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Tactical Aircraft: F-15 Replacement Is Premature as Currently Planned
(Letter Report, 03/25/94, GAO/NSIAD-94-118).

Since the F-22 program entered full-scale development in 1991, the
severity of the projected military threat has declined. Instead of
confronting thousands of modern Soviet fighters, U.S. air forces are
likely to face adversaries with few fighters capable of challenging the
F-15--the U.S. front line fighter. GAO found that the F-15 exceeds the
most advanced threat expected to exist. GAO assumed that no improvements
will be made to the F-15 but the capability of the "most advanced
threat" assumes some modifications. GAO's analysis suggests that the
current inventory of F-15s can be economically maintained in a
structurally sound condition until 2015 or later. Thus, the F-15's
initial operational capability can be delayed seven years and its
planned production start date of 1996 can be postponed to a future date
that the Pentagon deems appropriate to meet the new initial operational
capability date. In addition to a declining need for the F-22 to counter
threats, the aircraft has not been designed to handle multiple missions
or joint use among the services, important features for future solution
for tactical aircraft modernization. The F-22, as designed, will be a
land-based fighter unable to operate from aircraft carriers. Further,
the F-22 is designed mainly for one mission--air superiority against
opposing fighters.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-94-118
     TITLE:  Tactical Aircraft: F-15 Replacement Is Premature as 
             Currently Planned
      DATE:  03/25/94
   SUBJECT:  Advanced weapons systems
             Military aircraft
             Military procurement
             Systems design
             National defense operations
             Air warfare
             Fighter aircraft
             Military cost control
             Life cycle costs
IDENTIFIER:  F-22 Aircraft
             F-15 Aircraft
             Persian Gulf War
             Warsaw Pact
             Soviet Union
             China
             Airborne Warning and Control System
             AWACS
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Chairman, Legislation and National Security
Subcommittee, Committee on Government Operations, House of
Representatives

March 1994

TACTICAL AIRCRAFT - F-15
REPLACEMENT IS PREMATURE AS
CURRENTLY PLANNED

GAO/NSIAD-94-118

Tactical Aircraft


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  DOD - Department of Defense

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-253662

March 25, 1994

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman, Legislation and National
 Security Subcommittee
Committee on Government Operations
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

In December 1993, we issued to the House and Senate Committees on
Armed Services and the Subcommittees on Defense, Committees on
Appropriations, a classified report on the F-22 as the planned
replacement for the F-15.  As you subsequently requested, this is an
unclassified version of that report.  The report presents the results
of the first of a series of reviews we plan to conduct on the F-22
program.  We currently have underway a review of the program's
development progress and a review of the management of F-22 software
development. 

The development and production of F-22 air superiority fighters is
estimated to cost $99.1 billion (then-year dollars).  The F-22, with
operational capability planned for 2003, is designed to replace the
Air Force's F-15 air superiority fighter, which began operations in
the mid-1970s.  To ascertain why the F-22 was needed to replace the
F-15, we have evaluated information provided by the Department of
Defense (DOD) describing performance characteristics of foreign
weapon systems that may be encountered in air-to-air combat, and
compared it with features of the F-15 weapon system.  Considering the
huge investments required for tactical aviation modernization
programs, we also evaluated whether the F-22, as designed, had the
potential for joint use among the services and for use in multiple
missions, which are being emphasized by the Under Secretary of
Defense for Acquisition.\1 Appendix I contains our review's scope and
methodology. 


--------------------
\1 Statement on Tactical Aviation by the Under Secretary of Defense
for Acquisition, to the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, May 12, 1993. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The F-22 program was initiated in 1981 to meet the evolving threat in
the mid-1990s.  This threat revolved around a fighter threat that had
a significant quantitative advantage and was becoming more capable
with the introduction of two new high performance fighters. 

Since the F-22 program entered full-scale development in 1991, the
severity of the projected military threat in terms of quantities and
capabilities has declined.  Instead of confronting thousands of
modern Soviet fighters, U.S.  air forces are expected to confront
potential adversary air forces that include few fighters that have
the capability to challenge the F-15--the U.S.  front line fighter. 
Our analysis shows that the F-15 exceeds the most advanced threat
system expected to exist.  We assumed no improvements will be made to
the F-15 but the capability of the "most advanced threat" assumes
certain modifications.  Further, our analysis indicates that the
current inventory of F-15s can be economically maintained in a
structurally sound condition until 2015 or later. 

Thus, the F-22's initial operational capability can be delayed 7
years and its planned production start date of 1996 can be postponed
to a future date deemed appropriate by DOD to meet the new initial
operational capability date. 

In addition to a declining need for the F-22 to counter threats, the
aircraft has not been designed to emphasize multiple missions or
joint use among the services, important features for future solutions
for tactical aircraft modernization, according to the Under Secretary
of Defense for Acquisition.  The F-22, as designed, will be a
land-based fighter, not capable of operating from Navy aircraft
carriers.  Further, the F-22 is principally designed to perform one
mission--air superiority against opposing fighters. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

Air superiority means dominating the air battle to the extent that
friendly air and surface forces can conduct operations without
prohibitive interference by enemy air forces.  During the Persian
Gulf War, coalition air forces achieved air superiority during the
first few hours.  Only 33 air-to-air encounters occurred between U.S. 
and adversary fighters.  F-15s were involved in 31 of these 33
encounters and succeeded in each one. 

