Transportation Vehicles Available in Europe for Medical Evacuations

LCD-80-71: Published: Jun 10, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 1980.

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GAO reviewed Army and Air Force medical transportation vehicles available in Europe to meet wartime medical evacuation needs. The review was directed primarily at evaluating the physical condition of those air and ground vehicles with a dedicated wartime mission of evacuating casualties from the battle area to and among treatment locations intheater. Also included in the review were selected activities in the continental United States with medical transportation vehicles that may be used to augment intheater vehicles during contingencies.

Although the Army and Air Force have numerous air and ground vehicles which could be used for medical evacuation purposes, most of these vehicles have other primary wartime missions; thus, they may not be available for casualty evacuation when needed. It is essential that vehicles with a dedicated evacuation mission be maintained at a high state of readiness. Many medical units were experiencing difficulty in maintaining the onhand vehicles. The medical units were apprehensive about the capability of their vehicles to perform wartime missions because of operational difficulties which limit their use in a tactical environment. Officials cited inordinate downtime due to lack of needed repair parts. Many of the vehicles are old, have high mileage, and require intensive maintenance. The annual operational readiness rate of Army helicopters is 76 percent. The number of ambulance conversion kits is limited. Several vehicles have damaged doors that can only be opened from the inside. Upper litter assemblies on ambulances bow when used to transport patients. Ambulances are too noisy and ride too rough to be used to transport seriously wounded patients. There is a lack of onboard radio communication means in ambulances, and helicopters have poor radio communications. Ambulances have mechanical problems with their steering mechanisms, jacks, lifting or towing shackles, electrical systems, ventilation, brake drums, canvas tops, differentials, and transmissions. They do not contain blackout lights; thus, they could not operate in wartime without being detected.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to take action to modify the existing M-886 ambulances to correct the deficiencies noted; reassess the need for onboard communication means to facilitate wartime command and controls of medical evacuation air and ground vehicles; and ensure, in developing future procurement plans for medical evacuation vehicles, that the deficiencies noted with the M-886 and M-792 ground ambulances are adequately considered. He should direct the Army and Air Force to take appropriate action to ensure that needed repair parts are made available to units in Europe and in the continental United States in a more timely manner to reduce the inordinate downtime cited by Army and Air Force officials and assess the potential for increasing evacuation capability by acquiring ambulance conversion kits for the existing and planned procurement of school and general-purpose buses.

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