Some Land Attack Cruise Missile Acquisition Programs Need To Be Slowed Down

C-MASAD-81-9: Published: Feb 28, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 1981.

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Cruise missiles are subsonic, jet-powered airframes that are being acquired to deliver nuclear or conventional warheads against a variety of targets. GAO reviewed some major areas of concern with regard to matters which affect the acquisition and deployment of these missiles.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has placed the highest national priority on deployment of the Air-Launched Cruise Missile system in order to preclude shortfalls in strategic weapons in the 1980's. Accordingly, a rigorous, success-oriented, highly concurrent schedule was established. Production of the missile was authorized, even though a number of critical problems remained to be resolved. Specifically: (1) operational testing completed before the production decision revealed that mission reliability of the system was deficient and that it failed to demonstrate important missile performance features; (2) the testing that had been done was not operationally realistic; (3) engine reliability was still a matter of serious concern; (4) certain components which were essential to the system's performance have not been available for operational testing; (5) a critical measurement program was about a year behind schedule; and (6) errors were found in the terrain elevation database. The Navy plans to request authority to begin full-scale production of the first tactical land attack cruise missile system. Major problems have to be resolved before that time including: (1) cruise missiles probably will not be sufficiently accurate to deliver conventional warheads; (2) because of exposure to enemy defensive systems, it is doubtful that the missiles will survive when delivering certain nonnuclear warheads; and (3) no statement of mission need has been prepared to support acquisition of the Tomahawk or Medium Range Air-to-Surface Missiles.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The recommendation should be dropped because the Department of Defense has defined its requirement for a variant of Tomahawk to attack land targets from stand-off ranges. The Medium Range Air-to-Surface Missile program has not been funded by either the Navy or the Air Force in fiscal year 1984. TACMS, a successor to MRASM, is a black program.

    Matter: Congress should not appropriate additional funds for procurement of either land attack Tomahawk or the Medium Range Air-to-Surface Missiles until the Secretary of Defense comprehensively defines and reconciles overall Defense requirements to attack land targets from standoff ranges characteristic of tactical cruise missiles.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An accomplishment report, A-NSIAD-84-20, shows measurable savings of $192.7 million.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should withhold authorization to proceed with full-scale production of any land attack missile with a conventional warhead until the accuracy and survivability of such a system is convincingly demonstrated in realistic operational testing.

    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: The Secretary of Defense should closely monitor the Air-Launched Cruise Missile program to ensure the resolution of operational testing issues, engine reliability problems, uncertainty about terrain roughness thresholds, and deficiencies in the terrain elevation database prior to deployment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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