F/A-18 Naval Strike Fighter

Progress Has Been Made But Problems and Concerns Continue Gao ID: MASAD-81-3 February 18, 1981

GAO reviewed the major technical and cost issues facing the Navy's F/A-18 strike fighter program. Both Congress and the executive branch have expressed concern over the cost and performance of the F/A-18. Many of these issues were raised in a prior GAO report on the program.

The F/A-18 has continued to improve during development and has made noteworthy achievements in certain areas. However, cost and technical problems continue. During 1980, a roll-rate performance problem was identified, a fuel cell leakage problem reoccurred, and two F/A-18's crashed. Although there has been some cost growth, costs have soared primarily because of the inflation impact. Even though substantial increases have already been reported, the current program cost estimate is based on projected escalation rates which are consistently lower than those projected by industry. If actual escalation rates continue to be higher than rates used by the Department of Defense, program cost estimates will continue to be understated. Navy reliability and maintainability reports have been favorable even though certain subsystems have failed to achieve expected levels. These subsystems have been especially damaging to reliability and maintainability performance. GAO believes that development of the F/A-18 is at the stage where the following issues should be considered: (1) whether the modifications to the wing will correct the roll-rate problem without adversely affecting other performance areas; (2) whether the high-oil and built-in temperature conditions can be corrected; (3) whether the modifications to the bulkheads are adequate; (4) whether the fuel cell leakages can be corrected; and (5) whether the causes of the accidents can be corrected to assure safe flight conditions and operational effectiveness.


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