The Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter Is Not Ready for Production

MASAD-82-8: Published: Dec 1, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 1981.

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GAO has been reviewing the status of the Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter (AH-64) and Laser Hellfire Missile Programs. Although the review is not yet complete, GAO has several concerns in view of the imminent decision on the merits of starting production of these two weapon systems.

GAO has five basic concerns: (1) the data currently available for decision purposes includes data derived from tests of two key subsystems, the target acquisition designation sight and the helicopter engine, whose configurations will differ from the subsystems to be made a part of the production aircraft; (2) caution should be used in accepting the AH-64 reported reliability, availability, and maintainability calculations since they may be overstating the helicopter's capability in these areas; (3) the Army's ability to adequately support the helicopter for an extended period after initial deployment is questionable; (4) the Laser Hellfire Missile, although it has generally shown an advantage in testing in a clear environment, still has some serious shortcomings that could limit the AH-64 total system effectiveness; and (5) contractor readiness to begin production is still at a point where it is not without some potential program-inhibiting risks. Collectively, these concerns seem to justify a cautious approach in arriving at a production decision. GAO believes a decision at this time would necessarily be relying on incomplete information, questionable evaluations, and optimistic projections, and would result in considerable risk regarding system cost, performance, reliability, and supportability.

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 explore other more cost-effective alternatives such as the Cobra/TOW or other types of weapons in view of the high cost of adding the AH-64/Hellfire to the Army's weapon system inventory and its effect on the already strained budget.

    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: If the Secretary of Defense decides that the AH-64/Hellfire should be procured, production approval should be delayed until the satisfactory completion of government tests and evaluations showing favorable results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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