEVAL
to each critical operational issue tested. Table 1 shows that the testers
identified two operational effectiveness issues with significant risk
(air-to-air weapons and survivability) and six with moderate risk.

Table 1: Critical Operational Issues

Critical operational issue               OT-IIA risk               OT-IIB risk
Air-to-air weapons                       Not assessed              Significant
Survivability                            Significant               Significant
Fighter escort                           Moderate                  Moderate
Combat air patrol                        Little or no risk         Moderate
Air combat maneuvering                   Not assessed              Moderate
Air-to-ground sensor performance         Moderate                  Moderate
Air-to-ground weapons                    Moderate                  Moderate
Air-to-air sensor performance            Moderate                  Moderate
Source: Navy operational test reports.

The operational testers’ OT-IIB assessment identified 29 major deficiencies
in the E/F. The deficiencies related to such things as the E/F’s ability to
accelerate, turn, climb, and roll. Essentially, the E/F does not do as well in
these areas as the F/A-18C aircraft. Additionally, the testers identified

Page 8                                              GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

buffeting and lateral instability, or drift, as flying quality deficiencies. They
also listed as major problems the ALE-50 towed decoy and the capability of
the radar warning receiver to indicate the direction of oncoming threats.
The specific deficiencies identified by the operational testers4 are as

•      poor climb performance above 30,000 feet;
•      low acceleration;
•      airframe buffet;
•      high angle of attack and agility and controllability;
•      slow response to control inputs, slow loaded energy addition rate, and
       excessive speed loss during air combat maneuvering;
•      tactically ineffective sustained turn rate;
•      insufficient cooling capacity for seekers on air-to-air weapons;
•      improper indication of direction of arrival of oncoming threat systems;
•      damage to AIM-9 missile assemblies caused by wing tip environment;
•      ALE-50 tow line burn-off in afterburner;
•      difficulty maintaining lateral trim;
•      under-wing environment damages aircraft stores;
•      unsafe delivery of Rockeye bomb;
•      aircraft radar deficiency;
•      leading edge extension difficulties;
•      inconsistent brake effectiveness;
•      inadequate cooling capability of the fuel thermal management system;
•      Targeting Forward Looking Infrared Radar resolution and

Appendix I describes each of these deficiencies and discusses their
potential impact on the E/F’s ability to perform its missions.

The operational testers recommended that the E/F continue to be
developed. They stated, however, that they based their recommendation
on continued improvements in the E/F’s current maneuvering performance
and the development of follow-on systems that they considered essential to
get the operational effectiveness projected for the E/F. These
improvements include such things as the Active Electronic Scanned Array
radar, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, the AIM-9X missile, and
the Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasure System.

    Our list does not total 29 deficiencies because we combined closely related deficiencies.

Page 9                                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

                        In addition to the risks to OPEVAL identified by the operational testers and
                        the OPEVAL Preparedness Team, the Program Risk Advisory Board,
                        comprising Navy and contractor personnel, in its January 1999 assessment
                        stated that there is a medium risk that OPEVAL might find the E/F not
                        operationally effective and/or suitable, even if all development
                        specification requirements are met. The Board stated that the consequence
                        of this type of conclusion from OPEVAL could result in a delay or
                        postponement of the full-rate production decision and the need to conduct
                        additional operational testing.

F/A-18E/F Costs and     The Navy reports that the F/A-18E/F development effort will be completed
                        within the $4.88 billion (in fiscal year 1990 dollars) development cost
Request for Multiyear   ceiling established by Congress. However, as of the end of February 1999,
Funding                 71 identified deficiencies had not been corrected. Correction of these
                        deficiencies will be accounted for as procurement, not development, costs.
                        The contractor said that estimates of the costs of correcting these 71
                        deficiencies are not available. In addition, Boeing has identified 99
                        deficiencies in the aircraft that it believes it is not required to correct under
                        the development contract. Estimates of the cost of correcting these
                        deficiencies are also not available.