The F-22 is one of several planned Air Force and Navy aircraft
production programs associated with the tactical aircraft
modernization program.  DOD approved the initiation of F-22
engineering and manufacturing development in 1991 and the start of
production is planned for January 1996 with the purchase of long lead
production materials.  The Air Force plans to take delivery of the
first 5 production aircraft in 1999 and an additional 80 by the time
the aircraft achieves initial operational capability in 2003. 


   THE PROJECTED FIGHTER THREAT
   LESS FORMIDABLE THAN PREVIOUSLY
   PROJECTED
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The break up of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union lessened the
quantity and the quality of the projected fighter threat.  For
example, in 1993, DOD identified seven countries that typify the
fighter forces that pose a threat to the United States.  Except for
China, these countries have fighter forces that range from a low of
188 to a high of 460 aircraft.  And all seven countries currently
have only a few high-performance fighters that come close to matching
the F-15's performance capabilities. 

In contrast, the U.S.  Air Force has about 900 F-15s.  Because the
foreign high-performance fighter aircraft are expensive, DOD believes
that few purchases of these aircraft will be made in the future. 


   U.S.  AIRCRAFT CHARACTERISTICS
   EXCEED THE PROJECTED THREAT
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

Our analysis shows the existing F-15C was superior in four out of
five major performance categories against the most likely advanced
fighter threat.  Further, our analysis assumes no improvements will
be made to the F-15s but the capability of the most advanced threat
assumes certain modifications.  Our detailed analysis has been
classified by DOD. 

In addition to having superior aircraft, the U.S.  Air Force has
other capabilities that enhance its air superiority mission that
potential adversaries lack.  The E-3 Airborne Warning and Control
System is considered by DOD to be the most advanced command and
control system in the world, assisting tactical aircraft in locating,
identifying, tracking, and attacking enemy aircraft at great
distances.  DOD officials also consider U.S.  pilot training methods
to be far more advanced than any foreign country.  U.S.  pilots are
often trained in advanced combat tactics that are not taught anywhere
else. 


   F-15S ARE EXPECTED TO HAVE
   SERVICE LIFE UNTIL 2015
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

DOD cited, as a factor in its 1981 decision to replace the F-15,
projected limits on the F-15's structural service life.  However, a
1990 DOD evaluation indicated that the F-15s might have a service
life longer than originally expected.  Since then, testing has
demonstrated that the Air Force can further extend the F-15's service
life.  Based on this recent testing, our analysis shows that none of
the 918 F-15s that were in the inventory in July 1992 will begin to
exceed their expected economic service lives until 2014. 


   F-22 AS DESIGNED OFFERS LITTLE
   VERSATILITY FOR NAVY ROLES OR
   SURFACE ATTACK MISSIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

As currently designed, the F-22 will be a highly specialized aircraft
to be used by one service--the Air Force--to perform one mission--air
superiority.  The F-22 program does not appear to meet all the
tactical modernization goals set forth by the Under Secretary of
Defense for Acquisition.  The Under Secretary testified in May 1993
that DOD intended to take full advantage of commonality and jointness
in tactical modernization programs, emphasizing both multimission or
multirole platforms and commonality among the services. 

During the air war in the Persian Gulf, there was not a need for
large numbers of fighters having only the capability to perform air
superiority missions.  Of the 215 Iraqi aircraft destroyed or
captured, 182 were destroyed on the ground by bombs or were captured
by ground troops.  Only 33 aircraft, or 15 percent, were destroyed in
air-to-air combat.  DOD's report to Congress, Conduct of the Persian
Gulf War, indicated that few Iraqi aircraft left the ground, in large
measure, because U.S.  forces quickly destroyed the Iraqi air defense
command and control network. 

The F-22 is currently designed to operate from land bases only.  It
cannot operate from Navy carriers or readily be converted for such
operations.  Although the F-22, like other fighters, has some
inherent air-to-ground capability, the F-22 program is not funded to
develop that capability.  DOD said plans are now being made to
initiate development of an air-to-ground capability for the F-22. 

The Defense Science Board, in a report on the modernization of
tactical aviation forces, stated that in the future, the greater
economic constraints and lower rates and quantities of combat
aircraft to be acquired will tend to make the use of common aircraft
and/or components more attractive than it has been in the past.  They
recognized that this may require some compromise in mission
capabilities.  For example, Air Force applications of a common
aircraft for land and aircraft carrier use may be heavier than they
would be if designed only for land-based operations.  We agree with
the Board and also believe that the less formidable military threat
could make certain compromises acceptable that would not have been
acceptable prior to the changes in the projections of the future
threat. 

The theme that the services need to cooperate was sounded again by a
special task force sponsored by the Board to evaluate the fiscal
implications of DOD's proposed future years defense plans.  The task
force noted the need for the services to cooperate in the development
of future systems because of future funding shortfalls.  It concluded
that the aircraft programs now under development will not all be
affordable at the funding levels projected for the rest of this
decade. 


   RECOMMENDATIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

Because F-15s, by most measures, are more capable than the most
likely threat related to the air superiority mission and because
F-15s are expected to have service lives extending until 2014, we
recommend that the Secretary of Defense defer the initial operational
capability of the F-22 7 years and adjust the currently planned
production start date accordingly.  In addition, because the F-22, as
designed, does not incorporate the features of multiservice use and
multimission capability being articulated by the Under Secretary of
Defense for Acquisition, we also recommend that the Secretary
reconsider whether it is appropriate to continue the development of
the F-22 as a single-service aircraft designed principally to perform
only the air superiority mission. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR
   EVALUATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

In commenting on a draft of the classified report, DOD disagreed with
our recommendations and stated that although there had been
substantial changes to the world order, DOD is convinced its
direction on the F-22 program is correct.  Further, DOD did not
concur with our characterizations of (1) the threat, (2) current U.S. 
capability, (3) F-22 capabilities, and (4) its objectives for
aircraft modernization. 

Our threat information comes from DOD intelligence agencies and we
believe it is accurately characterized.  Concerning the capabilities
of the F-15, DOD merely argues that the F-22 would do a better job
than the F-15.  We do not necessarily disagree with this, but suggest
that a more realistic view would be that the United States does not
need the extra air superiority by 2003 as planned, considering the
costs involved and the unlikely increase in the threat.  Our report
is based on a methodology used by DOD for comparative evaluations of
the characteristics of fighters, and on discussions with responsible
DOD officials.  Aircraft characteristics were obtained from defense
intelligence organizations and Air Force weapon system program
offices.  Therefore, we believe the concerns set forth in the DOD
comments concerning the characterization of the threat and current
U.S.  capabilities are unfounded. 

We have modified the report to recognize that the F-22 has some
inherent air-to-ground capability (like most other fighter aircraft)
and that DOD has initiated plans to develop that capability. 

The agency comments also indicate that DOD has no policy that
requires aircraft to be designed for multiservice use or that
requires the same aircraft be used to meet the common needs of the
services.  However, these comments appear to be at odds with the May
1993 congressional testimony of the Under Secretary of Defense for
Acquisition. 

The full text of the DOD comments and our evaluation of them are
contained in the classified version of this report. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :8.1

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Defense, the
Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the original four
congressional requesters, and other interested parties.  Major
contributors to this report are listed in appendix II.  Please
contact me on (202) 512-4841 if you or your staff have any questions
concerning this report. 

Sincerely yours,

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Systems Development
 and Production Issues


SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
=========================================================== Appendix I

In conducting our work, we visited the Defense Intelligence Agency;
the Foreign Aerospace Science and Technology Center; the F-22, F-16,
and F-15 System Program Offices; and the Development Planning
Directorate at the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Center (Air Force
Materiel Command). 

In making aircraft performance comparisons, we examined documents
regarding the capabilities of threat aircraft, including the
Multicommand Manual 3-1, Threat Reference Guide and Countertactics. 
Using performance categories and scenarios from this document, which
Air Force officials agreed provided pertinent categories for
comparison, we requested consistent foreign and U.S.  aircraft
performance data from the applicable Defense organizations.  We
received foreign aircraft information from the Air Force's Foreign
Aerospace Science and Technology Center (Air Force Intelligence
Command), and U.S.  aircraft information from the F-14, F-15, F-16,
F-18, and F-22 System Program Offices.  We compared the F-15C to the
most severe threat aircraft projected to be available in substantial
quantities to illustrate the capabilities of U.S.  fighter aircraft. 
We did not evaluate the F-15C's capabilities against ground-based
threats, such as surface-to-air missiles because the primary need for
the F-22, as stated in Selected Acquisition Reports, was to counter
the emergence of large numbers of advanced Soviet fighters, and
because a number of other weapon systems exist for the primary
purpose of neutralizing those threats.  Similarly, we did not
evaluate the capabilities of threat fighter aircraft against U.S. 
surface-to-air missile systems. 

We used this data to perform aircraft capability comparisons
involving
5 categories and 32 characteristics identified as most pertinent to
the air superiority mission by Air Combat Command.  The 32
characteristics are distributed throughout the 5 categories as
follows:  flight performance (11), radar (3), long-range missiles
(8), short-range missiles (8), and combat mission radius (2). 

To conclude that one aircraft was better than another in one of the
five categories, the aircraft was required to have superior
statistics in a majority of the compared characteristics.  If two
aircraft had equal characteristics, they were determined to be even
in that category. 

We performed our work from December 1992 through August 1993 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
========================================================== Appendix II


   NATIONAL SECURITY AND
   INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS DIVISION,
   WASHINGTON, D.C. 
-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix II:1

Robert D.  Murphy, Assistant Director


   CINCINNATI REGIONAL OFFICE
-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix II:2

Richard L.  Strittmatter, Evaluator-in-Charge
Edward R.  Browning, Site Senior
Don M.  Springman, Evaluator