F/A-18E/F DEVELOPMENT (Senate - May 05, 1992)

[Page: S5931]

Mr. D'AMATO. Mr. President, in the fiscal year 1991 Department of Defense request, $8 million fed the musings of a handful of engineers charged with improving the performance of the F/A-18C/D. Overnight, those musings took on the nightmare aspects of a feverish dream. Born of the panic caused by the spectacular demise of the A-12, the F/A-18E/F became, in the fiscal year 1992 request, a colossus commanding $351 million in what was then projected to be a $4 billion development program. This year, the Pentagon is requesting over $1 billion for the F/A-18E/F. The meteoric rise of this aircraft is unrivaled in the annals of naval aviation.

Unhappily for the Navy, and American taxpayers, frantic actions, even if only a major modification of an existing system, often spell disaster. Like a child caught in a funhouse, the faster F/A-18E/F supporters race for initial operational capability, the faster that goal diminishes into the distance. Since the authorization and appropriations conferences completed their bills last November:

First, F/A-18E/F development costs jumped from $3.3 billion to $3.9 billion to $4.9 billion;

Second, 18 F/A-18C/D's to be procured between fiscal years 1994-96 were devoured to sate the appetite of the F/A-18E/F for additional dollars--this is a double whammy in that it will also increase the unit cost of the F/A-18C/D's that avoided the maw of the `E/F';

Third, preliminary design review, critical design review, and first flight all slipped 1 year to the right, a `time is money' violation that will drive up costs;

Fourth, the total buy of F/A-18E/F's has been reduced from 1,000 to 600-800, increasing the unit cost of each aircraft;

Fifth, initial delivery of F/A-18E/F's has slipped to 1,998 or beyond, and low-rate initial production has been stretched out to 4 years or more, two more changes guaranteed to increase total program cost; and,

Sixth, the Defense Acquisition Board [DAB] review of the F/A-18E/F, the critical acquisition hurdle, has slipped from last December, to last March, to the last week of April.

The DAB delay appears grounded in growing Pentagon concerns that the F/A-18E/F will not perform as advertised. In that vein, I ask unanimous consent that a memorandum, currently featured in the trade press, and reputed to be out of Secretary Cheney's program analysis and evaluation shop, be inserted into the Record at this point.

There being no objection, the memorandum was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:


Performance Uncertainties--March 26, 1992

This paper applies to the fighter escort mission, but concerns apply to the interdiction mission (as would be different).

Goal: 28.4% increase in combat radius over F-18C Loc XV (425 versus 331 NM) p31 growth potential for future capabilities (1,810 lbs. incr. weight):

Current design             F-18E  F-18C Source                         
Wing area (sqft)             500    400 Cand 92-01.                    
T/O gross weight (lbs)    47,881 37,708 Navy prog office Mar. 17, 1992 
Internal fuel (lbs)       14,460 10,860   Do.                          
Thrust (lbs-inst. SL TRP) 12,807 10,180   Do.                          
TFSC @ cruise air & mach  1.0956 1.0378   Do.                          
TFSC @ max A/B & 20k       2.063 1.9829   Do.                          
Cruise mach number         0.839  0.855   Do.                          

Wing Loading @ T/O (#/sqft)    96   95 
Fuel fraction @ T/O          .302 .298 
Thrust-to-weight 8 T/O (IRP)  .50  .54 


Risky program because OSD can not answer two questions:

[Page: S5932]

1. Can a 0.014 (4.9%) increase in Fuel Fraction be converted into a 28% increase in combat radius (OR is 410 NM or 243)?


a. Cruise TFSC interior to F-18C (smaller is better).

b. Thrust-to-Weight is less than F-18C.

c. Wing Loading is about same as F-18C.

d. F-18E has small increase in fuel fraction.


a. Navy claims F-18E has about 7% better Lift-to-Drag (L/D) ratio (wind tunnel data).

b. Navy claims digital fuel control will offset some of F-18E's engine disadvantages, particularly in non-cruise portion of flight--spurious comparison because F-18C might be modified to have equivalent digital fuel control.