                        The Navy’s unit procurement cost estimate for the E/F assumes that it will
                        accrue $1.3 billion of savings if Congress approves the Navy’s request for
                        multiyear funding as part of the fiscal year 2000 authorization and
                        appropriation process. Approval of such funding has historically depended
                        on the ability to obtain significant savings, a stable system design, an
                        adequately validated requirement, and a commitment to stable funding
                        over the life of the contract. The concerns raised within DOD about the
                        uncertainty that the E/F will successfully complete OPEVAL and the
                        number of unresolved issues, like the final solution to wing drop and
                        buffeting and the inner wing pylon load concerns that could require design
                        changes to the aircraft, increase the risk associated with congressional
                        approval of the E/F multiyear funding request at this time.

Conclusions and         The F/A-18F model is not meeting its interdiction range requirement–a
                        primary justification for the program. The aircraft has some critical
Recommendation          deficiencies that, notwithstanding Navy criteria to the contrary, will not be
                        corrected until after OPEVAL. Correcting these deficiencies later in the
                        program will enable the Navy to remain within the development cost cap

                        Page 10                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

                      but will increase the unit procurement cost of the aircraft. The impact of
                      correcting these deficiencies on the cost and final design of the aircraft are
                      factors critical to Congress’ decision on whether to approve the Navy’s
                      pending request for multiyear procurement of the E/F aircraft.

                      Given the uncertainty surrounding the F/A-18E/F’s final design and the
                      Navy’s intention not to correct all deficiencies and test those corrections as
                      part of OPEVAL, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense defer
                      multiyear funding for the E/F program until all corrections of deficiencies
                      have been incorporated into the aircraft design and successfully tested.

Agency Comments and   In its written comments on our draft report DOD did not agree with our
                      recommendation. DOD stated that no deficiencies have been identified
Our Evaluation        that would require a major redesign of the aircraft or are serious enough to
                      warrant not awarding a multiyear contract. To take this position, DOD is
                      assuming that all major deficiencies will be corrected with minimum
                      impact on aircraft design, cost, or schedule. Specifically, DOD stated that
                      although the aircraft will have 84 major deficiencies when it enters
                      OPEVAL, 50 of them have a road map for solutions and funding. This
                      indicates that the Navy has a plan in place to correct the deficiencies, but
                      the Navy did not specify the dates for incorporating and testing the
                      corrections. We continue to believe that the deficiencies should be
                      corrected and validated through flight testing before the program is
                      approved for multiyear funding. Therefore, we reaffirm our

                      DOD also took issue with our statement that the F/A-18F is not meeting its
                      interdiction range requirement. DOD stated that someone unfamiliar with
                      the E/F program might assume this represents a serious deficiency in the
                      program, which DOD said is not the case. The purpose of our statement
                      was to put into perspective Navy statements that the E/F program is
                      meeting all performance requirements. DOD’s comments affirm that the F
                      model is not meeting the interdiction range requirement, but by a tactically
                      insignificant amount. Thus, the issue has evolved into differing
                      perspectives on the magnitude of the F model’s range deficiency.

                      We reported that the range of the two-seat F model aircraft is 33 nautical
                      miles short of the interdiction range requirement, and DOD stated that the
                      deficiency is only 3 nautical miles. The essence of the difference between
                      our conclusion and the Navy’s relates to (1) whether projected but not yet
                      demonstrated and approved range improvements are included in the

                      Page 11                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

projections and (2) what development engine is used to make the
projections. The interdiction range deficiency that we reported reflects
data that Boeing provided us. The data identified various planned range
improvement efforts. The planned improvements included reducing
aircraft weight, increasing the amount of internal fuel, and using a more
efficient engine. Boeing officials stated that since these planned
improvements had not yet been demonstrated and approved, they were not
included in their range calculations. For the same reason, the planned
improvements and their potential effect on E/F range were not included in
our reported range figures.

