F/A-18E/F (Senate - June 30, 1992)

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Mr. BOND. Mr. President, today, the House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing on the Pentagon's handling of the Defense Acquisition Board [DAB] review of the F/A-18E/F development program. The only witness at the hearing will be the acting DOD inspector general [IG] who will discuss a recent report released by his office which was critical of the F/A-18E/F DAB.

Since the committee did not see fit to have a balanced panel of witnesses at today's hearing, it is necessary to provide the `other side of the story' regarding the IG report.

The report concluded that the Navy failed to submit a formal Cost and Operational Effectiveness Analysis [COEA] and therefore did not fully evaluate the available options to the F/A-18E/F during the Defense acquisition review process. Mr. President, that is an incomplete and unfair evaluation of the F/A-18E/F DAB process and, given the importance of this issue to the future of Naval aviation, it is necessary to set the record straight.

The fact of the matter is that extensive studies and analyses were performed on the alternatives--5 years worth--and a formal COEA was not required. Based on all the data presented to OSD in preparation for the DAB, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition stated in his May 12, 1992, memorandum approving the F/A-18E/F program:

A COEA is not required in this case either by law or DOD Directive 5000.1/Instruction 5000.2. I have considered whether a COEA should nevertheless be prepared as a matter of policy in light of the financial magnitude of this development effort, but concluded that a COEA need not be prepared. Sufficient information in the context of this decision is already available to me.

The data presented to OSD to support the F/A-18E/F program was the result of studies and analyses conducted over the past 5 years. Eight trade study volumes and 26 briefings were presented to summarize this data for the OSD staff. They firmly established the effectiveness of the E/F and the fact that sufficient design trade studies were executed which support the program. Based on the data presented by the Navy and on its own analysis, OSD's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation concluded that the cost effectiveness of the F/A-18E/F versus the F/A-18C/D and F-14 derivatives was adequately verified.

While those intent on killing the F/A-18E/F program have suggested otherwise, the F-14D Quickstrike was considered in detail. A side-by-side comparison showed that the F-14D was more expensive, less reliable and less survivable than the F/A-18E/F. In fact, the Quickstrike was shown to be even less capable than the current F/A-18C/D, which the F/A-18E/F will replace. Other reasonable options also were considered and eventually rejected, including other derivatives of the F-14. Although one derivative--the STC-21--was found to offer equivalent performance to the F/A-1E/F, the studies concluded it was simply too expensive and significantly more risky.

In a head-to-head comparison of the F/A-18E/F with the F-14D Quickstrike, the Navy found that the F-14D was not as survivable in the Strike role, was more expensive to procure, and was more expensive to operate and support; and less capable than the F/A-18C/D in the strike role.

When the F/A-18E/F was compared to new versions of the F-14, the ATC-21/STC-21, the Navy found that the F-14 derivatives would require more squadron manpower to support the aircraft, would be more expensive to operate, would have high development cost risk, would not be acceptable for use by the Marine Corps and would not be suitable for foreign military sales.

In summary, Pentagon regulations clearly state that a COEA is not required for the F/A-18E/F. The Navy and OSD followed proper procedure in evaluating the E/F development program. The decision to go forward was made after all viable alternatives to the F/A-18E/F were considered in great detail and fully evaluated by the Pentagon. Every other option was found to be either too expensive, too risky or not as capable as the F/A-18E/F.

A summary of this information was presented to the IG, who, by all available accounts, chose to ignore it. I ask that this summary be included in the Record at this time.

The summary follows:

Cost and Operational Effectiveness Analysis Summary for F/A-18 Upgrade Program


The Navy's warfighting capability today is well prepared to support national policy. This warfighting capability is expected to be adequate in dealing with the projected threat out past the turn of the century. At that time, the Navy will need to replace F-14, A-6, and early model F/A-18's all of which will be rapidly approaching the end of their fatigue lives. Earlier plans for replacing our maturing air wings centered around the A-12 and a carrier version of the Air Force's Advanced Tactical Fighter. Cancellation of the A-12 caused the Navy to rethink plans for naval aviation. The top priority for naval aviation is the successful development of the long range medium attack aircraft designated AX. The Navy requires sixty fighter and attack aircraft per air wing but cannot afford two `high-end' aircraft. Figure (1) shows that the availability inventory meets force structure requirements until the turn of the century when retirements result in a rapid decline in the available aircraft.

