Transportation:

Critical Considerations in Developing Improved Capability To Identify Aircraft as Friend or Foe

C-MASAD-82-6: Published: Feb 24, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 1982.

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Donald E. Day
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GAO reviewed the Department of Defense programs designed to improve U.S. capabilities to identify aircraft as friend or foe. These programs, for which Congress will be asked to provide funds, could potentially involve significant expenditures.

GAO found that the primary systems in use by the United States and some other forces in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are the Mark X and XII cooperative systems. U.S. capability to identify aircraft is limited. Consequently, missiles capable of attacking targets beyond visual range cannot be used to their full potential. Aircraft frequently have to close within visual range to positively identify air targets, and the launch aircraft are rendered more vulnerable to enemy fire. Better identification would permit relaxing restrictive rules of engagement which have been instituted to minimize the risks of mistakenly attacking friendly aircraft. Currently, there are plans to improve the Mark XII. Also under consideration is the development of the next generation identification system, the Mark XV. There are several matters to resolve, the principal one being the frequency band in which the Mark XV should operate. Other NATO countries have been unable to agree on a common frequency band. Besides the Mark XV, certain other technologies appear to have the potential of contributing to the overall improvement of U.S. identification capability. However, several of these technologies are in the early stages of development and have not been tested to determine their performance. The total investment in identification systems is difficult to calculate, because several are in early stages of development and cost are spread over numerous accounts.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should determine the priority that the Mark XV interoperability with the other identification systems in NATO should have relative to the other factors to be considered in selecting the frequency allocation band in which the Mark XV is to operate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This matter should be resolved in a followup review.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should make the amount to be invested in Mark XII improvements contingent on how soon the Mark XV can reasonably be expected to become available.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This matter should be covered in a followup review.

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