FAS | Military Analysis | GAO |||| Index | Search |

Strategic Airlift: Further Efforts Can Be Taken to Extend Aircraft
Service Life (Letter Report, 09/15/94, GAO/NSIAD-94-222).

The C-141 aircraft, which has been the backbone of the military's
airlift fleet, is nearing the end of its service life and has been under
severe flight restrictions in recent years. The Air Mobility Command has
temporarily expanded the use of commercial and tanker aircraft for
regularly scheduled cargo and passenger missions. It also plans to
upgrade its strategic airlift simulator capacity, which will allow it to
do more in-aircraft training. The Command, however, can do more. First,
it can continue to use commercial and tanker aircraft to fly scheduled
missions not requiring the unique capabilities of the C-141. Second, the
Command can make maximum use of the upgraded simulators by transferring
more of the air refueling and local proficiency training from the C-5
and C-141. Moreover, it can institute a companion trainer aircraft
program for the C-5 and C-141. That involves flying smaller, less-costly
aircraft for training that does not require larger aircraft and would be
similar to programs that the Air Force and Command have for tanker

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  Strategic Airlift: Further Efforts Can Be Taken to Extend 
             Aircraft Service Life
      DATE:  09/15/94
   SUBJECT:  Military airlift operations
             Airlift services
             Emergency preparedness
             Commercial aviation
             Defense contingency planning
             Strategic mobility forces
             Combat readiness
             Military aircraft
             Defense capabilities
             Flight training
IDENTIFIER:  C-141 Aircraft
             C-17 Aircraft
             C-5 Aircraft
             KC-10 Aircraft
             KC-135 Aircraft
             Air Force Civil Reserve Air Fleet Program
             Desert Storm
             Air Force Airlift Master Plan
             DC-10 Aircraft
             Persian Gulf War
             U-2 Aircraft
* This file contains an ASCII representation of the text of a GAO        *
* report.  Delineations within the text indicating chapter titles,       *
* headings, and bullets are preserved.  Major divisions and subdivisions *
* of the text, such as Chapters, Sections, and Appendixes, are           *
* identified by double and single lines.  The numbers on the right end   *
* of these lines indicate the position of each of the subsections in the *
* document outline.  These numbers do NOT correspond with the page       *
* numbers of the printed product.                                        *
*                                                                        *
* No attempt has been made to display graphic images, although figure    *
* captions are reproduced. Tables are included, but may not resemble     *
* those in the printed version.                                          *
*                                                                        *
* A printed copy of this report may be obtained from the GAO Document    *
* Distribution Facility by calling (202) 512-6000, by faxing your        *
* request to (301) 258-4066, or by writing to P.O. Box 6015,             *
* Gaithersburg, MD 20884-6015. We are unable to accept electronic orders *
* for printed documents at this time.                                    *

================================================================ COVER

Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed
Services, House of Representatives

September 1994



Strategic Airlift

=============================================================== ABBREV

  AMC - Air Mobility Command
  CRAF - Civil Reserve Air Fleet
  DOD - Department of Defense

=============================================================== LETTER


September 15, 1994

The Honorable Earl Hutto
Chairman, Subcommittee on Readiness
Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

Under the new national military strategy, the United States is
reducing its forward presence, and the Department of Defense (DOD)
must be able to rapidly deploy armed forces to any overseas location. 
This report responds to your request that we assess whether the
current airlift aircraft, such as the C-5s and the C-141s, are being
used in a way that conserves DOD's strategic airlift capabilities for
wartime missions. 

The U.S.  Transportation Command is responsible for the peacetime and
wartime mobility system, and its Air Mobility Command (AMC) provides
the strategic airlift aircraft to fly the critical, early arriving
troops and cargo for overseas deployments.  The C-141, which has been
the backbone of the airlift fleet, is nearing the end of its service
life and has been under severe flight restrictions in recent years. 
The new airlift aircraft, the C-17, has had numerous technical
problems and is behind schedule.  Planned buys of it have been
reduced.  Thus, it is important to find ways to fly current strategic
airlift aircraft less in peacetime in order to ensure their
availability for wartime. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

In response to C-141 flight restrictions, AMC temporarily expanded
the use of commercial and tanker aircraft for regularly scheduled
cargo and passenger missions.  It also plans to upgrade its strategic
airlift simulator capability, which will allow it to reduce
in-aircraft training. 