The Navy range projections include the projected improvements and are
based on a better performing engine than the one used in the contractor’s
estimates. In its comments, DOD stated that while Boeing is required by
the development contract to use minimum new engine performance in its
calculations, the Navy elected to use the Full Performance Qualification
(FPQ) engine in its projections. The FPQ engine is a better performing,
more efficient engine that will get greater range than the one used in
Boeing’s range calculations. Using the FPQ engine, the Navy estimates the
interdiction range shortfall of the F model aircraft to be 3 nautical miles.
Our concerns about the Navy’s use of the FPQ engine in its range
projections stem from the fact that while Navy officials said that the engine
had successfully completed all demonstration, analysis, and testing
required for full qualification, the FPQ report, dated December 28, 1998,
identified a number of exceptions to full performance qualifications.
Specifically, the report stated that a number of engine parts have not yet
met life limits and redesign efforts are underway. Other engine redesign
efforts identified in the report include addressing the fact that the engine
exceeds specified weight limits, is experiencing engine stalls, and has not
demonstrated required reliability. We did not attempt to update the status
of the engine redesign efforts and their impact on the E/F’s range to further
reconcile the difference between our and the Navy’s E/F range projections
because such a reconciliation is not warranted at this stage of the E/F
program. OPEVAL of the F/A-18E/F began on May 27, 1999. The flight
demonstrated range of the E/F under realistic combat conditions will
provide a more meaningful assessment of the aircraft’s range than any
mathematical calculations that either we or the Navy might make outside

DOD disagreed with statements in our report that the number and type of
F/A-18E/F deficiencies that testing has identified pose a significant risk to
passing OPEVAL. DOD stated that the 84 unresolved major deficiencies

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that the E/F will have when it enters OPEVAL are significantly fewer than
the number of unresolved deficiencies that the earlier F/A-18A/B model had
when it entered OPEVAL and pose an acceptable level of risk to
successfully completing OPEVAL. We did not compare the number of
unresolved F/A-18A/B deficiencies with unresolved E/F deficiencies
because the F/A-18A/B aircraft was a new aircraft development program
and the E/F is a modification program. Given that distinction, it is
understandable that the A/B aircraft program would have had more
deficiencies. However, the readiness of the aircraft to begin and
successfully complete OPEVAL is not exclusively dependent upon the
number of deficiencies, but rather on the significance of the deficiencies
and the status of their resolution.

Regarding the significance and status of the deficiencies, DOD stated that
the Navy is following the deficiency resolution process defined in
SECNAVINST 5000.2. This Navy instruction provides the criteria that must
be met for an aircraft to be certified as being ready for OPEVAL. One of the
criteria states that “for aircraft programs, there are no unresolved Board of
Inspection and Survey Part I (*) or Part I (**) deficiencies.5” Further
elaboration of this point is contained in the Board of Inspection and
Survey’s implementing instruction (INSURVINST 13100.1E), which states
that “in general, systems with Part I (**) and Part I (*) deficiencies will not
be recommended for OPEVAL.” We conservatively applied these criteria
and included only those deficiencies identified as Part I (**) in our report.
DOD’s comments on our draft report did not segregate the 84 E/F major
deficiencies into these deficiency categories. In addition, the Navy
considers 50 of the 84 deficiencies to be resolved based on the existence of
a correction plan. The remaining 34 major deficiencies apparently have not
yet been resolved to that point. We believe DOD’s comments validate the
OPEVAL Preparedness Team’s conclusion stated in our report that
beginning OPEVAL without correcting these deficiencies results in a
medium risk that the E/F will not successfully complete OPEVAL.

Separate from DOD’s comments, the Navy provided information on its
efforts to correct some of the major unresolved deficiencies identified
during testing of the E/F aircraft. Essentially, the Navy commented on its
plans to incorporate corrections of these unresolved deficiencies.

  Part I (**) deficiencies are defined as those where there is a high probability that the deficiency will
cause aircraft control loss, equipment destruction, or injury. Part I (*) deficiencies are defined as those
that would cause excessive operator compensation to accomplish the primary or alternate mission.

Page 13                                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

However, those plans do not alter our position that multiyear funding
should not be approved for the F/A-18E/F program until these corrections
of deficiencies have been incorporated into the aircraft and successfully

We conducted our review from September 1998 through June 1999 in
accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. Our objectives,
scope, and methodology are included in appendix II. DOD’s comments are
reprinted in appendix III.

We are sending copies of this report to the Honorable William Cohen,
Secretary of Defense; the Honorable Richard Danzig, Secretary of the Navy;
and the Honorable Jacob Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget.
Copies will also be made available to others on request.

