AIM-9X Acquisition:

Missile Risk Reduction Underway But System Production Plans Need to be Reexamined

NSIAD-98-45: Published: Apr 28, 1998. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1998.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Louis J. Rodrigues
(202) 512-4841
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the development status of the AIM-9X missile program and its concerns about the testing and production of all elements of the AIM-9X weapon system, focusing on the: (1) services' efforts to reduce missile development risk; (2) missile program's plan to transition from development to production; and (3) importance of separately managed but essential supporting systems.

GAO noted that: (1) the AIM-9X missile program includes many initiatives to reduce the risk of technical, cost, and schedule problems; (2) it uses many existing subsystems, components, and items not requiring development, and government and contractor technical experts have joined together in integrated product teams; (3) in addition, the services conducted a competitive demonstration and validation of new technologies to reduce technical risk; (4) GAO is concerned, however, about two situations; (5) the plan to start missile low-rate initial production about 1 year before completing development flight testing and before operational testing of production-representative missiles will risk later discovery of technical or operational suitability problems; (6) accordingly, at this critical juncture, Department of Defense (DOD) decisionmakers will not have enough verifiable information on the system's key performance parameters in an operational environment to make an informed production decision; (7) GAO is concerned that the helmet-mounted cueing system is being developed under a separate program from the missile even though U.S. fighter pilots need both the AIM-9X missile and the helmet-mounted cueing system to ensure that they can prevail in air-to-air combat against modern threat missiles; (8) while the separate development programs are being coordinated, there is no requirement that the missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications be thoroughly and realistically tested and evaluated together as a system of systems prior to initiating AIM-9X missile production; (9) until the weapon system is tested and evaluated using production-representative missiles and helmets, DOD decisionmakers will not have information on whether the AIM-9X weapon system's key performance parameters--such as the ability to acquire, track, and fire on targets over a wider area than the AIM-9M--are achievable; and (10) further, if all elements of the system are not produced and deployed together, the AIM-9X may not be able to prevail in aerial combat against modern threat missiles.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation, stating that it believes adequate testing is planned prior to the low-rate production milestone for an informed decision to be made by the Defense Acquisition Executive.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force to revise the AIM-9X missile's acquisition strategy to allow for the completion of all developmental flight tests and enough operational flight tests with production-representative missiles to demonstrate that the missile can meet its minimum performance requirements before low-rate initial production begins.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation. DOD stated that the goal is to synchronize the three elements of the AIM-9X system. However, if one or more elements' schedules slip, DOD would proceed as planned with the other elements. Even though DOD concedes that all three elements are needed for the full capability of the AIM-9X, DOD considers the AIM-9X missile to be a significant improvement over the AIM-9M.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force to revise the AIM-9X missile acquisition strategy to allow for enough operational testing of the missile, helmet, and associated aircraft modifications to be accomplished, using production-representative hardware and software, to demonstrate that the AIM-9X system can meet its minimum performance requirements before low-rate initial production begins.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not concur with this recommendation. Although DOD conceded that all three elements of the system are needed for full utility of the AIM-9X, it stated that service acquisition plans for the individual elements of the system have to be viewed in the larger context of affordability and requirements-generated phasing plans. Hence, DOD will not compel the services to acquire the helmet-mounted cueing system even though it is a vital part of the AIM-9X system of systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to provide a coordinated production, deployment, and funding plan for all three elements of the system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 19, 2016

Sep 12, 2016

Sep 8, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Sep 6, 2016

Aug 25, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here