Defense Acquisitions

Testing of F-15 and F-16 Radomes Gao ID: NSIAD-99-43R January 28, 1999

GAO provided information on the potential for shortfalls in the performance of two radomes, one for the F-15 Eagle and one for the F-16 Falcon, focusing on whether replacement radomes, bought for spares and supplied by vendors other than the original manufacturer, met the Air Force's specifications for the original radomes.

GAO noted that: (1) the test data, provided to GAO in October 1998, showed that the spare F-15 radome met its specification, while the spare F-16 radome did not; (2) specifically, the test data suggest that for certain radar frequencies and for certain angles between the radome and the source of the radar signal, the F-16 radome reduces the strength of the radar signal that reaches the antenna below the limits stated in the Air Force's specifications; (3) as a baseline, the firm responsible for the test also tested two radomes of original manufacture for the same antennas and both met specifications; (4) while the test results on the F-16 radome warrant concern, they do not, by themselves, warrant a conclusion on the seriousness of the shortcoming; (5) since only one radome was tested, the shortcoming could be an isolated incident; (6) even if it is not isolated, the shortcoming could be judged to be insignificant; (7) on the other hand, if the shortcoming is not isolated and is significant, the spare radome could affect the threat warning system's ability to detect a radar contact; and (8) moreover, if the shortcoming is the result of a process that is used to buy spare radomes from vendors other than the original manufacturer, then the concern may apply to other radomes purchased through a similar process.

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