Defense Acquisition: Progress of the F-22 and F/A-18E/F Engineering and Manufacturing Development Programs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-03-17.

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

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Subcommittee on Airland Forces, Committee
                          on Armed Services, U.S. Senate

For Release of Delivery

Expected at

1:30 p.m., EST
                          DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS

March 17, 1999

                          Progress of the F-22 and
                          F/A-18E/F Engineering and
                          Development Programs
                          Statement of Louis J. Rodrigues, Director, Defense
                          Acquisitions Issues, National Security and International
                          Affairs Division

          Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

          I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Air Force’s F-22 and the Navy’s
          F/A-18E/F engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) programs.
          Related GAO reports are listed in appendix I. The National Defense
          Authorization Acts for Fiscal Years 1998 and 1999 require us to review and
          report annually on these programs. My testimony is based on our work in
          response to these mandates.

Summary   The F-22 and F/A-18E/F programs are approaching critical investment
          decision points, and each faces significant challenges. The F-22 is
          approaching a decision for undertaking production activities and the E/F is
          getting ready to enter the Operational Test and Evaluation (OPEVAL)
          phase. Regarding the F-22 program, although the Air Force estimates it can
          complete the F-22 EMD program within the nearly $19-billion cost limit
          established by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998,
          in 1998, F-22 costs exceeded budgets, and work was not always completed
          as scheduled. The Air Force is exploring ways to keep EMD costs within
          the congressional limit, but there are several obstacles. For example:

          • The Air Force and F-22 contractors have identified potential cost
            increases totaling $667 million. If not addressed, F-22 EMD costs will
            rise above the cost limit. Plans are being developed to address the
            increase but have not been finalized. According to the Air Force, some
            planned EMD activities will be deferred, reduced, or eliminated.
          • The contractor notified the Air Force that F-22 program costs may
            increase further if sales of C-130J aircraft, which are manufactured in
            the same plant as the F-22, are lower than anticipated because the F-22
            program will have to absorb a higher share of the plant’s overhead costs.
          • First flights of the next four test aircraft are expected to be late,
            reducing the time available to accomplish flight tests before EMD is
            completed. If the Air Force is not able to effectively revise its test
            schedule, some planned EMD activities will need to be deferred,
            reduced, or eliminated.
          • Development of the F-22’s integrated avionics systems has been delayed,
            and the schedule for completing avionics development appears
            unrealistic. If EMD completion must be delayed for avionics
            development, additional costs will be incurred.

          The Air Force plans to start F-22 production activities later this year by
          awarding contracts to procure the first 6 low-rate initial production aircraft

          Page 1                                                      GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
and initiate advance procurement of the next 10 aircraft. However,
because of delays in the EMD program, the Air Force has substantially
reduced or delayed the testing it had planned to accomplish before
awarding the contracts. In 1994, the Air Force planned to have 1,400 flight
test hours completed before starting production activities. Now, the Air
Force plans to complete 511 flight test hours. Progress of the flight test
program so far indicates that achieving 511 hours will be difficult. In
addition, completing static and fatigue tests on the airframe structures has
now been delayed until after contract award. Likewise, early flight testing
of an F-22 equipped with its integrated avionics will not be accomplished,
as previously planned, before contract award.

In terms of the F/A-18E/F program, we do not agree with the Navy’s
assessment that the program is meeting all performance requirements and
is on schedule and on cost. 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 buy, is not meeting the
interdiction range requirement—a primary justification for the program.
Department of Defense (DOD), Navy, and contractor personnel have
reported that even if the E/F meets all performance specifications, it might
fail the next phase of operational testing, known as OPEVAL. Regarding
the program’s schedule, although completion of the development effort has
slipped from November 1998 to April 1999, the Navy intends to maintain its
original schedule to start OPEVAL in May 1999. Consequently, the
contractor has insufficient time to correct some critical deficiencies in the
aircraft that, according to Navy criteria, should be corrected prior to
OPEVAL. Conducting OPEVAL with these unresolved deficiencies could
invalidate OPEVAL results.

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. And finally, the correction
of some deficiencies could result in design changes to the aircraft. This
increases the risk associated with Congress approving the Navy’s multiyear
procurement request for the E/F program at this time.

