GAO Weighs in on F-16 Modifications

The Air Force’s estimate that it will cost some $2.61 billion in Fiscal 2013 dollars to upgrade and extend the service life of 300 F-16 fighters by 2022 is “well-documented,” “accurate,” and “mostly comprehensive,” found Government Accountability Office auditors. However, the estimate is “not fully credible” in part because it does not assess the extent to which costs would change if additional work were performed on these airframes or if more F-16s were modified, they state in GAO’s new report, issued in mid November. The service’s estimate would also benefit from a comparison with an independently developed cost approximation since the latter “tends to be higher and more accurate than a program office estimate,” states the report. The Air Force is pursuing this work on these 300 F-16s—just a portion of the total F-16 fleet—due to delays in fielding the F-35 strike fighter. The structural modifications included in the initiative will add 2,000 flight hours to the service life of each airframe, allowing these fighters to remain in the fleet six years to eight years longer, according to GAO. (See also Dayton Daily News report.)