Operational Testing of the Army's Amphibian Vehicle Known as the LACV-30

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-11-11.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                                DOCL0UMET RESUhE

 03994 -           B3194420)

  OCperatioral Tsting of the Army's Ahibian Vehicle Known as
 the LACV-301. LCD-78-205; B-15§407. November 11, 1977. 5 pp.

i*-port to Secretary, Department of the Army; by Rcbert G.
 ,otnwell (ioL Fred J.  Shafer, Director, Logistics and
communications    iv.).

Issu        Area: Facilities             and Material aragement: Federal
        Iransportation               ot Things (704); Military Preparedness Plans:
        Transportaton in Emergency Situations (04).
Contact:           Loqistics and Cozmunications                        iv.
Budqet         Function:            ational Defense: DFartment ci Defense-
        .ilitary           (except       procurement         contracts)              (051).
urqanization Concerned:  epartment o                               Leiense.
Authority: hrwy  eulation 70-38.
         The LACV-30 (lighter, air cushion vehicle, 30-ton
paylcad) is  eirq considered as a eFlacement for existing Ahrmy
ampibian ,ehicles. As such, its  mission will invclle varicus
amphibious           operations, including logi-tics-cver-the-shore
iLsupply. At present the Army has only two of the vehicles, one
of   whicl         has      een    udergoinq cFeraticnal                     testing    while the
s;cond   as been undergoing developmental testing. he Army is
considerinq acquirinq 28 more LACV-3Cs at a tctal ccst ci ore
trian    $1 1C       illion.          Findirngs/Conclusicns:                  Althcugh the Army has
an cu erational test and evaluation agency, tnat agency is
ccnucctilq neither the operational test  nor the operaticr.al
evaiuation cr t    LACV-30. lne grcup handling the test is under
tnil cintrol o the Armor and Engineer Eoard, which is largely
cOLtsed ot persons onl lcan rcm the Iranscrtation School, the
coaiuz devtloue~l or the LACV-30, and te   zransFcrtation Center,
tn- eVt ntuai user ot the venicle.  epcrts on the tests  will be
ouLbItzted         tO the Traininq              and DoctriLe Ccmmiand (TRiACC) rather
r,.in    to tli      cniet  r Start.              Neither  FADCC nor the
 ;l np.crttion                Scnool constitutes            an ideFendent               test or
evaiuatio)    aqncy, as required by DeFartgent cf Deierse
 .,ju1i-on:-.     Inh- c urent  scope ct the cperaticnai testing will
no* 'isuL-r   tat      the LACV-30 demonstratts ct rtain regured
         IIa              ieICre      a major     pocurenent           daeclsicr        is madeo
     . ':e~        "::lopmnrt
                   -,~                testinq     nor civilan            ex:ercf:c            is   a
.-utr.itue           te      c     -- ticnal     testinq.       (EL)
                                        WASHINGTON, D.C.   20548


      B-155407                                                     Ov 11   I

      The Honorable
      The Secretary of te Army

      Dear Mr. Secretary:

           We ae monitoring the operational testing of the Army's
      amphibian vehicle known as the LACV-30 (lighter, air cushion
      vehicle, 30-ton payload). Although the testing and evaluation
      is not yet complete, we are presenting concerns we have about
      the way in which the test is being carried out.  Specifically,
      we question (1) whether the Army's operational testing and
      evaluation of the vehicle can be considered independent in
      the context of current DOD policies and (2) whether the scope
      of tenting will be adequate.

            The LACV-30, a military adaptation of a commercial air
       cushion vehicle, is being considered as a replacement for
      Jxisting Army amphibian vehicles.   As such, its mission will
      involve various amphibious operations, including logistics-
      over-the-shore resupply. We were told that the Army presently
      has only two of the vehicles. One has been undergoing opera-
      tional testing at Fort Story, Virginia, and the other has
      been undergoing evelopmental testing at several locations.
      The Army is considering acquiring 28 more LACV-30s at a total
      .ost of more than $110 million.


           Current DD regulations on testing and evaluation are
      an outgrowth of the increased emphasis in the early 1970s on
      insuring that new weapon systems meet the needs of operational
      users before procurement decisions are made. As a result,
      each military service has been directed to establish an in-
      dependent agency, separate and distinct from the developing
      and using commands, to operationally test and evaluate new
      weapon systems and to report the Lesults directly to the
      Military Service Chief or Defense Agency Director.


     This procedure is mandatory only for major acquisition
prcgrams, as designated by the Secretary of Defense (generally
those with research and development costs of at least $5
million or production costs of at least $300 million).   How-
ever, DOD regulations specify that the same principles are
to be applied in the acquisition of systems, such as the
LACV-30, that do not fall into the major program category.

     The Amy has an operational test and evaluation agency,
but Army officials said it is conducting neither the opera-
tional test nor the operational evaluation of the LACV-30.
The group handling the test is under the control of the
Armor and Engineer Board. However, this group is largely
composed f persons on loan from the Trarsportation School,
the combat developer of the LACV-30, ant the Transportation
Center, the eventual user of the vehicle. The 'ransporta-
tion School will also make the operational evaluation of
tte vehicle. Both the Armcr and Engineer Board and the
Transportation School are subordinate agencies of the Train-
ing and Doctrine Command and, as such, will submit their
reports to TRADOC, not to the Chief of Staff.

