Air Launched Cruise Missile Shows Promise but Problems Could Result in Operational Limitations

C-MASAD-82-13: Published: Feb 26, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) Program. This missile is a subsonic, jet-powered airframe armed with a nuclear warhead which uses sophisticated navigation aids for flying at low altitudes, avoiding detection, and striking targets with a high degree of accuracy. It is to be used with bombers.

One bomber has been equipped with the ALCM, and the initial operational capability which requires 16 aircraft to be similarly equipped is planned for December 1982. Meeting this goal may be achievable though difficult. While recent testing has been successful, problems have been identified which require corrective action. Operational testing has not been sufficient to provide a complete evaluation, nor has it been operationally realistic. In addition, problems have surfaced which, if not corrected, could reduce the number of aircraft which can be successfully readied in an emergency situation. Testing is behind schedule and has delayed the identification of other possible problems; engine performance is a serious concern, and the mission planning system has experienced developmental problems and is also behind schedule. Unless these matters are resolved, the ALCM could be deployed in significant numbers with operational limitations which may require costly modifications. Congress should consider funding only limited quantities of the ALCM's unless the problems are resolved or minimized to the point where there is little risk that missiles with limited capabilities will be deployed in significant numbers. The survivability of the ALCM has also been a concern; however, the Department of Defense has begun efforts to improve the survivability of both the missile and its carrier aircraft.

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