GAO has taken up the issue of Air Force and Navy plans to extend the service life of mainstay fighters in a new report, noting that the two plan to spend almost $5 billion to keep 300 F-16s and 150 F/A-18s around a lot longer.
Here's some of what GAO auditors found:
The Air Force’s and Navy’s cost estimates to upgrade and extend the service life of selected fighter aircraft exhibit some characteristics of a high-quality cost estimate but do not reflect all potential costs. The estimates were well-documented since they identified data sources and methodologies; accurate since they accounted for inflation and were checked for errors; and mostly comprehensive since they included the work planned and identified key assumptions. However, the estimates were not fully credible in part because they did not assess the extent to which the total costs could change if additional work is done or more aircraft are included in the programs.
And what they suggest:
GAO recommends that the Air Force and Navy follow all best practices to enhance the credibility of the cost estimates for the F-16 and F/A-18 upgrades and life extensions including an assessment of the potential range of costs and seeking independent cost estimates. DOD agreed with all four recommendations.