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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform


BIG SAFARI is the USAF's program office responsible for for sustainment and modification of specialized special mission aircraft. Big Safari is a specialized process of acquisition and contracting management process that supports 20-24 projects at any one time and includes responsibility for logistics sustainment for over 50 aircraft. This process was the basis for the Lightning Bolt Initiatives, and is used to accomplish special projects on a quick-reaction basis. Program management includes Detachment 4, 645th Materiel Squadron, U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH.

Although the Big Safari process already operates at minimum funding due to the effectiveness of its management procedures, and is already far more streamlined than any other program due to the nature of its authority, the Acquisition Reform Initiatives have still helped realize more cost savings. One example is a cost reduction in the F-16 Pod program, brought about by the ability to streamline the test program.

Over its thirty year operational history, the RC-135 fleet has always depended on a streamlined acquisition and requirements management process covered under Aeronautical System Center's BIG SAFARI program. In order to facilitate DOD accepted budgeting consideration criteria for this HQ ACC weapon system in today's fiscal environment, the Air Combat Command approved on 22 Feb 1995 an Operational Requirements Document that formally states all RC-135 requirements in a standardized and recognized format. It specifically covers, as directed by Air Staff HQ USAF/XOR message DTG 142000Z December 1994, all models and missions within the RC-135 fleet (RC-135 V, W, X, S, U, and the TC-135 W and S), including airframe, sensors, avionics, datalinks, ground processing, and training system. This ORD, however, is not a replacement for BIG SAFARI practices but will be used in conjunction with them to articulate this unique weapon system's requirements.

Big Safari was also employed to support the 1994 reactivation of the SR-71, and it was the only AF office that tried to promote the program.

The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has been a primary contributor to Big Safari, transforming C-130s into Combat Talon (MC-130E), Compass Call/Rivet Fire (EC-130H), Commando Solo (EC-130E), AC-130H Gunship Special Operations Forces Improvement (SOFI), and Senior Scout. The October 1996 arrival of an EC-130H Compass Call electronic warfare jamming aircraft marked the beginning of a transition of US Air Force's Big Safari class programs, which are managed under specialized procedures, from Lockheed Martin facilities in Ontario, CA, to Palmdale, CA. Under the program, Palmdale will perform maintenance and upgrade of the Compass Call aircraft. The first aircraft to arrive is due back at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona in December 1997. Other Big Safari projects moving or moved to Palmdale include Rivet Rider, a special-mission C-130 airborne color television broadcast station and the Pacer Coin C-130 platform which collects airborne and ground signals intelligence.

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Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Created by John Pike
Updated Wednesday, July 30, 1997 5:35:25 PM