I would now like to discuss the basis for our conclusions on each of these

Page 2                                                     GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
F-22 Program          Concerned about growing costs on the F-22 program, the Assistant
                      Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, in June 1996, established the
                      Joint Estimating Team (JET) to estimate the most probable costs of the
                      F-22 EMD and production programs. The JET concluded in 1997 that
                      additional time would be required to complete EMD and estimated that
                      EMD costs would increase by $1.45 billion to $18.688 billion. The JET
                      recommended slowing manufacturing for a more efficient transition from
                      development to low-rate initial production and adding 12 months to
                      complete avionics development. The JET also estimated that the
                      production costs for 438 F-22s would increase by $13.1 billion to about
                      $61.2 billion. The JET identified initiatives that it expected would offset the
                      production cost increase. The Air Force and Under Secretary of Defense
                      for Acquisition and Technology generally adopted the JET’s
                      recommendations. 1

                      The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 established a
                      cost limit of $18.688 billion (an amount that mirrored the JET estimate) for
                      the F-22 EMD program and $43.4 billion for the production of 339 F-22s.
                      The act instructed the Secretary of the Air Force to adjust the cost
                      limitations for the amounts of increases or decreases in costs attributable
                      to economic inflation and compliance with changes in federal, state, and
                      local laws. Since then, the Air Force has adjusted the EMD cost limit to
                      $18.880 billion and the production limit to $39.759 billion to account for
                      changes in inflation and to move costs associated with out-of-production
                      parts from production to EMD.

F-22 EMD Costs Have   Contractor cost experience and studies in 1998 indicate that cost growth
                      threatens the Air Force’s ability to complete EMD within the congressional
Increased             cost limit. During 1998, because costs were exceeding budgets and work
                      was behind schedule, Lockheed Martin and the Air Force studied the EMD
                      program and identified potential cost increases of $667 million. 2 The
                      increases are attributed primarily to (1) problems in manufacturing the aft

                       For more information on the JET’s recommendations, see Tactical Aircraft: Restructuring of the Air
                      Force F-22 Fighter Program (GAO/NSIAD-97-156, June 4, 1997).

                        In February 1999, the Air Force stated that additional costs would be incurred because of problems
                      manufacturing wings. The Air Force estimated that another $22 million would have to be added to the
                      increase of $667 million identified in 1998. As a result, the Air Force will be required to identify offsets
                      to remain within the cost limitation.

                      Page 3                                                                               GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
                             fuselage, horizontal tails, engine air inlets, and castings that attach the wing
                             to the aircraft’s body and (2) problems developing the aircraft’s integrated
                             avionics systems.

Plans to Address Potential   Because the increases would cause the EMD program to exceed the cost
Cost Growth                  limit, the Air Force is exploring ways to defer, reduce, and eliminate
                             activities. Actions and potential cost reductions include

                             • deferring testing to certify that the F-22 can effectively carry external
                               weapons ($140 million),
                             • reassessing testing associated with a helmet targeting system and the
                               AIM-9X missile ($110 million),
                             • reducing contractor laboratory costs for the test program ($100 million),
                             • reducing government costs for special studies ($50 million),
                             • implementing Lockheed Martin cost reduction plans ($80 million), and
                             • applying contractor management reserves ($185 million).

Potential Impact of C-130J   The $667-million increase does not include the effects that lower-than-
Sales on Program             anticipated sales of C-130J cargo aircraft may have on F-22 costs.
                             Lockheed Martin, which produces the C-130J and the F-22 in its Marietta,
                             Georgia plant, notified the Air Force that the F-22 EMD program would
                             have to absorb a higher share of the plant’s overhead if fewer C-130Js are
                             sold than expected. According to the Defense Contract Management
                             Command at Marietta, the added cost to the F-22 program would be about
                             $150 million to $160 million per year if C-130J production were to cease.

                             According to DOD officials, increased costs would have to be absorbed
                             only partially by the F-22 EMD program because other business may
                             develop. They indicated that Lockheed Martin was negotiating potential
                             sales of C-130Js with several foreign governments. DOD had not, however,
                             determined how these actions would impact the F-22 program. In our
                             report issued earlier this week, we recommended that the Secretary of
                             Defense evaluate how decisions regarding C-130J production are likely to
                             impact the F-22 EMD program and assess the Air Force’s ability to negate
                             additional overhead costs that may be allocated to the F-22.

