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Electronic Warfare: Most Air Force ALQ-135 Jammers Procured Without
Operational Testing (Letter Report, 11/22/94, GAO/NSIAD-95-47).

The Air Force continues to procure an upgraded ALQ-135 jammer despite
serious performance problems, resulting in the deployment of a system
with limited ability to protect F-15 aircraft from enemy weapons.  The
ALQ-135 is designed to transmit electronic signals that interfere with
the radars controlling threat missiles and guns.  The upgraded ALQ-135
is a two-band system, designated as Bands 1.5 and 3, for use on newer
models of the F-15.  Although testing revealed that the Band 3 had
serious performance flaws, the Air Force procured almost all its total
program quantity without demonstrating acceptable operational
performance.  Moreover, the Air Force has deferred further production of
the Band 1.5.  The poor condition of the ALQ-135 program is a direct
result of the Defense Department's disregard of congressional
expectations, its own written policy, and GAO's recommendations.

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

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-95-47
     TITLE:  Electronic Warfare: Most Air Force ALQ-135 Jammers Procured 
             Without Operational Testing
      DATE:  11/22/94
   SUBJECT:  Air Force procurement
             Aircraft components
             Air defense systems
             Product performance evaluation
             Testing
             Systems analysis
             Radar equipment
             Procurement evaluation
             Electronic warfare
             Procurement policies
IDENTIFIER:  ALQ-135 Jammer
             F-15 Aircraft
             F-15C Aircraft
             F-15E Aircraft
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to Congressional Requesters

November 1994

ELECTRONIC WARFARE - MOST AIR
FORCE ALQ-135 JAMMERS PROCURED
WITHOUT OPERATIONAL TESTING

GAO/NSIAD-95-47

Electronic Warfare


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

  DOD - Department of Defense

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


B-257415.2

November 22, 1994

The Honorable William V.  Roth, Jr.
Ranking Minority Member
The Honorable David Pryor
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

As requested, we examined the Air Force's $2 billion program to
acquire an upgraded version of the ALQ-135 jammer.  The purpose of
the jammer is to protect F-15 aircraft against threat weapons by
transmitting electronic signals to interfere with radars used to
control threat missiles and guns.  This unclassified version of a
classified report being provided to you focuses on whether the
Department of Defense (DOD) and the Air Force took the necessary
measures to ensure that the program had demonstrated acceptable
performance before the jammers were produced and deployed. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The upgraded ALQ-135 is a two-band system, designated as Bands 1.5
and 3, for use on newer models of the F-15 (see fig.  1).  The
designations refer to two portions of the radar frequency band
covered.  The older F-15C aircraft is being equipped with only the
Band 3 because the original ALQ-135, which is already installed,
covers the frequency band of the
Band 1.5.  Band 3, therefore, will provide extended frequency
coverage for the F-15C.  The newer F-15E, which does not have the
original ALQ-135, is supposed to be equipped with Band 1.5, as well
as Band 3. 

   Figure 1:  <EC> ALQ-135 Jammer
   and F-15 Aircraft

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

We reported in 1990\1 that the Air Force had started production of
several jammers, including the upgraded ALQ-135, without adequately
testing their performance capability.  We noted that the upgraded
ALQ-135 units that had been produced were in storage because of
software design problems.  We recommended at that time that the
Secretary of Defense prohibit the award of further production
contracts until operational testing provided reasonable assurance
that the jammers would meet performance requirements.  We also
recommended that the Secretary require that adequate internal
controls be established over Air Force jammer programs to ensure that
the jammers were satisfactorily tested and demonstrated acceptable
performance before producing and deploying them. 

DOD disagreed that satisfactory performance during operational
testing should be required before further production contract awards
but stated that these jammers would not be allowed to proceed to
full-rate production without an assessment of their operational
performance.  Subsequently, in the National Defense Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 1991, Congress directed that the ALQ-135 production
rate not exceed minimum essential levels until the system underwent
"thorough and effective" operational testing and was determined to
meet or exceed all operational criteria. 

DOD also disagreed that additional internal controls were needed,
stating that adequate internal controls were in place to ensure that
systems demonstrated acceptable operational performance before
full-rate production.  However, of the total planned quantity of 514,
the Air Force has already procured 391 and will have procured 451, or
88 percent of the total quantity, before operational testing starts. 