However, AMC can do more.  First, it can continue to use commercial
and tanker aircraft to fly scheduled missions not requiring the
unique capabilities of the C-141.  Second, AMC can make maximum use
of the upgraded simulators by transferring more of the air refueling
and local proficiency training from the C-5 and the C-141.  Moreover,
it can institute a companion trainer aircraft program for the C-5 and
C-141.  That involves flying smaller, less-costly aircraft for
training that does not require larger aircraft and would be similar
to programs the Air Force already has and AMC has for tanker

As table 1 illustrates, these actions could extend the current
estimated remaining life of the C-5 aircraft from 29.5 years to
almost 41 years and the C-141 aircraft from 5.2 years to 8.4.  These
benefits will only be available for wartime use if the time saved is
not used for additional peacetime flying. 

                                     Table 1
                         Estimated Aircraft Service Life
                      Increases from Using Commercial/Tanker
                       Aircraft, Simulators, and Companion

                         AMC     Commercial                                  Our
                   estimated            and              Companion     estimated
                   remaining         tacker  Simulator     trainer     remaining
Aircraft              life\a       aircraft          s    aircraft          life
--------------  ------------  -------------  ---------  ----------  ------------
C-5                     29.5            0.0        7.4         3.8          40.7
C-141                    5.2            1.4        0.7         1.1           8.4
\a The point at which half the fleet reaches the end of its estimated
service life.  Data is in years. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

AMC is responsible for providing global airlift services and air
refueling operations.  To carry out its mission, it has, as of June
30, 1994, a fleet of 70 C-5, 162 C-141, 38 KC-10, and 207 KC-135
aircraft.  Its reserve components operate an additional 39 C-5s, 48
C-141s, and 248 KC-135s.  AMC is just beginning to receive its newest
airlift aircraft--the C-17.  The C-5 aircraft, the largest airlifter,
is capable of carrying 340 troops or 36 standard cargo pallets.  The
C-141, considerably smaller than the C-5, can carry 200 troops or 13
standard pallets.  The KC-10 tanker aircraft is a military version of
the DC-10 commercial aircraft.  Although the KC-10 and KC-135 are
primarily tanker aircraft used for air refueling, AMC has
increasingly been using these aircraft in an airlift role since
acquiring them from the former Strategic Air Command.  The sizes of
the various airlift, tanker, and companion trainer aircraft are shown
in figure 1. 

   Figure 1:  Relative Size of
   Various Airlift, Tanker, and
   Companion Trainer Aircraft

   (See figure in printed

The current airlift capability is below the Transportation Command's
requirement of 57 million ton miles per day for its most demanding
planning scenario.  The C-141, C-5, C-17, KC-10, and the commercial
aircraft of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF)\1 give DOD a current
airlift capability of about 49 million ton miles per day.  To achieve
the airlift mobility requirement, the Air Force is acquiring C-17
aircraft and plans to acquire a nondevelopmental airlift aircraft
beginning in 1996.  Nondevelopmental aircraft could include new C-5s
or commercial aircraft such as 747s or DC-10s.  Under AMC's October
1993 Air Mobility Master Plan, which assumed procurement of 120 C-17
and 32 nondevelopmental aircraft, AMC would not achieve its required
airlift capability until the year 2006, as shown in figure 2. 

   Figure 2:  Breakdown by
   Aircraft Type of the Strategic
   Airlift Capability Between
   Fiscal Years 1994 and 2010

   (See figure in printed

The life expectancies of the C-5s and the C-141s are a function of
the hours they fly.  AMC's airlift flying hour program is centered
around the number of peacetime hours its pilots and crews need to fly
to be ready for war.  Pilot training requirements are determined by
(1) training events to maintain proficiency and (2) experience
factors for new pilots who must progress from copilot to first pilot
and then to aircraft commander.\2 Pilot training consists primarily
of local, global, joint airborne, and experiencing training as shown
in figure 3. 