Range is function of TFSC, L/D, Mach #, fraction of fuel available for cruise. Only unknown is L/D.

Implication of known quantities: If all internal fuel were available for cruise, and assuming a 7% improvement in F-18E's L/D, then Brequet range eq. predicts that F-18E range > F-18C by only 7.3%. This implies the F-18E's 28% in * * * in combat radius (OR = 24%) depends critically on superior fuel consumption rates in non-cruise portion of mission (i.e., takeoff, climb, descent, combat, and landing) to free up fuel for cruise.

The DAB has no insight into how this can be done, and OSD has not done an independent performance analysis to verify Navy/McAir * * *.


Doley CMD decision for several months pending independent performance review by panel of disinterested experts.


High cost and diminution of threat make 2-3 month delay managerially prudent in a time of limited resources, with no addition to military risk.

2. Does the F-18E have sufficient margins over F-18C to account for normal development uncertainties as well as PBI?


Margins in fuel fraction and wing loading are minimal for F-18E, and margins in thrust-to-weight and TFSC are already worse for F-18E than those of F-18C. Therefore, a deterioration in the margins during EMD could have consequences to range, payload, and maneuverability that result in a design that is worse than F-18C.

a. Potential for excessive weight growth is high for at least 3 reasons:

(1) Allowance for weight growth is below average--F-18E design has only 1050 lbs (3.6%) of weight reserve, while contractor normally budgets 4-1.5% and

(2) Structural design is essentially that of a new a/c with major changes in material composition.

(3) McAir has history of range/weight problems: F-18 programs has track record of weight growth, and McAir did not meet range specifications for either F-18 or initial version of F-15 (which required 2000 lbs of additional fuel).

b. Engine risk is significant:

(1) Engine may have a weight problem.

(2) Engine has not been tested in full-up configuration.

c. Impact of planned weight growth (PSI an additional 1810 lbs) on requirement for larger engine and wing has not been analyzed.

(1) Assuming same engine and wing, addition of 1810 lbs of PSI weight would reduce thrust-to-weight from .50 to .486, increase wing loading from 96 to 99 lbs/sq ft, and reduce fuel fraction form .302 to .291.

d. OSD has not compared F-18E to advance tech, F-18C:

(1) Could increase fuel efficiency of F-18C with upgraded digital control.

(2) Could spend R&D $ to develop lighter avionics and secondary structures, and thereby permit improvements in T/W, wing loading, and fuel fraction.

(3) Could reallocate all or part of F-18E's R&D budget to procure additional F-18Cs.


Absence of margins makes the F-18E very risky from a performance and growth perspective, even if `paper design' met range specs.


Independent panel of disinterested experts should perform an in-depth risk analysis, to include:

Independent verification of crucial design assumptions.

Apples versus apples force comparisons with lighter weight adv, tech, F-18C.

Tradeoffs between alternative force mixes to include impact of increased spotting factor of F-18E on deployable force structure versus that of upgraded F-18C force.

