Future Procurements of Army's Copperhead Projectile Should Be Contingent on Improvements in Performance and Reliability

C-PSAD-81-4: Published: Nov 13, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 1980.

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Copperhead, a laser-guided, antiarmor projectile entered limited production this year. The Army plans to procure over 44,000 rounds by 1986 at an estimated average cost of over $22,000 per round. GAO reviewed Copperhead's: (1) visibility; (2) response time; (3) development improvements; and (4) reliability.

In a European combat environment, good visibility conditions would more often than not be unattainable. Adverse weather, obstructed terrain features, and certain other obstructions can be expected to restrict opportunities for launching Copperhead. Tests up to this point provide little insight into the effectiveness to be anticipated from Copperhead against moving targets. Two developments may help raise Copperhead's performance to more acceptable levels. A modified seeker, expected to significantly improve Copperhead's performance in smoke, was tested in February 1980 with good results. In addition, digital equipment under development, designed to provide more rapid data transmission and target data computations, is expected to reduce Copperhead's response time. Copperhead's reliability in both operational and development tests were so low that the Secretary of Defense directed initial procurement to be limited to a rate of 200 per month.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reassess the need for procuring the total Copperhead quantity currently programed if such responsiveness and reliability are not demontrated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should continue limited production of Copperhead until it has demonstrated an ability to achieve a response time that would improve its performance against moving targets and has attained the required level of reliability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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