Comanche Helicopter:

Program Needs Reassessment Due to Increased Unit Cost and Other Factors

NSIAD-92-204: Published: May 27, 1992. Publicly Released: May 27, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's development of the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.

GAO found that: (1) the Comanche's advanced capabilities, such as its avionics and targeting systems, improved engines, and lower detectability, are expected to improve the Army's ability to operate on future battlefields; (2) the distinction between the roles of the Comanche and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter have been blurred since the advanced attack capabilities planned for the Comanche will enable it to perform the same missions and, in some cases, surpass the Apache's attack mission capabilities; (3) the Army anticipated that the Comanche would be relatively inexpensive to buy and maintain, but its unit cost in escalated dollars has increased more than 40 percent since 1988; (4) the Comanche maintenance needs could be higher than the Army's anticipated goal of 2.6 maintenance man-hours per flight hour, which would require the Army to either add maintenance staff or reduce the aircraft's planned 2,200 flying hours per year; (5) the Army continues to experience some technical risks in some of the aircraft's essential components, such as the mission equipment package and the targeting detection system, which could significantly reduce the Comanche's ability to navigate and communicate and cause the Army to incur significant additional costs; and (6) since significant developments have occurred that could affect the Comanche's requirements, such as a diminished threat, planned force reductions, and planned upgrades to other helicopters, it is an appropriate time to assess the program's viability to ensure that any future decision to buy the Comanche is appropriate.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The original response to the Comanche report, expected around October 1993, was inadvertently misplaced. The Department concurred with the GAO recommendation and a subsequent review of the Comanche (NSIAD-95-112) noted that a restructuring of the program has lessened the risk of concurrency.

    Recommendation: Should DOD decide to continue with the Comanche program and if concurrency remains in the restructured program, the Secretary of the Army should eliminate concurrency to the extent practicable to avoid the additional cost of modifying initial production aircraft.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The original response to the Comanche report, expected around October 1993, was inadvertently misplaced. By July 1994, DOD-IG notified GAO that it had discovered this oversight and planned to informally provide GAO with the original response. On September 8, 1995, GAO received DOD's response. It was noted that the Department concurred with this recommendation and had added the requirement.

    Recommendation: Should DOD decide to continue with the Comanche program, the Secretary of the Army should add the operational availability requirement to the Comanche's program baseline.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The original response to the Comanche report, expected around October 1993, was inadvertently misplaced. By July 1994, DOD-IG notified GAO that it had discovered this oversight and planned to informally provide GAO with the original response. On September 8, 1995, GAO received DOD's response, which nonconcurred. It was noted that, while the response reflected the Department's original position on the GAO findings and recommendations, "it was determined that there would be little use served by attempting to update the response and obtain signature after two years."

    Recommendation: Should DOD decide to continue with the Comanche program, the Secretary of the Army should include scheduled maintenance in the Army's analysis of the Comanche's reliability requirement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As noted in a subsequent GAO report on the Comanche (NSIAD-95-112), this requirement has been modified by the Army.

    Recommendation: Should the Department of Defense (DOD) decide to continue with the Comanche program, the Secretary of the Army should revise the Comanche's maintenance man-hour per flight hour requirement to include, as directed by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, all time related to maintenance work on aircraft. This would provide a realistic basis for determining how many maintainers will be required to support the aircraft.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The original response to the Comanche report, expected around October 1993, was inadvertently misplaced. By July 1994, DOD-IG notified GAO that it had discovered this oversight and planned to informally provide GAO with the original response. On September 8, 1995, GAO received DOD's response. It was noted that, while the response reflected the Department's original position on the GAO findings and recommendations, "it was determined that there would be little use served by attempting to update the response and obtain signature after two years."

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should review the appropriateness of the Army's requirements for the Comanche program, especially in light of the rising unit cost, dwindling defense resources, diminishing threat, the blurring of its distinct role with the Apache, and proposed upgrades to the existing helicopter fleet.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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