[Source: NavAir Mar. 1, 1992]
Wing area                                    F-18E/F F-18C/D Percent change 
                                                 500     400           25.0 
Weights (pounds)                                                            
Structural weight                             18,331  12,730           28.3 
A/C unit weight                               22,299       ?                
Empty weight                                  30,564  24,395           25.3 
T/O weight--Fighter Escort                    47,881  37,708           27.0 
T/O weight--Interdiction                      60,643  50,792         1 19.4 
Combat Wt--Ftr Escort (60 percent useable)    42,097  33,364           28.2 
Max design weight                             88,000  51,800           27.2 
Fuel (pounds)                                                               
Max internal fuel                             14,460  10,860           33.1 
Max external fuel                                                           
F-18E: 3480 gal tnks                           9,792                        
F-18E & C: 3320 gal tnks                       6,732   6,732                
Thrust/engine (pounds)                                                      
IRP--SLS Inst                                 12,087  10,180           18.7 
Max A/B--SLS Inst                             18,045  15,172           18.9 
Best cruise @ alt, full int fuel               4,335   8,710           16.8 
Mil pwr @ M=.7, 20K, 60% int fuel              7,403   6,054           22.3 
Max A/B @ M=.9, 20K, 80% int fuel             14,321  12,138           18.0 
TFSC--best cruise, full int fuel, alt & mach  1.0956  1.0578          2 3.6 
TFSC--mil pwr @ M=.7, 20K, 60% int fuel       1.0618  1.0383            2.3 
TFSC--max A/B @ M=.9, 20K, 60% int fuel        2.063   1.983            4.0 
Performance indicators:                                                     
Thrust-to-Weight (T/W):                                                     
T/W (take off, ftr escort @ IRP)                 .50     .54            6.5 
T/W Max A/B (T/O, ftr escort, full int fuel      .75     .80           -6.3 
T/W Mil pwr (M=.7, 20k alt, 60% int fuel)        .35     .36           -3.1 
T/W Max A/B (M=.9, 20k alt, 60% int fuel         .88     .73           -6.5 
Wing Loading (lbs/sq ft):                                                   
Fighter Escort--Take off, full internal fuel      98      94            1.6 
Ftr Escort--Combat wt., 60% int fuel              84      83             .9 
Fuel Fraction:                                                              
Fuel Fraction--T/O wt (ftr escort)              .302    .288            4.9 
Fuel Fraction--max fuel                          .44     .42            5.5 

[Footnote] 1 Tanks: 3330/3330.
[Footnote] 2 Less total pounds required.

Range comparison: 1st out--assume F-18E & F-18C @ cruise alt with full int fuel.

How far can each fly?

Breguet Comparison: ftr escrot, full int fuel, opt cruise alt & Mach.

Range=[Vel./TFSC] [L/D] In[1/(1-Fuel Frac)].

[Vel=k Mach (k=speed of sound, same @ those alt.)]
Altitude                           35,482 36,435       
Cruise Mach                          .839   .855       
TFSC                               1.0056 1.0578       
Fuel Fraction                        .302   .288       
F/Drag (L/D)                            ?      ?       
Breguet range multiple of (L/D)      .275   .275  1 .3 
Range ratio multiple (F-18E/F-18C)  1.003              
Range ratio goal (F-18E/F-18C)       1.28              

[Footnote] 1 Percent.

Mr. D'AMATO. This document reaches a number of devastating conclusions:

First, F/A-18E design improvements may result in only a small increase in combat radius over the short-legged F/A-18C; and,

Second, F/A-18E design margins, already worse than the F/A-18C or only marginally better, if compromised during full-scale development, could result in an F/A-18E with range, payload, and maneuverability that is worse than the F/A-18C.

If correct, the taxpayer is being asked to fund a make-work project costing billions of dollars that will do little more than subsidize a handful of corporations over the lean times ahead while providing the Navy with no more capability than it had the day the F/A-18E/F development program started. In fact, the Navy will come up with less than zero, because the F/A-18E/F will certainly consume funding that might have gone to the AX or to ever-more desperately needed support aircraft.

Mr. President, all this being said, I have every confidence that eventually the Navy juggernaut will roll right over everyone who stands in the way of the F/A-18E/F. Attempts by the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to apply a brake to the program last year were brushed aside with alarming ease. If I've learned anything in 12 years in the Senate, it is that the Navy will not be denied.

While I may not be able to stop the F/A-18E/F, I can limit the damage to the taxpayer. Taking a page from the B-1B experience, let me put the Navy on notice today: I will offer an amendment capping the total cost of F/A-18E/F development to the first available piece of legislation the Senate considers. A cost cap will, at the very least, prevent the kind of misallocation of funds we saw with the A-12 program. Overruns simply will not be tolerated.