     TRiADOC ofic als interpret the term "independent," as
used in DOD regulations, to mean only that the same agency
should not do both he test and the evaluation of a system.
They said that it is customary for TRADOC to have jurisdic-
tion over operational testing o less-than-major systems and
that, in such cases, the tes _ and evaluation agencies need
not submit their reports diretly o the Chief of Staff.
These officials also told us that they interpret the phrase
"developing command," as used in DOD regulations, to mean
only the command responsible for material development. Thus,
they contend that TRADOC's responsibility for combat develop-
ment of the LACV-30 does not preclude it from also being
responsible for operational testing and evaluation.

     We believe, however, that the intent of the DOD regula-
tions is to insure that operational tests and evaluations are
made by agencies that do not have a vested interest in the
development or use of systems being considered for procure-
ment. Regarding the LACV-30, we believe that neither TRADOC
nor the Transportation School constitutes an independent
test or evaluation agency. For example, the Army's require-
ment for an air cushion vehicle was identified and validated
in a study made for TADOC by the Transportation School°
Thus, the Army agency that riginally proposed acquisition


,.f the vehicle is now responsible for assessing the vehicle's
operational effectiveness and suitability.


     Our other concern is that the current scope of operational
testing will not insure that the ACV-30 demonstrates certain
required capabilities before a major procurement decision is
made. For example, Army officials said operational testing
will not include tests of the vehicle's capability to operate

     -- in plunging srf up to 8 feet high,

     -- in winds up to 50 miles per hour,

     -- in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit,

     -- over vertical obstacles up to 3 feet high.

     Transportation School officials told us that these re-
quired operating capabilities will undergo development test-
ing and that the result, will be used in the operational
evaluation of the LACV-30. They pointed out that these
capabilities will not be operationally tested because Fort
Story lacks the necessary environmental conditions. For ez-
ample, the maximum predictable plunging surf at Fort Story
is 2 to 3 feet and the coldest temperature ever recorded in
the Norfolk area was 2.5 degrees in 1875. Last winter the
low was 5 degrees on January 17, 1977, and the average tempera-
ture was 28.4 degrees.

     Other capabilities will not be operationally tested be-
cause of the desire to avoid duplicating development tests
or the lack of approval to perform potentially hazardous
tests, such as operating in very high winds. The officials
added that operational testing of the LACV-30 is not as ex-
tensive as normal because the vehicle is a military adapta-
tion of a commercial item and that civilian experience can
thus be used in the operational evaluation.

     We beli-ve that neither development testing nor civilian
experience is a substitute for operational testing. Develop-
ment testing is usually edone by the developing agency to in-
sure that the engineering design and development process is
complete and that tne system meets specifications. This
testing may be done in laboratories or under controlled

conditions different from the operating and environmental
conditions under which the system will be used. In contrast,
operational testing is done to estimate the system's opera-
tional effectiveness and suitability, as wel' as its military
utility.  Furthermore, these tests are to be done under
realistic operating conditions with the type of prsonei
expected to use and maintain the system.

     Experience in the civilian sector may also have been
acquired under conditions far different from those expected
during military operations.  It is doubtful that civilian
experience with a version of the LACV-30 was obtained under
the types of conditions encountered during military amphi-
bious operations. Similarly, the skills of civilian opera-
tors and maintenance personnel may not have been comparable
to those of their military counterparts.


     We discussed the required operating car'bilitie of the
LACV-30 with Transporcation School officials   There appears
to be a basis for each requirement.

     The capability to operate in plunging surf up to    feet
high was based on an environmental analysis made in six
geographical areas-worldwide that were considered typical of
areas where logistics-over-the-shore resupply operations
might be performed.  In these areas surf less than 5 eet
high occurred 56 percent of the time, surf 5 to 8 feet high
occurred 21 percent of the time, and surf more than 8 feet
high occurred 23 percent of the time. Accordingly, it was
decided that the LACV-30 should be able to operate in surf
up to 8 feet high.

     Concerning climatic capabilities, Army Regulation 70-3a
specifies what is required.  The formula for determining
exact requirements is complex but basically dictates that
equipment be required to operate in extreme climatic condi-
tions if it is expected to operate in such conditions more
than 1 percent of the time. In. the case of 'he LACV-30,
application of AR 70-38 dictated that the craft b capable
of operating in winds up to 50 miles pr   hour with gusts
up to 60 miles per hour, and irn temperatures as low as
minus 40 decrees Fahrenheit.


     The capability to clear 3--foot vertical obstacles was
considered necessary to permit the LACV-30 to clear common
obstructions, such as embankments and logs.

     Although there is a basis for each capability require-
ment, there is some question whether logistics-over-the-
shore operations could be carried out under the severest
conditions contemplated by the  equirements.  The require-
ments should be stringent enough to insure performance, but
if they are too stringent, they should be modified.

     We would appreciate being advised of the Army's posi-
tion on these matters and of any actions planned.

     A copy of this letter has been sent to Representative
G. William Whitehurst, at his request.

                              Sincerely yours,

                              P. J. Shafer