Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aviation Systems

Major Professor

Robert B. Richards

Committee Members

U. Peter Solies, Charles T.N. Paludan


In August 1994, a Statement of Work (SOW) was issued for the design, installation, and integration of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) and Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) technology on a U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) aircraft. The program was known as the Airborne Systems Training and Research Support (ASTARS) Aircraft.

The proposed aircraft would train test pilot students throughout the globe on airborne systems flight test techniques. The concept was initiated from a cancelled A-12 design bed and would be built on a P-3 Orion aircraft. In April 1995, the proposal to build the ASTARS aircraft was accepted, resulting in a contract award to private industry. In its first few years the new ASTARS program experienced terrific success. More than 1,000 individuals from 19 different countries were trained using the ASTARS system. The aircraft was an integral syllabus component for the world’s largest test pilot schools.

Although an excellent training tool, the single ASTARS asset could not provide continuous year-round training. Rising flight training demands along with a required 8‑month maintenance phase amplified the need for a second ASTARS aircraft. In 2001, the acquisition of a second ASTARS (ASTARS II) commenced. Unfortunately the ASTARS II acquisition schedule slid noticeably. By the planned Initial Operation Capability (IOC) date, the aircraft remained only partially capable and only a few student-training exercises had been conducted. On 14 July 2004, a meeting by USNTPS upper management was called to determine answers to the following questions: How far along is the ASTARS II program development? What will it take in cost and schedule to complete the development? Is further development supportable? Are there options for use as a partially mission capable aircraft? In general, management was trying to decide whether or not the program should be cancelled.

This thesis discusses the programmatic and technical obstacles experienced in this government-only acquisition program. Based on lessons learned and an analysis of this material, the author made recommendations as to how acquisition programs such as this can be conducted in a more efficient manner with an emphasis on systems analysis and readily available program management strategies.

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