   Figure 3:  Breakdown in AMC's
   Fiscal Year 1994 C-141 and C-5
   Training Program by Major

   (See figure in printed

Local training includes proficiency, special operations, airdrop and
air refueling training.  In joint airborne training, pilots practice
airdrop, assault, and aircraft loading in a multiservice environment. 
Global training consists of overseas missions for pilots to gain
familiarity with foreign airports and air traffic control systems. 
The C-141 program includes experiencing training, which gives pilots
the flying time to upgrade to aircraft commander.  Because of its
high flying hour costs and limited numbers of aircraft, the C-5 has
generally not been used for experiencing pilots and its flying hour
program includes no experiencing hours.  However, the C-5 program
includes flying hours for various humanitarian/contingency missions
(such as Operation Restore Hope in Somalia) over and above normal
training needs. 

In addition to training, AMC uses its aircraft to haul passengers and
cargo for customers such as the Army, the Navy, or the State
Department.  This flying serves AMC's training needs as well as
customer needs.  AMC also meets customer requirements by purchasing
airlift from commercial carriers that have committed their aircraft
and crews to the CRAF program to meet DOD wartime needs.  AMC's
peacetime purchases provide the incentive for continued commitment to
the CRAF program. 

\1 The CRAF program gives DOD access to commercial aircraft to
augment military airlift during emergencies such as Operation Desert

\2 Aircraft commander is the highest level of pilot proficiency. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

When the C-141 fleet was severely restricted in 1993, AMC was able to
meet most of its regularly scheduled cargo and passenger deliveries
by using more commercial capacity and tanker aircraft.  If it
continues to use these assets to a similar degree, AMC would extend
the useful life of the C-141 fleet, thereby retaining it for wartime. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.1

AMC is using more commercial and tanker aircraft for scheduled
service over established C-141 routes than it did in fiscal year
1993.  AMC made this change primarily to ease the shortage of the
C-141 aircraft that resulted from "weep hole" cracks in their inner
wings.  These cracks grounded many aircraft and required extensive
repairs.  Table 2 shows AMC's use of both commercial and tanker
aircraft on regularly scheduled cargo missions from the United States
in June 1993, before the C-141s were restricted, and in February
1994, when most of the fleet was grounded.  The amount of cargo
carried by commercial and tanker aircraft increased by about 70
percent, while the use of the C-141 decreased by about the same

                           Table 2
           Regularly Scheduled U.S. Cargo Business
            of Commercial, Tanker, C-141, and C-5

                            Carg             Carg
                               o                o
                            (ton    Percent  (ton    Percent
Aircraft                      s)   of total    s)   of total
--------------------------  ----  ---------  ----  ---------
Commercial                  2,07         25  3,53         48
                               5                0
Tanker                       486          6   725         10
C-141                       2,14         26   607          8
C-5                         3,28         41  2,38         33
                               0                0
Other                        158          2    83          1
Total                       8,14        100  7,32        100
                               7                5

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.2

Since 1981, the C-141 flying hour program has averaged about 1,100
hours per aircraft annually except during the Gulf War.  In January
1994, the Commander, Transportation Command, directed that as the
C-141s were repaired and returned to the system, they not be used on
regularly scheduled missions as heavily as in the past.  The
directive limited use of the C-141 to instances specifically
requiring capabilities that commercial aircraft could not provide,
such as handling oversize cargo, and directed AMC to use commercial
and tanker aircraft instead.  However, this directive covered only a
6-month period. 