--------------------
\1 Electronic Warfare:  Need to Strengthen Controls Over Air Force
Jammer Programs (GAO/NSIAD-90-168, July 1, 1990). 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

The Air Force has continued procurement of the ALQ-135 Band 3 despite
its deficient performance, resulting in the premature deployment of
systems with limited capability to protect the F-15.  While
developmental testing showed the Band 3 to have serious performance
flaws, the Air Force has already procured most of its total program
quantity without demonstrating acceptable operational performance. 
These performance problems are compounded by other deficiencies that
are discussed in our classified report.  Moreover, the Air Force has
deferred further production of the Band 1.5.  Information on the
impact of this deferral on the F-15E's survivability has been
classified by DOD. 

Acquiring nearly all the Band 3s before adequate operational testing
is inconsistent with DOD policy and the rationale for the
requirements in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 1991.  Furthermore, the Conference Report on the National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1990-91 states that the
conferees did not intend to condone a continued reapproval of
low-rate initial production quantities that eventually might total a
significant percentage of the total planned requirement.  The poor
condition of the ALQ-135 program now is a direct result of DOD's
disregard of congressional expectations, its own written policy, and
our recommendations. 


   BAND 3 INEFFECTIVE AGAINST SOME
   THREATS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

Developmental testing conducted after the Band 3 entered production
has shown that the system has serious performance problems.  New, but
preliminary, test results compiled after the draft of this report was
prepared indicate some improvement in performance; however,
significant problems persist.  The details of these matters are
classified. 


   MOST BAND 3 SYSTEMS PROCURED IN
   LOW-RATE PRODUCTION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

DOD policy governing low-rate production, as stated in DOD
Instruction 5000.2, is intended to limit the acquisition of large
quantities of systems until satisfactory operational testing is
accomplished.  Nevertheless, DOD has allowed the Air Force to procure
most of its Band 3 systems without conducting any operational
testing.  In doing so, the Air Force has acted within the letter of
the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1991, but not
its spirit or the rationale for its requirements, and contrary to
congressional expectations found in the Conference Report on the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1990-91. 

The Fiscal Year 1991 Act limited ALQ-135 production to a rate
sufficient to sustain existing production capabilities at minimum
essential levels until thorough and effective operational testing had
been conducted and successfully completed.  Previously, in the Fiscal
Year 1990-91 Conference Report, which supported revised restrictions
on the uses of low-rate production, the conferees stated that they
did not intend to condone repetitive low-rate production quantities
that eventually total a significant percentage of the total planned
procurement of a system.  Despite this, the Air Force did not conduct
operational testing as expected under the 1991 legislation, but
continued to approve repetitive low-rate production.  By the time
operational testing is scheduled to start, practically all the Band 3
systems will have already been procured. 

The Air Force started production of the Band 3 in 1986 while the
system was in early development.  Subsequently, because of the
magnitude of the problems detected in developmental testing, the Air
Force deferred the scheduled operational testing to mid-1995. 
Nevertheless, the Air Force continued production of the Band 3 and
started deploying the systems to operational forces in 1990. 


   MUCH OF POTENTIAL BENEFIT OF
   BAND 3 OPERATIONAL TESTING HAS
   BEEN LOST
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

DOD's policy, DOD Instruction 5000.2, emphasizes the need for timely
testing to reduce risks and to estimate system operational
effectiveness and suitability.\2 The policy provides that operational
test results are an important consideration in making key decisions
to proceed with the acquisition of systems.  The DOD policy further
indicates that operational test results not only indicate how well a
system will work, but can also identify ineffective and unreliable
systems before they are produced. 

However, because the Air Force will have procured most of the planned
systems, the operational testing planned to start in mid-1995 will do
little to reduce risk.  Much of the potential benefit of operational
testing has already been lost.  The Air Force still needs to conduct
some operational testing to determine whether the system will
function effectively in a realistic operational environment. 
However, other aspects of the system's performance, such as its
reliability, maintainability, and logistical supportability, can be
assessed at the operational units to which the system has been
deployed.  Curtailment of planned operational testing of the ALQ-135
Band 3 could reduce test cost, currently estimated at about $5.8
million. 


--------------------
\2 Operational effectiveness refers to the ability of a system to
accomplish its mission in the planned operational environment. 
Operational suitability is the degree to which a system can be placed
satisfactorily in field use considering such factors as reliability
and maintainability. 


   BAND 1.5 DEFERRAL LEAVES
   AIRCRAFT VULNERABLE
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

After an initial procurement of eight units, the Air Force decided in
1988 to defer further procurement of the Band 1.5 because of the
problems encountered on the Band 3 program.  The Air Force planned to
focus on completing development of the Band 3 and then provide the
Band 1.5 later.  However, solving the Band 3's problems is taking
much longer than expected, and the Band 1.5 is still in a deferred
status.  Information on the impact of this deferral on the F-15E's
survivability has been classified by DOD. 