Please contact me at (202) 512-4841 if you or your staff have any questions
concerning this report. The major contributors to this report were Steven
Kuhta, Jerry Clark, Stacy Edwards, and Charles Burgess.

Louis J. Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues

Page 14                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

List of Congressional Committees

The Honorable John W. Warner
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 D. Spence
The Honorable Ike Skelton
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
The Honorable John P. Murtha
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

Page 15                            GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions

Letter                                                                                              1

Appendix I                                                                                         18
Major F/A-18E/F
Deficiencies Identified
During OT-IIB

Appendix II                                                                                        22
Objectives, Scope, and

Appendix III                                                                                       24
Comments From the
Department of Defense

Tables                    Table 1: Critical Operational Issues                                      8


                          DOD      Department of Defense
                          FPQ      Full Performance Qualification
                          OPEVAL   operational test and evaluation
                          OPTEVFOR Operational Test and Evaluation Force

                          Page 16                                GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Page 17   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix I

Major F/A-18E/F Deficiencies Identified
During OT-IIB                                                                                   AppenIx

               The OT-IIB report listed 29 major deficiencies in the F/A-18E/F. The
               following discusses the deficiencies and their impact on the aircraft’s
               ability to perform its missions. Our list does not total 29 deficiencies
               because we combined closely related deficiencies. We extracted the
               information from unclassified deficiency reports prepared by the
               Integrated Test Team.

               Poor climb performance above 30,000 feet. The F/A-18E/F’s best climb
               performance was in the low 30,000-foot range, with intermediate power.
               Although higher altitudes may have been possible, the climb rate was too
               slow to be useful in most tactical scenarios. Performance predictions
               indicate that combat and tactical ceilings for the newer F/A-18Cs (Lot XIX)
               are greater than that of the F/A-18Es when the aircraft are similarly loaded
               with weapons and fuel tanks. The E/Fs low tactical ceiling reduced the
               mission effectiveness of the aircraft when in the fighter escort
               configuration against high, fast-flying enemy aircraft by limiting the regions
               where the E/F could effectively launch its air-to-air missiles.

               Low acceleration. The E/F’s maximum level flight airspeed was
               determined to be less than both the F/A-18C and other threat aircraft in
               similar fighter configurations at all investigated altitudes. This deficiency
               reduced the E/F’s effectiveness against high, fast-flying aircraft and
               provided insufficient airspeed when the E/F was attempting to exit a
               combat situation.

               Airframe buffet. The magnitude of buffet has been described as moderate
               to heavy. At higher levels, the aircraft shakes to the extent that the heads-
               up displays appear to vibrate. The displays remain readable but are blurred
               slightly and legibility is somewhat degraded. During some turns at subsonic
               speed and low altitude, buffet forces the pilot to divert significant attention
               to maintaining the desired flight path, and combat effectiveness decreases
               as a result. During some landings, buffet has been heavy enough to be
               interpreted as an aircraft malfunction. Heavy airframe buffet during
               catapult launches would result in dramatic increases in the required wind-
               over-deck for high gross weights, thereby restricting operational capability.

               Inadequate high angle of attack agility and controllability. The time
               required to reverse the aircraft from a nose high to a nose low position took
               significantly longer than desired and prevented the aircraft from
               dominating aggressive positions during fights. The aircraft frequently
               gained the offensive advantage but lost the advantage during the reversal

               Page 18                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix I
Major F/A-18E/F Deficiencies Identified
During OT-IIB

from nose high to nose low. As a result, mission effectiveness would be
reduced and aircraft loss is possible.

Slow response to control inputs, slow loaded energy addition rate, and
excessive speed loss during air combat maneuvering. Air combat
maneuvering placed the aircraft in the high angle of attack/low airspeed
flight regime. To maintain a tactical advantage, the pilots tried to increase
the airspeed by reducing the angle of attack. Pilots noted that reducing the
angle of attack to the desired level took an unacceptable amount of time in
regaining airspeed. As a result of the loss of airspeed, the pilots would lose
the advantage during air combat maneuvering, resulting in reduced tactical
utility and possible loss of aircraft and aircrew during actual air combat.

