Cruise Missiles:

Proven Capability Should Affect Aircraft and Force Structure Requirements

NSIAD-95-116: Published: Apr 20, 1995. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 1995.

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GAO reviewed the performance of two cruise missiles during Operation Desert Storm, focusing on the missiles': (1) advantages over tactical aircraft; and (2) potential impact on future tactical weapons system requirements.

GAO found that: (1) both the Navy's Tomahawk land attack missile and the Air Force's Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM) contributed to the success of U.S. combat operations during Desert Storm, due to their high success rates of hitting their intended targets; (2) some problems with the Tomahawk included its limitations in its range, mission planning time, lethality, and difficulties in the desert terrain; (3) CALCM warhead and guidance limited the types of targets it could successfully attack; (4) the Navy has funded programs to address the Tomahawk's limitations and the Air Force is proposing two improved CALCM variants, but because of competing priorities, it has not requested any funds; (5) cruise missiles can be used in more conditions than tactical aircraft systems, can be used without additional resources, and can strike targets without risking loss of aircraft or crew members, but tactical aircraft systems can attack more mobile targets and cost less; and (6) fewer aircraft carriers may be required in the future because of the options available from cruise missiles.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD disagreed with GAO's recommendations and said the Bottom-Up Review process took into account the capabilities of cruise missiles and other advanced munitions when it set its force goals and modernization plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should assess the extent to which cruise missiles could affect the requirements for manned strike aircraft and aircraft carriers. This assessment should examine the: (1) effect that existing cruise missiles and potential upgrades have on the design characteristics, such as the range, payload, and stealth characteristics of planned future aircraft; (2) potential effect of the resulting alternative aircraft designs on future aircraft affordability; and (3) degree to which increased cruise missile inventories could affect the number of aircraft to be procured.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD disagreed with GAO's recommendations and said the Bottom-Up Review process took into account the capabilities of cruise missiles and other advanced munitions when it set its force goals and modernization plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reassess the degree to which cruise missile-equipped platforms could fulfill peacetime presence requirements and the effect that increased reliance on those platforms would have on the Bottom-Up Review's justification for an additional aircraft carrier for presence missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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