Brilliant Antiarmor Submunition:

Opportunity Exists to Conduct Critical Test Prior to Production Decision

NSIAD-98-16: Published: Oct 30, 1997. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 1997.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided its assessment of the Army's brilliant antiarmor submunition (BAT), for which the Army plans to request authority to start low-rate initial production in December 1997, focusing on the status of its acquisition plans and whether it is technically ready to enter production.

GAO noted that: (1) a decision on low-rate initial production of BAT, scheduled for December 1997, appears to be premature because a crucial technical demonstration will not be accomplished by that time; (2) in 1995, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Army agreed to relax the performance criteria that BAT was to meet before proceeding into low-rate initial production; (3) under the new criteria, the Army is not required to demonstrate that the submunition can be successfully dispensed from the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) Block II missile; (4) in September 1994, the Department of Defense (DOD) noted, in its comments to GAO's draft classified report, that the successful completion of multiple tests of the submunition with ATACMS as the carrier would be required; (5) the submunition's test schedule appears to be extremely ambitious; (6) its development program is almost 3 years behind its original schedule, and a significant portion of the test schedule remains uncompleted; (7) the project office added five development flight tests to the schedule because of technical problems; (8) the Army plans to use a test aircraft for all submunition flight testing with subsonic deployment rather than the supersonic deployment from the ATACMS missile; (9) the testing completed to date has uncovered numerous problems that required design changes, additional testing, and schedule delays; (10) although the submunition test plans do not include an evaluation of whether or not the ATACMS Block II can dispense the submunition, the Block II missile test plans do include a test to dispense tactical submunitions in December 1997, the same month that the decision is to be made on low-rate production of the submunition; (11) according to Army representatives, data from this test will not be used in making the submunition production decision, since the test is not required; (12) any delays in qualifying the submunition's subcomponents and developmental flight testing will likely postpone the date of the Block II dispense test; (13) the submunition's low-rate initial production contract can be awarded 8 months later than currently scheduled and still be delivered in time to be integrated into the missile; (14) the Block II missile's currently scheduled production date is uncertain; and (15) if its production date is delayed, the Army would have even more time to sufficiently complete key submunition developmental testing.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based at least in part on GAO's input, the Defense authorization committees eliminated the BAT procurement budget request of $85.208 million for fiscal year 1998. Also, according to the Army, the BAT program was restructured and the low-rate production decision delayed by 1 year to allow more time for development and testing prior to production.

    Recommendation: Given the criticality of the dispense to the brilliant antiarmor submunition program, the Secretary of the Army should require the program office to demonstrate that qualified tactical submunitions can be successfully dispensed from the ATACMS Block II missile before seeking a low-rate initial production decision on the submunition program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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