Strategic Defense Initiative Program:

Status of Airborne Optical Adjunct and Terminal Imaging Radar

NSIAD-86-153: Published: Jun 23, 1986. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on the status of the Department of Defense's (DOD) Strategic Defense Initiative Organization's technology validation experiments on the Airborne Optical Adjunct (AOA) and the Terminal Imaging Radar (TIR) as part of its program to determine the feasibility of developing a defense against nuclear ballistic missiles.

GAO found that: (1) the Army Strategic Defense Command awarded the AOA experiment contract in July 1984; (2) after 1 year, the contractor identified a potential cost overrun of about $103 million; (3) the Army cancelled the development of one of the AOA sensors, resulting in loss of competition, loss of validation of one technology issue, a small industrial base, and no backup sensor; (4) the potential overrun occurred because the contractor lacked a good understanding of the program's technical complexity and was under pressure to bid low; and (5) the Army feels that it can still attain the experiment's major objectives under the restructured program. GAO also found that: (1) the Army currently plans to select one of two contractors in December 1986 to build the TIR hardware and conduct the experiment; (2) the Army recently restructured the TIR experiment because of reduced funding, but will have to develop the eliminated requirements in the future; and (3) reducing the technical performance requirements during the experiment could increase the technical risk of any future engineering development.

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