According to Air Force officials, the Band 1.5 is a high priority,
but currently an unfunded requirement.  The Air Force estimates that
completing development of the Band 1.5 would cost $43 million and
production of the required 184 units would require another $382.6
million. 

The Air Force has jammer pods available that provide protection in
the frequencies covered by the Band 1.5.  These pods can be used by
other tactical aircraft, such as the F-16.  However, despite the
problems with the Band 3 and the expected cost of acquiring the Band
1.5, the Air Force does not plan to use any other jammer
alternatives, such as the ALQ-131 pod jammer, for protecting the
F-15E aircraft.  The Air Force considers the Band 1.5 the only viable
option to provide the F-15E full jammer coverage. 


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

We affirm our previous recommendation that the Secretary of Defense
establish adequate internal controls over all Air Force electronic
warfare programs to ensure that systems are satisfactorily tested and
demonstrate acceptable performance before producing and deploying
them.  In particular, we recommend that if the ALQ-135 Band 1.5
program is to proceed, the Secretary prohibit any further procurement
of the Band 1.5 until the Air Force demonstrates satisfactory
performance of the system during operational testing using the eight
units it already has procured. 

We also recommend that the Secretary require a cost-effectiveness
analysis to determine the best approach to provide jammer protection
for the F-15E.  If the best approach is determined to be other than
the upgraded ALQ-135, to include the Band 1.5, the Secretary should
stop currently planned procurement of Band 3 systems for F-15Cs and
use existing F-15E Band 3 systems to meet the F-15C requirements. 

Finally, we recommend that the Secretary limit planned operational
testing of the ALQ-135 Band 3 to effectiveness issues only, since
most of the systems have already been procured.  Data needed to
evaluate the system's operational suitability characteristics, such
as reliability and maintainability, can be obtained during exercises
by the tactical units to which it has been deployed. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

DOD concurred or partially concurred with most of the findings and
recommendations in this report.  In particular, DOD indicated that
electronic warfare programs should be properly tested before
initiating production, but acknowledged that the Air Force had
procured the majority of the ALQ-135 systems without performing an
operational evaluation. 

With regard to repetitive low-rate production approvals that lead to
the acquisition of a large percentage of the total planned
procurement, DOD said that the Office of the Secretary of Defense was
undertaking a review to determine what steps might be taken to
establish adequate controls to ensure that systems demonstrate
acceptable performance before they are produced and deployed. 

DOD disagreed with our recommendation for a cost-effectiveness
analysis to determine the best approach to provide jammer protection
for the F-15E.  DOD maintained that the Band 1.5 is not a new program
requiring such an analysis.  However, the fact that the Band 1.5 has
been an unfunded requirement for several years prompts the question
of whether the Air Force really considers the Band 1.5 to be high
priority for the F-15E.  Because of this and the substantial cost
remaining to be incurred for the Band 1.5, we continue to believe
that a cost-effectiveness analysis should be done to examine other
alternatives for adequately protecting the F-15E. 

DOD's detailed comments and our evaluation of them are classified
and, thus, are not included in this version of the report. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :9

We performed our work at the Air Force's F-15 System Program Office,
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Directorate of Electronic
Combat, and Directorate of Operational Test & Evaluation, Office of
the Secretary of Defense, Washington, D.C.; Headquarters, U.S.  Air
Force, Washington, D.C.; Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base,
Virginia; Air Warfare Center and Development Test Center, Eglin Air
Force Base, Florida; Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Robins Air
Force Base, Georgia; and Northrop Electronic Systems Division,
Rolling Meadows, Illinois. 

In evaluating ALQ-135 performance, we reviewed developmental test
results to date.  We also discussed the test results and potential
performance issues, including those relating to deferral of the Band
1.5, with Air Force representatives responsible for acquiring,
testing, using, and logistically supporting the ALQ-135 and DOD
officials responsible for oversight of electronic warfare systems
acquisition. 

Our review was performed from March 1993 through August 1994 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :9.1

As arranged with your office, unless you announce the report's
contents earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days after
its issue date.  At that time, we will send copies to appropriate
congressional committees; the Secretaries of Defense and the Air
Force; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Director of
the Office of Management and Budget. 

Please contact me at (202) 512-4841 if you or your staff have any
questions concerning this report.  Major contributors to this report
are listed in appendix I. 

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Systems Development
 and Production Issues


MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
=========================================================== Appendix I


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

Charles A.  Ward


   ATLANTA REGIONAL OFFICE
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:2

Jackie B.  Guin


   CINCINNATI REGIONAL OFFICE
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:3

Terrell L.  Bishop
John M.  Murphy, Jr.
Terry R.  Parker