Close Air Support

Airborne Controllers in High-Threat Areas May Not Be Needed Gao ID: NSIAD-90-116 April 4, 1990

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) Air Force's present and future need for airborne controllers; (2) effect of increasing air defense threats on the Air Force's ability to perform the airborne controller role; and (3) cost and operational implications of reassigning A-10 aircraft from an attack role to a controller role.

GAO found that the Air Force: (1) relied on ground controllers to identify and mark targets and used airborne controllers to relay information from ground controllers; (2) considered airborne controllers necessary in high-threat areas because they were capable of both relaying information when other means of communication were degraded and adding battlefield information to assist the attack aircraft; (3) planned to annually reassess the need to renovate OV-10 aircraft, since renovations cost about $640,000 per aircraft; and (4) planned to replace existing OV-10 and OA-37 aircraft when close air support aircraft became available. GAO also found that the Air Force: (1) planned to improve direct communications between ground controllers and attack aircraft and modify navigation and targeting systems using the Automatic Target Handoff System, which would cost an estimated $47,000 per aircraft; and (2) developed upgrades to the system's software to increase data transmission and provide added flexibility in radio jamming environments.


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