Tactically ineffective sustained turn rate. The current performance data
indicate that the aircraft might not meet the F/A-18E specification
requirement in this area. This would result in a potential reduction in
performance during combat turns.

Insufficient cooling capacity for seekers on air-to-air weapons. The current
nitrogen bottle will not cool the seekers on air-to-air weapons for the
duration of a combat air patrol mission. It is possible to delay cooling the
missiles until the aircraft enters a threat area, but this is operationally
unacceptable. The bottles will have to be changed after every flight
because of their short life. However, changing the bottles requires the E/F’s
wings to be unfolded on the carrier deck. This would delay deck
operations and the availability of the aircraft to conduct its next flight
(carrier cycle time).

Improper indication of direction of arrival of oncoming threat systems.
The ALR-67 (V)3 radar warning receiver’s left/right discrimination is
inadequate. While evaluating air-to-air tactics during one-on-one
intercepts, the radar warning receiver angle of arrival at times significantly
disagreed with actual target locations. On a number of occasions, the
actual target location was on one side of the aircraft nose, and the
displayed direction of arrival was on the other side. The difference was, at
times, substantial. Poor radar warning receiver direction of arrival
information would result in degradation of situational awareness and poor
aircrew defensive reaction. This would lead to loss of tactical advantage
and might result in loss of aircraft and aircrew.

Damage to AIM-9 missile assemblies caused by wing tip environment.
Structural failure of AIM-9 Sidewinder hanger on the wing tip stations

Page 19                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix I
Major F/A-18E/F Deficiencies Identified
During OT-IIB

could result in damage to the missile and launcher or an increase in
required aircraft maintenance. If undetected, the missile damage would
result in hazardous separation and/or decreased missile effectiveness.
AIM-9 missile hanger failure might be the result of the F/A-18E/F’s severe
wing tip environment.

ALE-50 tow line burn-off in afterburner. During in-flight evaluation of the
ALE-50, decoys and associated towlines were severed when engine
afterburners were engaged. Towlines typically failed within seconds of
afterburner initiation, which will occur during missile defense and air
combat maneuvering. This deficiency would result in the loss of active
electronic countermeasures protection and would directly increase the
threat to aircraft and crew during enemy missile attacks.

Difficulty in maintaining lateral trim. The aircraft did not readily maintain
lateral trim without frequent pilot inputs. The failure of the airplane to
maintain lateral trim was not associated with any particular maneuver but
rather a variety of maneuvers throughout the flight envelope. This
condition would significantly increase the pilot’s workload, distracting him/
her and severely degrading the performance of more critical mission tasks.

Under-wing environment damages aircraft stores. Damage has been
discovered on numerous stores (attachments and ordnance) carried
beneath the aircraft’s wings. The damage is the result of the noise and
vibration beneath the wings. Failure of items carried underneath the wings
could result in loss of or damage to the aircraft and/or loss of mission

Unsafe delivery of Rockeye bomb. Clearance was insufficient when the
Rockeye bomb was carried on the inboard wing station and the Tactical
Forward Looking Infrared Radar was carried on the aircraft’s fuselage
station. This close proximity is not compatible with safe separation

Aircraft radar deficiency. The APG-73 radar, new to the aircraft, was slow
to lock onto a target during air combat maneuvering. Delayed and
unreliable radar acquisitions would result in lost first-shot opportunities
and in delayed time to kill, which reduces tactical performance and

Leading edge extension difficulties. Footing on the leading edge extension
was not secure during cockpit ingress/egress. As a result of the small

Page 20                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix I
Major F/A-18E/F Deficiencies Identified
During OT-IIB

walkway and steep slope of the leading edge extension and inadequate
traction, the aircrew or maintenance personnel could slip off the aircraft
during cockpit ingress/egress and experience serious injury.

