Army's Remotely Piloted Vehicle Shows Good Potential but Faces a Lengthy Development Program

C-MASAD-82-8: Published: Feb 26, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1982.

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GAO evaluated the Army's prospects for successfully deploying the Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) system in light of important upcoming program decisions. RPV is designed to acquire targets for artillery, to designate targets for precision-guided munitions and reconnaissance, and to extend the attack capability of division commanders beyond the forward edge of the battle area where ground-based systems cannot see and where the risk to piloted observation aircraft is high.

RPV promises to significantly enhance the Army's combat capability. However, the development of RPV has been slowed by technical problems and funding uncertainties created by the competing demands of Army programs. Technical problems with two key subsystems, the data link and the mission payload, have slowed the development of RPV. In order to minimize the effects of these difficulties, the Army has developed two additional data links, one for interim use during testing and the other as a possible alternate, although the alternate data link is not as capable as the original. Development of the mission payload subsystem has been hindered by difficulty in designing the software and problems with a key component. Despite these difficulties, RPV shows potential for good survivability, and planned system improvements promise to overcome some battlefield conditions that threaten to lower the system's effectiveness. The success of RPV depends largely on the progress achieved in miniaturizing the data link. However, the entire system requires considerable development and testing. If the research and development problems are deemed solvable, RPV will need a commitment to funding support so that its full potential can be realized.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to budget for and pursue the development of system enhancements, if progress is adequate, to overcome some of the potential operational limitations of the system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to ensure that the testing program is structured so that operational tests demonstrate both individual subsystem and total integrated weapon system performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should give consideration to discontinuing the program or reorienting it to a low-level research and development program if RPV progress is such that it does not command high sustained funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to determine whether the RPV program's progress is such that it should command sustained funding levels that would permit achieving its initial operational capability on schedule.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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