[Figure 1 not reproducible in the Record.]

To mitigate the impact of the shortfall, the Navy has initiated aggressive programs to extend the service life of its existing front line carrier aircraft. These programs consist of a structural upgrade of the F-14 and detailed fatigue life tracking and management for the F/A-18. The Navy has contracted with Grumman Aircraft Corporation to perform additional fatigue tests on the F-14 airframe to attempt to increase life from 6000 flight hours to 7500 flight hours. The automated digital fatigue life measurement system incorporated into F/A-18 aircraft indicates the Navy will be able to get more than 7500 flight hours. Even with these service life enhancements in place, there is a shortfall in the out years. The Navy must procure new aircraft to maintain the base force. The Navy plans to have the AX on line in 2005. That begins to reduce the shortfall but is short of the total number of aircraft required. Considering the warfighting requirements for fighter and attack aircraft and the expected budget in the out years the Navy needs another aircraft ready to purchase sooner then AX at a lower cost.

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Figure (2) depicts the methodology by which the Navy arrived at the decision to pursue the F/A-18E/F. The F/A-18C/D cannot continue to meet the requirement for the Navy's `low-end' strike fighter for the air wing mix because of its current limitations. Other alternatives included development of new aircraft and modification of existing carrier aircraft to fulfill the requirement for the low end of the carrier air wing mix. MAR (Major Aircraft Review) I and MAR II ruled out new starts and STC/ATC-21 as too expensive. An additional iteration was performed after the F-14 contractor submitted an unsolicited proposal for a less expensive strike fighter upgrade called F-14D Quick Strike (QS).

[Figure 2 not reproducible in the Record.]

Several approaches have been considered to meet the Navy requirement. The first approach is to do nothing--simply continue to purchase the F/A-18C/D to fill out Navy's inventory requirements. The F/A-18C/D is itself in need of an upgrade. The limitations of the F/A-18C/D (radius, growth, carrier recovery payload, survivability, and payload) would require a significant change in strategic policy with regard to use of carrier aviation to project power. For a decade and a half the F/A-18 has been able to take advantage of and integrate new weapons and warfighting capability as it became available. Although it has been a dependable and capable strike fighter, it is reaching the end of its ability to grow without major structural modifications.

The F/A-18 has been progressively upgraded since 1979 through the addition of improved avionics, stronger structure, and an enhanced performance engine. These improvements are projected to add about 1462 pounds of weight to the aircraft. This weight growth will reduce the F/A-18C/D operating range by about 17% for both strike and escort missions. Moreover, the added weight will reduce the weapons recovery payload by about 48% for day operations and 74% for night operations. Carrier aircraft will increasingly operate at night and with increasingly expensive weapons that should not be jettisoned to meet fuel reserve minimums. Additional tanker support could provide partial relief. By 1995, additional avionics will have exhausted available growth volume in the aircraft. Additionally, the F/A-18C/D airframe is no longer amenable to survivability enhancements through reductions in observability.

While these are significant limitations, the F/A-18C/D could continue to be employed well into the next century. Limited range would constrain operations unless extensive tanking support were provided. Its survivability limitations would either constrain operations to lower threat areas or require extensive defense suppression operations. Peacetime recovery payload reductions might be offset by developing light weight training versions of stand-off weapons or by increasing tanker support. Combat recovery payload limitations would remain and necessitate jettisoning of costly ordnance or time consuming shore diverts to download the weapons.

The Navy evaluated options for modifying the F/A-18C/D to accommodate increased radius and growth without extending the length of the fuselage. Options evaluated included adding fuel to the dorsal area, miniaturizing avionics components and aggressive weight reduction. These configurations were unsatisfactory because they seriously degraded combat performance, carrier suitability or both. Results of these studies have been provided to OSD staff.


