Nov. 19, 2019 —
Publicly Released: November 21, 2019
The objective of this audit was to determine whether the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) identified and obtained spare parts that the Navy needed to meet F/A‑18 E/F Super Hornets (Super Hornets) readiness requirements.
The Super Hornet is a fighter and attack aircraft that provides escort and fleet air defense, as well as offensive capabilities. The aircraft can target enemy fighter aircraft and attack ground and surface targets. When we selected our nonstatistical sample in April 2018, the Navy had 542 Super Hornets assigned to training, test and evaluation, and strike fighter squadrons.
A spare part is an item purchased for replacement, replenishment of stock or for use in the maintenance, overhaul, and repair of equipment, such as aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, the Naval Supply Systems Command, and the DLA work together to maintain the spare parts for the Navy’s fleet of Super Hornets.
The spare parts we focused on in this report were identified by the Navy as critical spare parts that if missing or non‑functional would result in the failure of a system to perform a required function. We reviewed a nonstatistical sample of 5 of 20 critical spare parts that directly impact the mission capability of Super Hornets.
The five critical spare parts that we reviewed were the generator converter unit, multipurpose color display replacement, advanced targeting forward looking infrared electro‑optical sensor unit, communication antenna, and rudder actuator.
For the five critical spare parts that we reviewed, the Navy and the DLA identified the quantity of those five parts that the Navy needed to maintain the operational readiness of the Super Hornet fleet. However, Navy and DLA officials could not obtain the quantity needed to satisfy current demand and fill backorders.
Our review of the five critical spare parts identified specific causes contributing to the backorders:
- obsolete materials that are no longer made or available for purchase;
- manufacturing delivery and repair delays; and
- the Navy’s lack of technical data used in producing or repairing spare parts.
Had Navy officials performed an overall independent logistics assessment as required for the Super Hornet Program between 2000 and 2018, the Navy would have identified causes for the deficiencies in obtaining spare parts and given the Navy the information needed to develop plans to correct the deficiencies.
In addition, F/A‑18 E/F Program Office (PMA‑265) officials stated that a lack of sustainment funding contributed to the difficulties with obtaining spare parts. However, officials from the Chief of Naval Operations office stated that PMA‑265 received reduced funding because PMA‑265 officials had under‑executed its budget and naval aviation sustainment budgets were all reduced. For example, from FYs 2013 through 2016 PMA‑265 requested more funding for sustainment than it received. Specifically, PMA‑265 requested between $193.6 and $311.5 million and received between $85.2 and $136.3 million.
As a result, Navy officials had cannibalized aircraft to obtain needed spare parts—removed working parts from an aircraft and installing those parts on a second aircraft to make the second aircraft operational. Therefore, each act of cannibalization increased the risk of damage to the aircraft or part, including:
- the maintainer breaking the part during removal or reinstallation, and
- corrosion from sections of the aircraft being removed and exposed to the elements during cannibalization or while awaiting a new part.
In addition, cannibalization takes time and money because a maintainer has to uninstall a usable part from one aircraft, reinstall the usable part on another aircraft, and then install the replacement part, once received, on another aircraft. Furthermore, because of backorders and cannibalization the Navy may not meet sudden increases in operational mission readiness requirements or the Secretary of Defense’s goal of 80‑percent mission capable rate for the Super Hornet fleet by the end of FY 2019.
We recommend that the PMA‑265 Program Manager:
- determine the parts or supplies that are obsolete or are limited in quantity and develop and implement a plan to minimize the impact of obsolete materials, including ensuring the parts or supplies are covered by the obsolescence program;
- develop alternative contracting sources to eliminate delivery delays;
- develop and implement plans, in coordination with organizations responsible for managing repair materials and support equipment for the Navy, to ensure the availability of those materials and support equipment needed to complete repairs; and
- develop and implement a strategy to obtain technical data, to obtain access to technical data, or to mitigate the barriers when the contractor owns the data rights in order to increase the Navy’s repair capability.
We also recommend that the Naval Air Forces Commander review the Navy’s cannibalization practice to determine whether aircraft maintainers are using cannibalization to avoid obtaining approval from higher level officials as required in Navy cannibalization guidance and determine whether the Navy should make changes to the guidance.
Management Comments and Our Response
The PMA‑265 Program Manager agreed with the recommendations, stating that PMA‑265:
- has arranged with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command to obtain system, subsystem, and component‑level data that will be tracked for obsolescence management;
- is coordinating with the Naval Supply Systems Command and the DLA to identify and develop alternative supply sources when the original equipment manufacturer cannot keep pace with repair demand or the manufacturer has decided to no longer sustain a repair or production line;
- in conjunction with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst and the Super Hornet Fleet began an initial support equipment evaluation in 2019 to address and identify issues regarding repair materials and support equipment; and
- started a comprehensive initiative to gain access to technical data from the F/A‑18 original equipment manufacturer and subsystems vendors.
Comments from the PMA‑265 Program Manager addressed all specifics of the recommendations. Therefore, the recommendations are resolved but will remain open until we verify that the planned actions have been implemented.
The Naval Air Forces Commander agreed with the recommendation, stating that over the next 90 days the Naval Air Forces Commander will:
- collect all necessary data on a sample of five randomly selected Super Hornet squadrons to analyze the Navy’s compliance with the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program (NAMP) regarding cannibalization,
- review the 30 and 90-day cannibalization thresholds in the NAMP to ensure that the number and frequency of all cannibalization events met the intent of the NAMP, and
- address changes that should be made to prevent or detect errors prior to occurrence if the squadrons did not meet the intent of the NAMP.
Comments from the Naval Air Forces Commander addressed all specifics of the recommendation. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open until we verify that the planned actions have been implemented.
This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D000RK-0124.000.