                             Page 4                                                        GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
F-22 Is Experiencing        Schedules for EMD aircraft and avionics development had not been met
                            through December 1998. As a result, test aircraft are expected to be
Delays                      delivered late and ground and flight test activities cannot be completed as

Problems Have Caused Late   The first two F-22 EMD aircraft were flight tested through most of
Deliveries and Reduced      December 1998. Flight testing began about 3 months later than planned
                            for the first aircraft and began on time for the second aircraft. However,
Flight and Ground Testing
                            because of manufacturing problems, the Air Force estimates that the next
Time                        four flight test aircraft will be delivered late. Flight testing for these four
                            aircraft is scheduled to begin 2 weeks to over 5 months late. As a result, the
                            Air Force has 16.9 fewer flight test months available to complete flight
                            testing. The Air Force is studying ways to reduce the flight test hours
                            required. Also, the two ground test aircraft are expected to start testing 6 to
                            8 months late. If the Air Force cannot effectively revise its test schedule,
                            additional deferments or deletions will be needed to remain within the cost

                            Table 1 compares the 1997 scheduled first flight dates with the expected
                            first flight dates as of January 1999.

                            Table 1: Schedules for First Flights of EMD Aircraft
                                                                                          January 1999                 Delay
                            EMD aircraft                           1997 schedule             schedule            (in months)
                            4001                                     May 29, 1997    September 7, 1997a                  3.3
                            4002                                      July 9, 1998       June 29, 1998a                 -0.3
                            4003                                    June 16, 1999    November 22, 1999                   5.2
                            4004                                  August 17, 1999      February 3, 2000                  5.6
                            4005                                 January 11, 2000        March 31, 2000                  2.7
                            4006                                     May 18, 2000          May 30, 2000                  0.4
                            4007                               September 25, 2000    September 25, 2000                    0
                            4008                                 February 2, 2001      February 2, 2001                    0
                            4009                                     June 1, 2001          June 1, 2001                    0
                            Total                                                                                       16.9
                                Actual date of first flight.

                            Page 5                                                                        GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
                        The first flight delays were caused by (1) problems developing and
                        manufacturing large titanium castings that attach the wing to the aircraft’s
                        body and (2) late deliveries of the aft fuselage—the rear aircraft body
                        section. Air Force officials believe they have solved the problems causing
                        late deliveries of the aft fuselage but are continuing to seek solutions to the
                        wing problem. Air Force officials told us in February 1999 that continuing
                        problems with late wing deliveries will further delay first flights for the
                        third through the sixth test aircraft by another 2 to 6 weeks. Air Force
                        officials are seeking ways to avoid these further delays.

Avionics Development    Avionics development and integration is a challenge for the F-22. The JET
Behind Schedule         review in 1997 recommended that avionics development be extended
                        12 months. The Air Force, however, did not adopt the recommendation.
                        The Air Force has experienced software, hardware, and integration
                        problems with the F-22’s communication, navigation, and identification and
                        electronic warfare avionics systems. Because of these problems, the Air
                        Force developed a revised avionics schedule in August 1998, allocating
                        more time to complete the first two avionics segments, known as blocks 1
                        and 2.3

                        The August 1998 schedule, while extending completion dates for blocks 1
                        and 2, did not change the completion dates for subsequent blocks 3 and
                        3.1,4 even though the majority of initial software development tasks related
                        to these last two segments have been delayed from 1 to 18 months. In fact,
                        the Air Force estimates that blocks 3 and 3.1 can be completed 5 months
                        earlier than what the JET considered realistic. If it takes longer to
                        complete blocks 3 and 3.1, additional costs will be incurred.

Issues About Starting   Later this year, the Air Force plans to award contracts to procure the first
                        6 low-rate initial production aircraft and initiate advance procurement of
Production Activities   the next 10 aircraft. However, because of delays in the EMD program, the
                        Air Force has reduced or delayed much of the testing it had planned to
                        accomplish before awarding the contracts. For example, in 1994, the Air

                          Blocks 1, 2, 3S, 3, and 3.1 are all designed to have increased capability over the previous block. The
                        last phase of development for each block begins when it is placed on the aircraft for testing.

                          The revised schedule also adds block 3S between blocks 2 and 3. In adding this block, the Air Force
                        moved some block 3 activities ahead for earlier evaluation. This did not change the planned completion
                        date for block 3 activities, however, which is scheduled later.