As of the end of fiscal year 1994, the C-141 fleet will have a median
remaining service life of about 5.2 years, based on its historical
flying hours.  In addition to preserving the life of the aircraft,
use of commercial flights whenever possible would provide more
incentive for the commercial carriers to remain in the CRAF program. 
Continued use of commercial aircraft and tankers could extend the
life of the C-141 fleet by about 1.4 years.\3

Because of recent C-141 problems, coupled with multiple contingency
and humanitarian operations, demand for AMC aircraft has often
exceeded supply.  Because of the heavy demand for airlift, AMC may
use the C-141s to a greater extent as they are repaired and returned
to the system.  There are indications already that the C-141 is being
used more, and both commercial and tanker aircraft less.  For
example, between February and March 1994 cargo tonnage moved by the
C-141 on regularly scheduled routes increased from about 8 to 16
percent of the total, while commercial cargo tonnage decreased from
48 to 41 percent.  In addition, on May 1, 1994, AMC directed that the
C-141s replace the KC-135 tanker aircraft on Tanker Express West\4
for a temporary 3-month test period.  After the test period, AMC may
decide to permanently use the C-141s on these routes. 

Several key carriers with substantial passenger capability have
recently dropped out of the CRAF program, at least in part due to
insufficient AMC business to justify the risk of future CRAF
activations.\5 Additional AMC business, along with other incentives
such as expanding the base of government business available to the
CRAF carriers, could entice them back into the program and encourage
others to remain. 

\3 This estimate is based on AMC's continuing to augment C-141
flights and flying them an average of 800 hours per year. 

\4 AMC created Tanker Express West on July 1, 1993, using KC-135
tanker aircraft for daily missions of high priority cargo from the
West Coast to Japan and Korea. 

\5 See Military Airlift:  Changes Underway to Ensure Continued
Success of Civil Reserve Air Fleet (GAO/NSIAD-93-12, Dec.  31, 1992). 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.3

One problem AMC had when the C-141 fleet was restricted was that the
C-141 flight crews had difficulty getting their scheduled training. 
AMC officials told us they took extraordinary measures to get the
required minimum training hours.  For example, in January 1994, when
only 43 C-141 aircraft were available, AMC restricted use of half of
them for training missions exclusively.  This was the first time this
had been done.  AMC also sometimes assigned extra pilots to C-141
flights to try to get as many pilots as possible their required
flight time.  We believe that increased use of simulators and use of
a new companion aircraft training program, as discussed in the
following sections, could help ensure that C-141 crews get required
training even when many aircraft are not flying. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

A large body of research documents the economy and effectiveness of
simulation.  The commercial airline industry has steadily increased
the use of simulators for required pilot training.  Currently, most
major airlines do 100 percent of their pilot proficiency training in
simulators.  The Federal Aviation Administration and commercial
airline officials cite cost-effectiveness as well as improved safety
and training as the primary reasons for transferring training to
simulators.  For example, emergency procedures can be practiced in
simulators that cannot be done in an actual aircraft. 

AMC recognizes the cost-effectiveness of transferring training to
simulators and has proposed a simulator upgrade program for its
airlift and tanker aircraft.  AMC plans to implement the $246-million
program between fiscal years 1994 and 2001. 

With the upgrades, AMC will initially use simulators for 25 percent
of air refueling training and 50 percent of local proficiency
training.  As a result, service life is expected to increase by about
3.7 years for the C-5 and 0.4 years for the C-141, assuming that the
saved hours are not used to fly other missions.  If such missions are
flown, however, the use of the simulator would still result in life
extensions (1.5 years for the C-5 and 0.2 years for the C-141)
because flights to move cargo are less stressful to the aircraft than
some flights for training.  AMC is projecting ultimate reductions in
flying hour costs of $265 million, resulting in savings of about $19
million from the simulator upgrades.  AMC's savings projections are
based on estimated C-5, C-141, KC-10 and KC-135 flying hour savings
for fiscal years 1994 through 2009. 

