July 6, 2016 —
Our objective was to determine whether the Navy was effectively managing the acquisition requirements and testing for the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) program. The arresting gear is the system responsible for stopping aircraft while landing on the flight deck of a carrier.
The Program Manager, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (PMA-251), did not effectively manage the acquisition to meet requirements and execute testing for the AAG program. Ten years after the program entered the engineering and manufacturing development phase, the Navy has not been able to prove the capability or safety of the system to a level that would permit actual testing of the system on an aircraft carrier because of hardware failures and software challenges. This occurred because the Navy pursued a technological solution for its Ford-class carriers that was not sufficiently mature for the planned use, resulting in hardware failures to mechanical and electrical components and software modifications to accommodate those failures.
In addition, the program manager did not revise the Test and Evaluation Master Plan to address significant changes to the test strategy and schedule. This occurred because redesign changes required significant revisions to AAG key components, and those changes took priority over updating the Test and Evaluation Master Plan. As a result, major AAG system components required costly redesign, which delayed developmental testing and will further postpone delivery of the full AAG system capability to the CVN-78 aircraft carrier. AAG hardware and software component failures and test site preparation led to the AAG program exceeding the Acquisition Category I threshold for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) costs. As of October 2015, RDT&E costs for the AAG program total $743.5 million, which was $571.5 million above the planned costs in the 2005 Acquisition Program Baseline. Developmental testing originally scheduled to end in FY 2009 will continue through FY 2018, and reliability of the system is uncertain.
We recommend the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition perform cost-benefit analyses to determine whether the AAG is an affordable solution for Navy aircraft carriers before deciding to go forward with the system on future aircraft carriers. We recommend the Program Manager, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment, update the AAG Test and Evaluation Master Plan to revise the planned test strategy, test schedule, developmental and operational funding, and add measures to support the program’s reliability growth plan before the Acquisition Category IC Acquisition Program Baseline is finalized.
Management Comments and Our Response
Comments from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition; and the Program Manager, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment, addressed all the specifics of the recommendations and no further action is required.
This report is a result of Project No. D2015-D000AE-0191.000.