Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm:

Observations on the Performance of the Army's Hellfire Missile

NSIAD-92-156: Published: Mar 30, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 1992.

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GAO reviewed the Army's experience with the Hellfire missile during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, focusing on: (1) the Hellfire's performance; (2) whether the Army experienced any problems with the missile; and (3) actions the Army has taken or is planning to take to address any identified problems.

GAO found that: (1) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Hellfire missile was lethal against a wide variety of targets other than tanks; (2) the limited data available on the Hellfire's experience in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm indicate that several Army units did not achieve the required 90-percent hit rate; (3) Hellfire project office data on 71 missiles fired by 6 different units between October 1990 and February 1991 show average hit rate of 79 percent; (4) individual hit rates ranged from 25 to 100 percent, with 3 units scoring below the required percentage; (5) at least 2 units increased their hit rates from 40 percent to about 90 percent after receiving additional training for using techniques designed to maximize Hellfire accuracy, but the Army does not practice those techniques during training because training simulators do not replicate obscurrants and pilot/gunners generally do not fire live missiles in peacetime due to cost; (6) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Apache helicopters launched five Hellfire missiles without a launch command, but only one of the launches caused any damage or injuries; and (7) the Army stated that a defective switch and poor wiring connections caused the uncommanded launches. GAO also found that the Army has taken such actions to improve the reported accuracy and uncommanded launch problems as: (1) improving and expanding Hellfire training; (2) correcting equipment defects; (3) regularly inspecting Apache wiring; and (4) identifying launcher circuit changes.