AMC could move even more training to simulators within the simulator
capacity available under the upgrade program and further increase
aircraft service life.  Our analysis indicates that enough total
capacity will be available in the upgraded simulators to achieve 50
percent of air refueling training for both the C-5 and the C-141
aircraft, all C-5 local proficiency training, and 50 percent of C-141
local proficiency training.  AMC is planning to eventually transfer
all local proficiency training to simulators, but is still conducting
tests to determine what portion of the air refueling training could
be effectively transferred.  Under the expanded use of the upgraded
simulators previously mentioned, AMC could extend the remaining
service life of the C-5 aircraft by nearly 7.4 years, or about 25
percent of its remaining life, and the C-141 by about 0.7 years, or
about 13 percent--assuming AMC does not replace saved training hours
with other flying. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

AMC could also reduce airlift flying hours and extend the remaining
useful life of the C-5 and the C-141 aircraft by using a companion
trainer aircraft to provide additional flying experience for new
active duty flight school graduates.  Such use could extend the C-5
life by about 3.8 years and the C-141 life by about 1.1 years. 

The Air Force has long used small, inexpensive companion trainer
aircraft to supplant flying hours in aircraft that are costly to
operate.  For example, in 1976 the former Strategic Air Command
developed a companion trainer program to accelerate copilot upgrade
to aircraft commander in bomber and tanker aircraft.  Companion
trainers have also been used for the F-117 fighter and reconnaissance
aircraft, such as the U-2.  Moreover, AMC presently operates a
companion trainer program for its KC-10 and KC-135 tanker aircraft. 
New tanker pilots fly about a quarter of their flying hours each
month in the C-12 trainer aircraft as they progress from copilot to
aircraft commander.  The C-12 flying hour cost is about $275 versus
about $2,800 for the KC-10 and $2,600 for the KC-135. 

The C-141 flying hour program contains a large block of hours
specifically for experiencing or seasoning new pilots so they will be
skilled enough to progress from copilot to first pilot and then to
aircraft commander.  New C-141 pilots are programmed to fly about 20
hours per month for required training events.  An additional 14 hours
each month are programmed to gain experience.  These hours--for new
copilots to increase their pilot proficiency, judgment, and
decision-making skills--could be performed in a companion trainer

Each month AMC needs to provide about 150 C-141 pilots with 14
experiencing hours.  If a companion trainer were used for these
hours, as is common in other aircraft, about 25,000 C-141 hours
annually could be saved.  This could extend the lives of the C-141
aircraft remaining as of September 30, 1994, by as much as 1.1

The C-5 flying hour program contains no specific amount of
experiencing training because new pilots for the C-5 have
historically transitioned from other aircraft.  However, new C-5
pilots are now programmed to fly about 22 hours per month, with about
18 hours for required training events.  This leaves 4 hours per month
that are not specifically programmed for training events and that we
believe could be done in a companion trainer.  Each year AMC has
about 110 pilots being trained to become aircraft commanders in the
C-5 program.  The use of a companion trainer for 4 hours per month by
these pilots would save about 5,000 hours per year.  These flying
hour savings could extend the C-5's life by 3.8 years.\7

As was the case with an increased use of simulators, AMC would only
achieve the benefits from a companion trainer program if it does not
replace the saved training hours with other flying. 

We estimate that implementing a companion trainer program for airlift
aircraft would require about 50 aircraft, based on AMC's experience
with tanker aircraft companion training programs.  Suitable aircraft
may be available to support such a program.  In its February 1993
roles and missions study, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that a
number of the over 500 operational support aircraft, such as the
C-12, were surplus to requirements and that more operational support
aircraft were being bought.  Operational support aircraft are
typically suitable companion trainers and using some of these excess
aircraft could preclude acquisition of new aircraft for the C-5 and
the C-141 companion trainers.  However, if aircraft must be bought,
the Air Force estimates the C-12 acquisition cost at about $2.1
million each. 

\6 We calculated life extension by dividing flying hours possible to
be saved by the number of average flying hours for each aircraft for
the 3-year period 1993-95 and then multiplying the result by an
average training severity factor.  We then multiplied that result by
the planes' average remaining service life.  We used the following
AMC C-141 data:  average flying hours = 164,000, severity factor =
1.34, and estimated remaining service life (as of September 30, 1994)
= 5.2 years. 

