We determined whether Air Force officials updated the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) test and evaluation master plan to respond to concerns raised by Air Force and DoD test officials, developed an EPAWSS design that can meet capability requirements, and evaluated the F-15C EPAWSS production plan during the engineering and manufacturing development phase.
The Air Force’s EPAWSS program is an acquisition category IC major defense program with estimated program costs of $876 million in research, development, test, and evaluation, and $3.4 billion in procurement.1 EPAWSS upgrades F-15C and F-15E aircraft electronic warfare capabilities to detect and identify air and ground threats, employ counter-measures, and jam enemy radar signals. The F-15 is an all-weather, day and night, tactical fighter aircraft designed to gain and maintain control over the battlefield.
In November 2016, EPAWSS program officials started the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the acquisition cycle and began to develop, build, and test EPAWSS prototypes to verify that capability requirements have been met and to support production decisions. In August 2019, EPAWSS program officials plan to begin production and installation of EPAWSS on F-15 aircraft. The Air Force planned to upgrade 196 F-15C and 217 F-15E aircraft with EPAWSS during the production phase.
EPAWSS program officials updated the test and evaluation master plan to respond to concerns raised by Air Force and DoD test officials. Additionally, EPAWSS program officials developed an EPAWSS design that can meet capability requirements.
Furthermore, in September 2016, the Air Force fully funded the EPAWSS program through production to satisfy an urgent need for modernized F-15 electronic warfare capabilities. However, in February 2017, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Strategic Plans and Requirements (DCS AF/A5/8) cancelled the upgrade of 196 F-15C aircraft with EPAWSS and removed procurement funds, which resulted in a 47 percent decrease of the total program production quantity.
The quantity decrease of the F-15C EPAWSS production units and the removal of funds occurred because the DCS AF/A5/8 decided to use F-15C EPAWSS procurement funds to develop a higher priority air superiority program. However, DCS AF/A5/8 officials did not request Joint Requirements Oversight Council revalidation to verify whether the quantity decrease that was over 10 percent would adversely impact the warfighter’s capability.
As a result, Air Force officials do not know the full impact to other aircraft missions within and across the portfolios and Services without Joint Requirements Oversight Council revalidation of the decrease of F-15C EPAWSS production quantities. Using the F-15C aircraft without EPAWSS will limit the warfighter’s ability to detect and identify air and ground threats, employ counter-measures, and jam enemy radar signals.
We recommend the DCS AF/A5/8 request that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council revalidate the F-15C EPAWSS quantity to ensure that air superiority missions can still be met without the F-15C EPAWSS. Additionally, we recommend the DCS AF/A5/8 issue a revision that includes F-15C EPAWSS procurement funds if Congress does not approve the F-15C aircraft retirement.
Management Comments and Our Response:
The Director of Staff for DCS, Strategic Plans, Programs, and Requirements, responding for the DCS AF/A5/8, agreed with and addressed all specifics of the recommendations. The Director of Staff stated that Air Force officials would submit the updated EPAWSS production quantity to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council for review and revalidation by first quarter 2019.
In addition, the Director of Staff stated that Air Force officials would provide Congress with specific plans and justifications for retiring the F-15C aircraft. If Congress does not approve the F-15C aircraft retirement, the Director of Staff stated that Air Force officials would review the requirement and restore procurement funding for sufficient EPAWSS quantities to provide increased F-15C electronic warfare capabilities, as the mission requires. Therefore, these recommendations are resolved but will remain open. We will close these recommendations once we verify that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council has revalidated the decrease of F-15C EPAWSS production quantities or Air Force officials restore procurement funds if Congress does not approve the F-15C aircraft retirement.