Inconsistent brake effectiveness. Braking performance was noticeably
inadequate during landings by aircraft returning to the carrier without
weapons. The primary turnoff was missed and the secondary turnoff was
narrowly made. Poor, degraded, or unpredictable braking performance
would result in longer landing rollout, turnoff overshoot, and decreased
braking sensitivity for ground handling/positioning. Inability to stop the
aircraft reliably could result in an aborted landing attempt or injury to
ground personnel during aircraft positioning on the flight line or flight

Inadequate cooling capability of the fuel thermal management system.
During several missions flown on hot days, test aircraft experienced “FUEL
HOT” cautions either shortly after takeoff or prior to mission completion.
The “FUEL HOT” conditions resulted in the inability of the fuel to cool the
aircraft’s fluids that cool the radar and other aircraft systems. In-flight
“FUEL HOT” cautions could result in premature mission abort, degraded
cooling of accessories such as the radar and hydraulics, and reduced
reliability/life of engine management systems.

Targeting Forward Looking Infrared Radar deficiencies. Aircrew
determined that as a result of resolution and magnification deficiencies
with the aircraft’s Targeting Forward Looking Infrared Radar, they could
not classify air-to-air and air-to-ground targets. Aircrew would have
difficulty quickly and accurately designating a discrete target. Additionally,
target identification would require excessive head-down time, during
which the weapon system operator would be unable to scan the electronic
warfare display and look outside the aircraft for potential threats.

Page 21                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix II

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                                            AppeInx

              Our objectives were to (1) determine the extent to which the F/A-18E/F is
              meeting performance requirements, (2) identify risks associated with
              proceeding into operational test and evaluation (OPEVAL) with unresolved
              deficiencies, and (3) identify potential cost increases and risks associated
              with approving the Navy’s request for multiyear funding for the program.

              To determine whether the program was meeting performance
              requirements, we compared contractor and program management
              performance measurements and projections with the five key performance
              improvements over current F/A-18s that the F/A-18E/F was intended to
              provide. We also reviewed contractor and Navy comparisons of the
              aircraft’s current performance relative to the development contract
              specifications and to key performance parameters established in the Navy’s
              F/A-18E/F Operational Requirements Document. Additionally, we
              reviewed reports on the limited operational assessments conducted in
              November 1997 (OT-IIA) and from June through August 1998 (OT-IIB) to
              identify the measured performance of the F/A-18E/F relative to numerous
              critical operational issues and to existing F/A-18s.

              We also interviewed officials in the Navy’s Operational Test and Evaluation
              Force responsible for conducting the operational assessments, including
              the test pilots who flew the operational tests, to obtain their assessment of
              the aircraft’s current and potential performance as well as its performance
              compared to current F/A-18s.

              To identify risks associated with proceeding into OPEVAL with unresolved
              deficiencies, we reviewed documents prepared by the Program Risk
              Advisory Board and the OPEVAL Preparedness Team. These documents
              and interviews identified operational performance deficiencies that the
              operational testers, the Advisory Board, and the OPEVAL Preparedness
              Team concluded could adversely affect the F/A-18E/F’s probability of
              successfully completing OPEVAL, which is to be conducted from May
              through November 1999.

              To identify potential cost increases and risks associated with approving the
              Navy’s request for multiyear funding for the program, we analyzed reports
              and other program documents prepared by contractor and Navy officials
              responsible for tracking program costs. Regarding the multiyear funding
              request, we analyzed the Navy and the contractor lists of aircraft
              deficiencies and assessed their impact relative to the criteria that must be
              met to obtain multiyear funding—significant savings, a stable system

              Page 22                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix II
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

design, an adequately validated requirement, and a commitment to stable
funding over the life of the contract.

Page 23                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix III

Comments From the Department of Defense                                       AppIeInx

Note: GAO’s comment
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the end
of this appendix.

See comment 1.

                                Page 24   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix III
Comments From the Department of Defense

Page 25                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
Appendix III
Comments From the Department of Defense

Page 26                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
                   Appendix III
                   Comments From the Department of Defense

                   The following is our comment on the Department of Defense’s (DOD) letter
                   dated May 12, 1999.

GAO Comments       1. DOD’s statement that a separate interdiction range requirement for the
                   F/A-18F was never included in the Operational Requirements Document is
                   not accurate. An interdiction range requirement of 390 nautical miles for
                   both the E and F model aircraft was included in the final Operational
                   Requirements Document dated April 1, 1997.

(707373)   Letrt   Page 27                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-127 Defense Acquisitions
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