                        Page 6                                                                              GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
                         Force planned to complete 1,400 flight test hours before starting
                         production activities. Now, the Air Force is planning to have 511 flight test
                         hours completed. The slow progress of the flight test program so far this
                         year indicates that achieving 511 hours will be difficult. In addition,
                         completing static and fatigue tests on the airframe structures has now been
                         delayed until after contract award. And there will be no flight testing of an
                         F-22 equipped with its integrated avionics as originally planned before
                         contract award.

Limited Flight Testing   Through December 1998, the Air Force accumulated about 200 flight test
Completed                hours. When the contract is awarded in December 1999 for 6 low-rate
                         initial production aircraft and advance procurement for the next
                         10 aircraft, the Air Force plans to have 511 flight test hours completed,
                         considerably fewer hours than previously planned. Table 2 shows that the
                         amount of flight testing planned to be completed before production has
                         been reduced significantly in recent years.

                         Table 2: F-22 Flight Test Hours
                         Flight test               Hours planned before                 Percent planned
                         schedule as of               production award          before production award
                         November 1994                            1,400                               27
                         May 1997                                  601                                14
                         January 1999                              511                                12

                         To accomplish 1999 flight testing, the Air Force plans to complete 173
                         flights and 311 test hours. While Air Force plans call for completing 13
                         flights and 23.4 hours through March 1999, the Air Force is likely to
                         complete only 2 flights and 3.9 test hours.

                         The Air Force has two aircraft, 4001 and 4002, available for testing in 1999.
                         However, Air Force officials said that 4001 is not scheduled to resume flight
                         testing until May 10 and 4002 is not scheduled to resume flight testing until
                         March 31.

                         Table 3 shows that completing 311 flight test hours in 1999 will require a
                         more demanding flight test program than the Air Force planned.

                         Page 7                                                     GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
                            Table 3: Planned Flight Testing for 1999
                                                                       Average flights    Average flight test
                            Flight test                                    per month       hours per month
                            Plan for 1999                                        14.4                   25.9
                            Required to achieve 1999 plan                        19.2                   34.5

                            In 1998, the F-22 completed 200 hours (averaging 13.8 flights and 31.6 hours
                            per month), which was enabled by deferring ground tests and maintenance
                            and providing dedicated refueling support and priority to test center assets.
                            According to the Director for Operational Test and Evaluation, this kind of
                            support may not be available for the remainder of EMD test operations. If
                            the Air Force is not successful in completing the planned flight testing by
                            the time the contract is awarded, it will have fewer than 511 flight test
                            hours and less flight performance data upon which to base its production

Delayed Testing of Ground   Structural testing of the airframe was to be completed by December 1999.
Test Articles               However, static testing—designed to ensure the airframe will withstand
                            stresses expected throughout the F-22 flight envelope—will not be
                            completed until February 2000. And fatigue tests—designed to ensure the
                            airframe will withstand stresses expected during prolonged operational
                            use—will not be completed until September 2000. Table 4 shows the
                            completion dates for these tests according to the JET schedule and the Air
                            Force’s current plan.

                            Table 4: Completion Dates for Static and Fatigue Tests
                            Type of test                       JET schedule                    Current plan
                            Static                             October 1999                   February 2000
                            Fatigue                          December 1999                  September 2000

                            Failure to complete these tests before contract award increases risk. For
                            example, when the C-17 static test aircraft was undergoing a stress test,
                            both wings on the aircraft buckled before they reached the ultimate design
                            limits. Serious damage occurred inside the wing where the ribs and
                            strengtheners were fractured. If the test aircraft were flying and
                            encountered this type of a failure, it would have caused the aircraft to

                            Page 8                                                       GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
No Avionics Flight Testing   The Air Force intended to flight test an F-22 equipped with its integrated
                             avionics package in August 1999. However, that is not expected to occur
                             now until February 2000, after contract award. Integrated avionics is one
                             of the critical features of the F-22 and is expected to provide pilots
                             previously unmatched awareness of potential threats and targets.

                             Mr. Chairman, I will now turn to the F/A-18E/F program.

F/A-18E/F Program

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

                             Our review showed that the Navy’s statements about the performance of
                             the E/F reflect the performance of the E model aircraft, not the less capable
                             F model. Also, the statements reflect the projected aircraft performance,
                             not the actual performance being demonstrated in flight tests. Specifically,
                             the Navy’s performance values include anticipated, but not yet
                             demonstrated, range improvements. If these values are not included in the
                             performance estimates, the F model aircraft will be 33 nautical miles short
                             of meeting its interdiction range requirement. 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 20 percent of the total buy, now
                             comprises about 56 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 miles 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 interdiction range drops to 405 nautical miles, or
                             about 8 percent greater range than an F/A-18C.

