Review of Air Force's Next Generation Trainer Aircraft Program

Department of Defense Gao ID: MASAD-81-2 February 9, 1981

GAO was asked to review the Air Force's actions during the procurement of a next generation trainer aircraft for the primary phase of its two-phased undergraduate pilot training program. The questions concerned the capability of the Navy's T-34C aircraft to perform the primary phase mission, the life cycle costs of the T-34C compared to alternative aircraft, and the extent to which the Air Force is complying with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-109 and allowing consideration of the T-34C.

GAO found that the T-34C could be used as the Air Force's primary phase trainer. However, since the T-34C does not perform as well as the current primary trainer or well enough to meet stated requirements for the next generation trainer, its use could result in either additional flying hours in the primary phase or lower undergraduate pilot training standards with additional training hours required in operational aircraft. The Navy is still buying T-34C aircraft for use as its primary phase trainer. Navy officials said that the T-34C has satisfactorily fulfilled the Navy's primary trainer aircraft requirements. The Air Force's life cycle cost comparison, which was prepared by a consultant, showed that the T-34C was the least costly alternative if only the primary phase were considered. However, the comparison showed that it is the most costly if the total undergraduate pilot training program were considered. The evaluation showed that some costs associated with using the T-34C aircraft were not included in the life cycle cost comparison. Air Force requirements and actions which effectively eliminated the T-34C from consideration in the program are not, in the opinion of GAO, consistent with OMB Circular A-109. The Air Force is performing a durability and damage tolerance analysis of the T-37B airframe to determine what modifications would be required to extend its service life. Extending the T-37B service life would not eliminate other T-37B deficiencies, such as excessive fuel consumption, noisy engines, outdated avionics, limited range, and lack of cockpit pressurization.

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