\7 Life extension was calculated the same as for the C-141.  The
following AMC C-5 data were used:  average flying hours = 47,000,
severity factor = 1.23, and estimated remaining service life (as of
September 30, 1995) = 29.5 years. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

Because extending the service lives of the C-5 and the C-141 aircraft
fleets during peacetime is critical to protecting DOD's strategic
airlift capabilities for wartime, we recommend that the Secretary of
Defense direct the Commander, U.S.  Transportation Command, take the
following actions: 

  Continue using commercial and tanker aircraft for regularly
     scheduled cargo missions by limiting the use of the C-141s to
     only those instances requiring its unique capabilities. 

  Move as much as possible of the C-5 and the C-141 local proficiency
     training to the simulators when they are upgraded.  In addition,
     increase the amount of the C-5 and the C-141 air refueling
     simulator training as soon as the current AMC simulator
     optimization study is completed, if the study concludes that
     such an increase is appropriate. 

  Determine the cost-effectiveness of an airlifter companion trainer
     program to allow the C-141 and the C-5 pilots to accomplish many
     of their experiencing and proficiency training requirements in
     less expensive aircraft.  This could include transferring
     available operational support aircraft from other DOD activities
     to AMC. 

  Adjust future airlift flying hour program budget requests to
     reflect the shift between airlifters and commercial and tanker
     aircraft, and the C-141 and the C-5 flying hour reductions made
     possible by the increased use of simulators and companion

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

We provided a draft of this report to DOD for its review and
discussed its contents with DOD officials.  Although we did receive a
draft of DOD's official comments on our draft report, DOD was not
able to provide official written comments in time to be included in
our final report. 

DOD agreed with the general thrust of our report--reducing airlifter
flying hours during peacetime will protect wartime capability.  DOD
also agreed that the C-5 and the C-141 aircraft service lives could
be extended by increased use of simulators.  DOD also agreed that
aircraft service lives could be extended by establishing a companion
trainer program, as we recommended in our draft report.  However,
officials told us that implementing such a program would probably
require additional funding.  DOD believes that assessing the costs
and benefits of our draft recommendation, along with other
initiatives, could maximize the benefit of the strategic airlift
flying hour program.  DOD believes, as does GAO, that such a study
could conclude that a companion trainer investment would be justified
given the potential of substantial aircraft service life extensions. 

We revised our report to address most of DOD's specific concerns and
we also revised our final recommendations to reflect their views. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

We interviewed various officials at these locations and reviewed
pertinent regulations, guidance, and reports pertaining to the
subject areas at the Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base,
Illinois.  We also conducted audit work at the 60th Airlift Wing and
15th Air Force Headquarters, Travis Air Force Base, California.  In
particular, we reviewed 24 studies or reports by DOD and various
independent sources on the use of simulators instead of aircraft. 

We based our service life extension calculations on AMC's methodology
using the median remaining service life for the C-5 and the C-141
aircraft, and aircraft stress factor reductions when specified
training hours were removed from the aircraft.  Among the assumptions
we made, were that DOD's projected wartime airlift needs were valid
and that AMC's projected pilot training and cargo delivery schedules
were also valid. 

We conducted our review from July 1993 through June 1994 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :8.1

Copies of this report will be sent to the Chairman and Ranking
Minority Members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the
Senate and House Committees on Appropriations; the Secretaries of
Defense, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; the Commandant of the
Marine Corps; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the
Commander in Chief, U.S.  Transportation Command; the Commander, AMC;
the Director, Office of Management and Budget; and other interested
parties.  We will also make copies available to others on request. 

Please contact me at (202) 512-5140 if you or your staff have any
questions concerning this report.  Major contributors to this report
are listed in appendix I. 

Sincerely yours,

Mark E.  Gebicke
Director, Military Operations
 and Capabilities Issues

=========================================================== Appendix I

--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:1

Norman Rabkin
Robert Eurich

--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:2

Greg Symons
Norm Trowbridge
Claudia Saul

--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:3

Floyd Adkins
John Kennedy