U.S. spent US$2.6 bil. on inefficient planes: Pentagon


WASHINGTON, AP

The Air Force has spent US$2.6 billion to buy 50 planes which do not meet the military’s requirements and cannot be flown in combat zones, Pentagon investigators reported Friday.

The Air Force has continued to order more C-130J planes despite the fact that contractor Lockheed Martin hasn’t delivered one that met requirements in the eight years since the program began, the report said.

Problems with the propeller-driven cargo planes include faulty computer and diagnostic systems and inadequate defense measures, the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General concluded. So far, none of the planes has been cleared for some of their primary missions: Dropping troops and cargo into war zones and flying in conditions requiring the crew to wear night-vision goggles.

The inspector general’s report concluded that Air Force and Defense Department officials mismanaged the program, requiring millions of dollars in upgrades and thousands of hours of work to make the planes capable of performing as well as the aging models they’re supposed to replace.

The Air Force strongly denied the report’s conclusions.

Marvin Sambur, the Air Force’s top acquisition official, wrote to the investigators that the program is within its cost, schedule and contract guidelines. Lockheed Martin has started delivering planes which meet Air Force specifications and the necessary upgrades have either been completed or scheduled, Sambur wrote.

“While some of the facts presented in the DOD/IG report are accurate, the findings and conclusions ascribed to these facts cannot be supported,” Sambur wrote in response to the inspector general’s office. “The Air Force fully endorses the C-130J program.”

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said Friday company officials were reviewing the report and had no immediate comment.

Two Air Force squadrons haven’t been able to perform their missions for more than four years because they only have C-130Js, the report said. The 815th Air Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi and the 135th Airlift Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard are supposed to drop troops and supplies into hostile areas.

Five other Air Force and Marine units have the C-130J planes but use older C 130s to perform their missions, the report said.

Air Force testers found so many problems with the planes they stopped evaluations in 2000 so the problems they already found could be fixed, the report said.