Problems Affecting the Procurement and Operation of the Army's AH-64 Attack Helicopter and Associated Systems

C-MASAD-81-1: Published: Feb 12, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 12, 1981.

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The Army's newest attack helicopter, the AH-64, will carry the new laser-guided HELLFIRE missile. A production decision for each is due late in calendar year 1981. In addition to these new acquisitions, the Army has plans to continue upgrading its current fleet of attack helicopters. It also plans to improve a different helicopter to support the attack helicopters in a scouting role.

Due to the steadily increasing cost of weapon systems and to budget constraints, the Army has determined that it cannot afford to buy or improve the full quantity of weapons it feels it needs to modernize its forces within the desired timeframes. Consequently, it is stretching out the procurement schedule of some weapons, an action which results in increased costs and is deferring others. The procurement for the AH-64 and the HELLFIRE is being stretched out. Some technical problems disclosed in development and testing of the AH-64 and HELLFIRE pose additional problems. These problems can degrade the helicopter's performance to a considerable degree unless they are corrected. Excessive weight is preventing the AH-64 from achieving its required vertical rate-of-climb requirement. Its target acquisition and designation sight is not meeting all of its requirements. The excessive vibration the helicopter is experiencing can cause pilot fatigue and can affect operating proficiency. HELLFIRE is experiencing an undesirable roll rate problem after it is launched from the AH-64 that makes it difficult to control the missile to the extent desired. GAO believes that an affirmative decision to proceed with the production of the AH-64 and HELLFIRE should await the successful resolution of the system's major technical problems and an assessment of its operational effectiveness. In addition, there are alternatives to stretching out the helicopter and missile procurement programs which might achieve the aerial antiarmor mission objectives more economically.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should place restrictions on the obligation of fiscal year 1982 procurement funds for the AH-64 and laser HELLFIRE until the Secretary of Defense has assured the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees that the system's critical technical problems have been corrected.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should, in view of its apparent incompatibility with the AH-64, determine whether there are other potential uses for the scout helicopter important enough to warrant requesting procurement funds from Congress for an improvement program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, during fiscal year 1982 budget hearings, with an assessment of other program alternatives to include: (1) an identification of lower priority programs that could be terminated or deferred to fully fund and restore the AH-64 and laser HELLFIRE to their original procurement schedules if development and operational problems are satisfactorily resolved; (2) the merits of purchasing fewer AH-64's and fully upgrading the full fleet of Cobras; and (3) trade-offs within the procurement budget that would permit improving the scout helicopter, if it is needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the AH-64, with the laser HELLFIRE system on board, is adequately tested and evaluated under operational conditions representative of a high-threat European environment before approving full production.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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