The key components of potential threats have stabilized during the last two years in response to Eastern European political and economic shifts. CIS emphasis on development and deployment of advanced air, ground, and naval weapons has greatly declined. The AAW threat has particularly declined since timeliness for introduction and export of new types of such weapons and projected follow-on systems have increased significantly. STAR NAVMIC #TA037-92 contains a detailed description of threat projections. Navy concept of operations for the carrier air wing includes two state of the art multi-mission aircraft--a long range strike aircraft, and a lower cost strike fighter.


The key measures of effectiveness are listed in figure 3. An objective measure of survivability is radar cross section (RCS). A lower RCS reduces the capability of threat systems while enhancing the effectiveness of own aircraft electronic counter measures. The best measure of vulnerability is vulnerable area. Denying or delaying engagement opportunities, and presenting a smaller vulnerable area to fragments and projectiles offers the best prospects for successfully executing a mission in a threat environment. Unit replacement cost for combat losses is closely linked to survivability and vulnerability. Simply put, a very cheap aircraft may be able to sustain large losses because it may be easy and quick to replace. Strike mission radius determines the flexibility with which the air wing commander can employ the system. The longer the strike mission radius, the farther from hostile shores the carrier can stand-off. A longer radius allows the commander to reach more targets
and dedicate fewer resources to tanking. A strike-fighter will be called upon to perform some air defense and air warfare missions and must be capable of successfully engaging and defeating threat systems beyond visual range and in close. Carrier suitability refers to recovery and launch wind-over-deck (WOD) required to operate the aircraft from the deck safely. High WOD requirements increase the space required for the carrier force to launch and recover its aircraft. Weapons system features and armament flexibility are closely related measures that indicate the effectiveness of a platform as a strike fighter which can be called upon to perform a wide range of combat missions sometimes simultaneously. A strike fighter should be capable of effectively employing all Navy strike and fighter weapons in the inventory and under development.


Survivability/vulnerability, Combat loss unit replacement cost, Strike mission radius, Carrier suitability, Fighter performance, Weapons system features, and Armament flexibility.


This study process considered the full range of candidates (Figure 4) for fighter, strike fighter, and attack aircraft including F-14 derivatives, F/A-18 derivatives, A-6 derivatives, ATA, and a Navy variant of the ATF (NATF). During 1990/91, the Navy participated in two OSD Major Aircraft Reviews (MAR). The initial review (MAR-1) investigated alternatives to the ATA (April 1990) such as F-14 Attack Tomcat 21 (ATC-21), F/A-18F(AW), and an A-6 Advanced Intruder (AI). Later evaluations (MAR-II) investigated fighter alternatives (September 1990 with an April 1991 update) such as NATF, F-14 Super Tomcat 21 (STC-21) and F/A-18E/F. These carrier air wing and MAR evaluations included postulated threat scenarios, weapons systems capabilities, operational effectiveness, development cost, procurement, reliability, maintainability, personnel requirements, and life cycle costs. Additionally, affordability considerations drove the Navy from the current high-low force structure mix of three fighter attack aircraft types to two because limited resources prohibited replacement of two high end aircraft (VF and VAM) types simultaneously.


Naval Variant ATF (NATF).

F-14 Derivatives, Super Tomcat 21 (STC-21), Attack Tomcat 21 (ATC-21), F-14D Quick Strike (QS).

A-6 Advanced Intruder (AI).

F/A-18 Derivatives, F/A-18C/D, F/A-18E/F, All Weather F/A-18F (AW).

New Start (Clean Sheet).


