C-130J acquisition by the Air Force took place in a nontraditional manner. As a commercial off-the-shelf system, this latest version of the venerable C-130 aircraft presented unusual issues concerning whether or not it was covered by the live fire test and evaluation (LFT&E) requirements of Title 10 United States Code (USC) Section 2366 and Department of Defense (DoD) Regulation 5000.2-R. For the first time in the 40-plus year history of the popular Hercules transport, the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems signed a commercial practices contract for the sale of C-130Js. Awarded on 06 November 1996, the basic contract included an initial order for two aircraft, associated data, and spares, funded in fiscal year 1996. The contract also contained five years of options through the year 2000 for additional aircraft, interim contractor support, data, training, and support. By late 1996 Lockheed Martin had completed assembly of the first "production" C-130J (Serial # 5440), one of 12 ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force.
The LFT&E statute ties the Live Fire Test (LFT) program to formal milestones found in standard DoD acquisition programs. However, the C-130J acquisition was not structured according to these milestones because of the nontraditional acquisition approach. To preserve the spirit of LFT&E and "do the right thing," the Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), jointly committed to a C-130J LFT&E program that met the intent of a high-quality LFT&E program, whether or not this was required by law. This commitment was formalized in a memorandum signed by both agencies in March 1998.
The backdrop for the joint Air Force and DOT&E memorandum was a C-130H and C-130J vulnerability analysis completed in 1996. This analysis identified the major ballistic vulnerability contributors and areas where data voids existed. In response to the study findings, the Air Force structured a multiphase C-130 Vulnerability Reduction Program (VRP) to better quantify the aircraft's vulnerabilities and investigate the feasibility of vulnerability reduction approaches. In addition, DOT&E and the Air Force agreed on other vulnerability areas to investigate under a C-130J LFT&E.
The Air Force agreed to fund the VRP and other testing and analysis efforts that would have been conducted as part of the C-130J acquisition. OSD agreed to fund the hydrodynamic ram testing and a mission abort study through its Joint Live Fire (JLF) program. All of the LFT&E program elements were added to the C-130J Test and Evaluation Master Plan. As the elements are completed, the results would be reported to DOT&E and included in the reports required by the LFT law. Through the spirit of doing the right thing, the USC Section 2366 requirements would be met, a more survivable weapon system would result, and the lives of operators would be protected to the maximum extent possible.
Due to system immaturity, operational testing was initially segmented into three phases of testing: Phase 1A, Phase 1B, and Phase 2. Phase 1A evaluated the ability of the aircraft to be used to train pilots. Phase 1B evaluated the aircraft's ability to perform the air/land mission. Phase 2, planned for FY06, would evaluate the ability to perform all missions to include airdrop. Based on the evaluation of test results conducted from Phase 1A and Phase 1B, put into the In the FY01 report, DOT&E determined that the aircraft was not operationally suitable or effective. The evaluated reliability, maintainability, availability, and logistics supportability during Phase 1B were found to be below operational requirements.
Deficiencies were noted with on-aircraft integrated diagnostics and fault isolation systems, portable maintenance aids, maintenance technical orders, and the availability of spare parts. Additional contractor field service representatives were determined to be required to assist in the maintenance of the aircraft for the foreseeable future. The airdrop mission could not be evaluated until deficiency corrections were implemented and the developmental tests completed in FY06. Aircrew workload issues, software discrepancies, and cargo loading and constraint requirements were still major issues. The using commands (United States Air Force, Air Force Reserves, and Air National Guard) were unable to verify manpower requirements to field this system until the crew workload evaluation was complete.
One of the near-term issues requiring resolution was the vulnerability of the aircraft to Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The Air Force was concerned with the proliferation of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles that have shown to pose a serious threat to large aircraft in the past. To combat this threat, the Air Force has initiated a program called "Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM)" to equip some, but not all, C-130 and other transport and tanker aircraft with lasers capable of jamming infrared guided missiles. Another near term possible issue being debated was the allegation that the new C-130J was extremely vulnerable to gunfire striking its wings and causing fires, and the Air Force should consider installing gas generators to reduce the risk of fire.
The Pentagon's inspector general in a 34-page report, dated 23 July 2004, that substantiated the allegation that the C-130J aircraft did not meet contract specifications and therefore could not perform its operational mission. The Air Force conditionally accepted 50 C-130J aircraft at a cost of $2.6 billion even though none of the aircraft met commercial contract specifications or operational requirements. The Air Force also paid Lockheed Martin more than 99 percent of the C-130J aircraft's contracted price for the delivered aircraft. As a result, the Government fielded C-130J aircraft that could perform the intended mission, forcing the users to incur additional operations and maintenance costs to operate and maintain older C-130 mission-capable aircraft because the C-130J aircraft could be used only for training.
The Inspector General recommended that the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition should stop the System Program Office from contracting for additional block upgrades until a contract-compliant aircraft was designed, developed, and delivered. Further recommendations included using Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 15 for future modifications that add to the scope of the statement of work to the C-130J multiyear contract (F33657-03-C-2014), and increased contract withhold amounts for acceptance of noncompliant aircraft, and develop a schedule for completing outstanding retrofits to accepted and fielded aircraft.
The Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition did not concur with the finding and recommendations. The Assistant Secretary stated that the commercial acquisition strategy of the C-130J was legitimate, the Air Force properly managed the program, and DoD provided effective oversight. The Assistant Secretary stated that Lockheed Martin is delivering contract-compliant C-130J aircraft, and that upgrades are necessary to meet DoD requirements. He also stated that the use of Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12 was appropriate. In addition, withholds were consistent with the contract, and the Air Force did not have problems motivating Lockheed Martin to correct within-scope deficiencies. The Assistant Secretary also stated that all outstanding retrofits had been scheduled or completed.
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