                             Page 9                                                     GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
Another qualification I would offer is that 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 unresolved deficiencies
identified during the developmental and operational flight test programs.
These deficiencies and their potential negative impacts relative to the areas
cited by the Navy when it justified the E/F program are as follows.

Combat Range

Early in 1996, a condition described as “wing drop” was observed during
F/A-18E/F development tests. The phenomenon 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 anticipated fix to the problem, replacing
solid wing fold fairings with porous fairings, was flown and 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. Buffeting
reduces aircraft range; however, the actual range decrease is not yet known
because resolution of the problem is still being worked on. 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 were resulting 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 has 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 the two 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.

Aircraft range will also be affected by the extent of afterburner use 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.

Page 10                                                    GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
Payload and Bringback

The F/A-18E/F is reported to have a 22-percent increase in payload over
existing F/A-18s. This increased payload is the result of the two additional
wing stations that the E/F has. However, development flight tests have
revealed that the E/F is experiencing noise and vibration 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, the 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 reduces the
payload capacity for the interdiction mission. We were told that the
underwing pylon loads problem could also result in a problem returning to
the carrier with unused weapons (bringback) because carrier landings
would exert significant stress on these pylons. The Navy is still studying
this issue and has not yet identified a final fix.


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 have to do with the receiver’s ability to
provide accurate information on the direction of arrival of enemy threats.
E/F survivability issues comprised the majority of challenges that the
Procurement Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft identified 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

Page 11                                                    GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
                      new systems without having to remove existing capability. The Navy
                      reported early in the F/A-18E/F program that the aircraft would have
                      21 cubic feet of growth space. This was revised, and it is now reported 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 the 17 cubic feet will be usable
                      growth space. We reported in 1996 that growth space was available within
                      the C/D. The Navy’s F/A-18 upgrade roadmap shows that most of the
                      upgrades planned for the E/F will also be installed on C/Ds, which
                      demonstrates that the C/Ds have growth capability.

                      The performance issues I have been discussing relate to the E/F’s
                      performance during the developmental and initial operational test phases
                      of the program. I will now discuss the next phase of the program—

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

                      F/A-18E/F development was scheduled to be completed by November 1998,
                      with OPEVAL scheduled to begin in May 1999. This would provide time to
                      correct deficiencies in the aircraft that would be used for 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 plan to retain the May 1999
                      OPEVAL schedule, the Navy will not have time to correct aircraft
                      deficiencies before OPEVAL, which according to the Navy’s criteria, should
                      be fixed. 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

                      Page 12                                                    GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
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 bomb-to-bomb collisions, delamination of the composite surface
layers of the horizontal tail, and problems with the nose landing gear tires
and wheels during catapult testing.

Notwithstanding these unresolved deficiencies, the Navy plans to begin
OPEVAL as originally scheduled in May 1999. Consequently, during
OPEVAL the Navy plans to use modeling or tests of other systems before
they are incorporated into the E/F as the basis for making some OPEVAL
assessments. The Navy also plans to impose some flight restrictions on the
aircraft during OPEVAL as a result of the wing pylons load problem.

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 in June and
August 1998, respectively. Based on the test results, the operational testers
assigned a level of risk relative to a successful OPEVAL to each critical
operational issue tested. Table 5, which we extracted from the operational
test reports, shows that the testers identified two operational issues with
significant risk (air-to-air weapons, and survivability) and six with
moderate risk.

Table 5: Critical Operational Issues
Critical operational issues                           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

The operational testers’ assessment of the E/F identified 29 major
deficiencies with the aircraft. The deficiencies related to such things as

Page 13                                                       GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
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 buffeting and lateral instability, or drift, as flying quality
deficiencies. They also listed problems with the ALE-50 towed decoy and
the radar warning receiver’s problems with indicating the direction of
oncoming threats as major concerns. Some of the specific deficiencies
identified by the operational testers are as follows:

•   poor climb performance above 30,000 feet,
•   low acceleration,
•   insufficient transonic and supersonic acceleration,
•   high angle of attack agility and controllability,
•   slow response to control inputs,
•   tactically ineffective sustained turn rate,
•   excessive speed loss during air combat maneuvering,
•   incapability to safely deliver the Rockeye bomb when carrying the
    Tactical Forward Looking Infrared Radar,
•   insufficient cooling capacity for seekers on air-to-air weapons,
•   damage to AIM-9 missile assemblies caused by wing tip environment,
•   limited life of AIM-7 missile flown on under wing stations,
•   improper indication of direction of arrival of oncoming threat systems,
•   ALE-50 tow line burn-off in afterburner,
•   inconsistent brake effectiveness, and
•   imprecise and difficult trimability.