After several years of comprehensive analysis including the results of MAR-I and MAR-II, the Navy concluded that ATA and NATF were beyond the limits of affordability and judged the A-6 AI as lacking sufficient survivability to justify further consideration. This narrowed the candidate field to only the F/A-18E/F and the ATC-21/STC-21 as viable alternatives to fulfill carrier aviation's force structure, low end strike fighter requirements. The MAR studies concluded that the STC/ATC-21 were capable of achieving survivability and vulnerability comparable to the F/A-18 derivative. Fighter performance is somewhat better for the F-14 derivatives. Because of the increased gross weights, carrier suitability measures are degraded for the F-14 derivatives compared to the F/A-18 derivative. With the development of an upgraded AEGIS system for the outer air battle and reduction of the long range Soviet bomber threat the F-14 was designed to counter, the Navy concluded it is reasonable to trade better high end fighter performance for reduced cost and comparable performance for other measures. This left the Navy with only two viable alternatives, the F-14D variant called Quick Strike (QS) and the F/A-18E/F. The F-14D QS variant is more costly than the F/A-18C/D and less capable in the strike mission area. The Navy concluded that, without the airframe upgrades in the STC/ATC-21 and F/A-18 derivative to improve survivability and vulnerability, the F-14D QS is too vulnerable to ground based threats. Other considerations included Marine Corps requirements and Foreign Military Sales customer base. The Marine Corps can not use the F-14 or its variants to satisfy its mission requirements. The F/A-18 already has concluded FMS arrangements with Australia, Canada, Spain, Kuwait and Switzerland. Figures (5) and (6) present a summary of the COEA measures of effectiveness for the F/A-18 and F-14 candidate aircraft. Figure (7) summarizes the life cycle costs associated with different candidate air wings considered.

[Figures 5 and 6 not reproducible in the Record.]

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Figure 7: CVW Cost Comparisons
[Billions of FY90$; 20 years; 13 CVWs; Basis for Estimates: F/A-18E/F Is Budget Quality; F-14D(QS) & STC-21 are Rough Order of Magnitude]
                       CVW A 40 F/A-18E/F        CVW B                     CVW C           CVW D 40 F-14D(QS) CVW E 40 STC-21 
                                          20 F/A-18E/F 20 F-14D(QS) 20 F/A-18C/D 20 STC-21                                    
E&MD                                $4.88        $4.88        $0.33        $0.50     $2.58              $0.33           $2.58 
Total procurement                   43.48        24.96        29.10        16.55     31.50              47.15           54 34 
Operations and support              23.54        11.77        15.92        11.34     15.62              31.84           31.39 
Total                               71.90        41.61        45.35        28.39     49.70              79.32           88.31 

[Footnote] Notes: Aircraft quantities determined to maintain force level at 13 CVWs. CVW A: 962 F/A-18E/F. CVW B: 481 F/A-18E/F; 595 F-14D(QS)=75 remanufactured + 520 new. CVW C: 481 F/A-18C/D; 500 STC-21. CVW D: 1084 F-14D(QS). CVW E: 997 STC-21. STC-21 Estimate from MAR II Study adjusted for revised quantities and assumes bridge production of F-14Ds; cost of F-14D bridge production not included in estimate.


Over the course of the last five years several major reviews and analyses have produced the data which substantiates the Navy's F/A-18E/F decision. The need to replace large quantities of retiring fighter and attack aircraft in the late 1990s within a constrained fiscal environment is the basis for the Navy's requirement. Less substantial modification to the F/A-18C/D was rigorously evaluated, but all postulated solutions incurred additional costs without improvements in carrier suitability, combat performance, survivability, and growth potential. New start aircraft were considered as prohibitively expensive. The A-6 AI was eliminated as not adequately survivable in the projected threat environment. All F-14 derivatives, while offering equivalent or slightly better fighter capability compared to the F/A-18E/F, proved to be too expensive compared to expected future funding for naval aviation. The data as summarized in Figure 8 confirm the Navy's F/A-18E/F decision.


F-14D(QS): not as survivable in strike role, more expensive to procure, more expensive to operate and support, less capable than F/A-18C/D in strike role.

F-14 derivatives (ATC-21/STC-21): require more squadron manpower, more expensive to operate, high development cost risk (ROM estimates), not acceptable for Marine Corps, not suitable for foreign military sales.

F/A-18E/F configuration based upon 5 years COEA trade studies.

F/A-18E/F cost effective solution to meet inventory requirements.