DOD Should Determine Cost and Operational Effectiveness of Helicopter In-Flight Escape Systems

PSAD-80-65: Published: Jul 14, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 1980.

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The efforts of the Department of Defense to develop helicopter in-flight escape systems were reviewed to determine what actions were taken on GAO recommendations for development in a June 1973 report to Congress. Primarily, GAO assessed the bases for subsequent decisions not to develop the escape systems, especially the one for the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.

The in-flight escape issue is complex and emotional. Studies by the services before 1973 supported the need for escape systems. GAO found, however, that virtually all development efforts stopped in 1974, even though interest in the systems resurfaced from time to time and still exist today. More recent studies generally supported a continuing need for the Cobra in-flight escape system. GAO also found that decisions against development were based on subjective appraisals rather than quantitative analyses which would have provided the best decision base. An Army organization recommended such an analysis as far back as 1973. Because of the potential for saving lives, the complexity of the issue, and the lack of quantitative bases for a proper decision to develop or not to develop the system, a cost and operational effectiveness study is needed to settle the issue.

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