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Army's Apache Helicopter Has Proven Difficult to Support

T-NSIAD-90-33 Published: Apr 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1990.
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GAO discussed the performance of the Army's AH-64 Apache helicopter, focusing on the helicopter's availability, Army procurement practices, and helicopter maintenance and upgrade plans. GAO noted that: (1) the Army planned to procure 271 Apaches in addition to its initial planned procurement of 536 helicopters, at a total cost of nearly $12 billion; (2) the Army developed its Longbow Program to equip 227 Apaches with a targeting radar to work with the HELLFIRE missile, at a cost of $3.4 billion; (3) the Apache's fully mission-capable rate averaged 49 percent for 1989; (4) fully mission-capable rates decreased as units aged and accumulated flight hours; (5) frequent failures of key components and high demands for maintenance and parts were major contributors to the low availability rates; (6) there were not enough replacement parts, maintenance personnel, or maintenance equipment to keep up with the maintenance burden, and the Army heavily relied on contractors to alleviate the burden; (7) Apache logistics support problems were attributable to such problems as failure to address numerous required design changes before production, focus on high production rates, omission of a low-rate production phase and follow-on operational testing, staffing constraints, and unrealistic estimates of reliability and maintainability requirements; (8) logistics support problems were likely to increase under more demanding sustained combat conditions; and (9) the Army formed an Apache Action Team to coordinate several Army components' and contractors' corrective action efforts.


Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Congress should direct the Secretary of Defense to limit the Apache procurement to the 675 currently under contract and to transfer fiscal year 1990 funds appropriated for the procurement of additional Apaches from the Army's aircraft procurement appropriation to such other appropriation accounts in such amounts as the Secretary determines necessary to provide the increased logistical support the Apache requires.
Closed – Not Implemented
Congress did not act, and the Army procured 132 more Apaches.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To ensure that the desire for increased capability does not again outweigh the logistical wherewithal to employ it, the Secretary of Defense should defer incorporation of the Longbow modification until the Army demonstrates that: (1) it has overcome the logistics support problems the Apache has experienced; and (2) the Longbow's availability and flying hours will not be similarly compromised.
Closed – Not Implemented
In December 1990, the Defense Acquisition Board approved the Longbow for full-scale development. Also, Secretary of the Army Stone, on March 12, 1991, certified to the House Armed Services Committee that a comprehensive modernization program for the AH-64 fleet has been implemented. The Secretary directed the remaining funds be released for continuation of the Longbow program.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to operationally test the Apache in battalion-sized units or greater with a focus on illuminating the: (1) as yet unknown demands of supporting the Apache in sustained combat operations; and (2) changes in logistics support resources and structure needed to meet the demands. Repeating such a test in the future could measure progress in preparing for the support of combat operations.
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Defense (DOD) stated that operational data could be better obtained via monitoring planned exercises. Operation Desert Storm did not qualify as a sustained combat experience because the ground war only lasted 4 days.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to apply the lessons learned by the other services in logistically supporting their complex aircraft, particularly in defining their personnel and organizational requirements, collecting key support information, and using contractor support.
Closed – Implemented
DOD responded that mechanisms already exist to apply such lessons learned.

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