The operational testers recommended that the E/F continue to be
developed. They stated, however, that their recommendation was based on
continued improvements in the E/F’s current maneuvering performance
and the development of follow-on systems that they considered essential to
be able 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.

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 performance
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

Page 14                                                        GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
                        full production decision and the need to conduct additional operational

                        To summarize, many obstacles affect the E/F’s ability to undergo OPEVAL,
                        and there is risk that the program might not successfully complete

                        I will now discuss the cost of the E/F aircraft and the Navy’s pending
                        request for multiyear funding for the program.

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 will not be corrected during the development
                        effort. Correction of these deficiencies will be accounted for as
                        procurement, not development, costs. The Navy said that estimates for
                        correcting these 71 deficiencies are not available. In addition, Boeing has
                        identified 105 deficiencies in the aircraft that it believes it is not required to
                        correct under the development contract. Estimates for correcting these
                        deficiencies are also not available.

                        Also, the Navy’s unit procurement cost estimate for the E/F assumes
                        $1.3 billion of savings that is contingent upon Congress’ approval of
                        multiyear funding as part of the fiscal year 2000 authorization and
                        appropriation process.

                        Regarding the Navy’s request for multiyear authority, such approval 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
                        as well as 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
                        Congress approving the E/F multiyear funding request.

                        In summary, Mr. Chairman, we believe it is unlikely that the Air Force will
                        be able to keep the F-22 EMD program, as planned, within the cost limit
                        established by Congress. In addition, we are concerned about the
                        significant reduction the Air Force has made in the tests planned to be

                        Page 15                                                        GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
completed before awarding contracts to initiate advance procurement to
accelerate F-22 production.

With regard to the E/F, the OPEVAL test plan has not yet been approved by
the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation. We plan to monitor the
OPEVAL effort as part of our next effort under the congressional mandate
for annual reviews of the program. During that effort, we plan to determine
whether extensive modeling and simulation, and any other test restrictions,
could invalidate OPEVAL results.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I will be happy to respond to
any questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee might have.

Page 16                                                   GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
Page 17   GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
Page 18   GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
Page 19   GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
Related GAO Products

F-22 Program          F-22 Aircraft: Issues in Achieving Engineering and Manufacturing Goals
                      (GAO/NSIAD-99-55, Mar. 15, 1999).

                      F-22 Aircraft: Progress of the Engineering and Manufacturing Program
                      (GAO/T-NSIAD-98-137, Mar. 25, 1998).

                      F-22 Aircraft: Progress in Achieving Engineering and Manufacturing
                      Development Goals (GAO/NSIAD-98-67, Mar. 10, 1998).

                      Tactical Aircraft: Restructuring of the Air Force F-22 Fighter Program
                      (GAO/NSIAD-97-156, June 4, 1997).

                      Defense Aircraft Investments: Major Program Commitments Based on
                      Optimistic Budget Projections (GAO/T-NSIAD-97-103, Mar. 5, 1997).

                      F-22 Restructuring (GAO/NSIAD-97-100BR, Feb. 28, 1997).

                      Tactical Aircraft: Concurrency in Development and Production of F-22
                      Aircraft Should Be Reduced (GAO/NSIAD-95-59, Apr. 19, 1995).

                      Air Force Embedded Computers (GAO/AIMD-94-177R, Sept. 20, 1994).

                      Tactical Aircraft: F-15 Replacement Issues (GAO/T-NSIAD-94-176, May 5,

                      Tactical Aircraft: F-15 Replacement Is Premature as Currently Planned
                      (GAO/NSIAD-94-118, Mar. 25, 1994).

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

                      F/A-18E/F Production Decision Should Be Delayed (GAO/NSIAD-97-106R,
                      Mar. 4, 1997).

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

(707406)       Lert   Page 20                                                   GAO/T-NSIAD-99-113
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