THE US GENERAL Accounting Office (GAO) is urging US defence chief William Cohen to postpone the low-rate initial production (LRIP) decision on the McDonnell Douglas F-18E/F programme until Congressionally ordered studies on the multi-billion-dollar weapons programme are completed in the next several months.

The Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) is due to make the LRIP decision on 28 March, but Louis Rodrigues, the GAO's defence acquisitions issues director, asked for a delay pending delivery of reports which compare the Super Hornet's cost and combat effectiveness with those of the F-18C/D, which it would replace.

In June 1996, the Congressional watchdog released a report which concludes that the F-18E/F would cost more than the US Navy has estimated and would not provide "significant operational performance advantages over the less-expensive C/D model". It re- commends that the USN scrap the E/F procurement in favour of additional F-18C/Ds.

In a letter to Cohen, Rodrigues says: "We view the reporting mandates as clear evidence of the Congress' desire that a valid cost-benefit comparison of the F-18C/D and E/F support a production decision for the F-18E/F."

A quadrennial defence review, to be completed in May, will assess the need and affordability of procuring 1,000 SuperHornets, 442 Lockheed Martin F-22s and, perhaps, 3,000 Joint Strike Fighters.

Cohen will have to decide whether the projects should be terminated or cut back.

Source: Flight International