Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Outrider Demonstrations Will Be Inadequate to Justify Further Production

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-23.

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

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Report to the Secretary of Defense

September 1997
                   UNMANNED AERIAL
                   Demonstrations Will
                   Be Inadequate to
                   Justify Further

                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division


                   September 23, 1997

                   The Honorable William S. Cohen
                   The Secretary of Defense

                   Dear Mr. Secretary:

                   The Department of Defense (DOD) has undertaken a number of efforts in
                   the past to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to complement its mix
                   of manned and national reconnaissance assets. Our previous reviews of
                   UAV programs have shown that DOD’s acquisition efforts to date have been
                   disappointing.1 This report discusses the Outrider, a UAV system, which
                   DOD is acquiring through a streamlined acquisition process known as an
                   Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD).2 We examined
                   whether (1) DOD is applying lessons learned from prior UAV programs to the
                   Outrider and (2) the Outrider is likely to meet user needs.

                   DOD is not applying lessons learned from prior unmanned aerial vehicle
Results in Brief   programs to the Outrider ACTD. For example, despite problems with the
                   Pioneer and Hunter stemming from DOD’s decision to award further
                   production contracts without conducting operational testing or
                   demonstrating that the system is user-supportable, DOD is pursuing the
                   same strategy for the Outrider. In addition, DOD has underestimated, as it
                   did for the Pioneer and the Hunter programs, the time and effort necessary
                   to integrate nondevelopmental items into Outrider.3 Moreover, the
                   Outrider system may not satisfy user needs unless problems associated
                   with meeting joint requirements are resolved and interoperability with
                   other DOD systems is ensured. Consequently, DOD will not have assurance
                   that Outrider will meet user needs by the time of the planned fiscal year
                   1998 low-rate production decision.

                    Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: DOD’s Acquisition Efforts (GAO/T-NSIAD-97-138, Apr. 9, 1997).
                    ACTDs are a product of DOD’s acquisition reform efforts and are used to determine if a mature
                   technology can satisfy a military mission. ACTDs are intended to enable the services to examine new
                   capabilities without committing to the large research and development investments required in
                   traditional acquisition programs. This approach allows the user to operate the new capability and
                   (1) determine its utility, (2) develop related concepts of operation, and (3) define specific
                   requirements. If successfully completed and a significant number of systems is required, it then
                   transitions to the formal acquisition process. Systems acquired under the ACTD process are not
                   subject to the stringent reporting and oversight requirements of DOD’s traditional acquisition process.
                    A nondevelopmental item is: (1) any previously developed item of supply used exclusively for
                   governmental purposes by a federal agency, state, or local government, or a foreign government with
                   which the United States has a mutual defense cooperation agreement or (2) any item described in
                   (1) that requires only minor modifications or modifications of the type customarily available in the
                   commercial marketplace in order to meet the requirements of the procuring department or agency.

                   Page 1                                              GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                               UAVs  are pilotless aircraft, controlled remotely or by preprogrammed
Background                     on-board equipment. The Outrider system consists of four air vehicles,
                               ground control equipment, one remote video terminal, four modular
                               mission payloads, communications devices, a means of launch and
                               recovery, and one mobile maintenance facility for every three Outrider
                               systems (see fig. 1). The Outrider ACTD grew out of the Joint Tactical UAV
                               program. The original concept of the Joint Tactical UAV program was to
                               acquire (1) a 50-kilometer UAV system, the Maneuver, to satisfy
                               reconnaissance and surveillance needs of Army brigade and Marine Corps
                               regimental commanders and (2) a 200-kilometer UAV system, the Hunter, to
                               satisfy the reconnaissance and surveillance needs of Army corps and
                               division commanders and Navy task force commanders. The Joint Tactical
                               UAV program was restructured in fiscal year 1996. The Hunter portion was
                               canceled and the Maneuver portion was reconstituted as the Outrider ACTD
                               to evaluate one UAV system’s ability to perform both the Hunter and
                               Maneuver missions.

Figure 1: Outrider in Flight

                               Page 2                               GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                            To streamline the acquisition process, DOD designated Outrider an ACTD in
                            December 1995 and awarded a contract for a 2-year ACTD in May 1996.
                            During this period, DOD will acquire 6 nondevelopmental Outrider systems
                            with 24 air vehicles at a cost of approximately $57 million. DOD can
                            procure more systems during the ACTD using low-rate production options
                            built into the contract and, according to an Outrider program official, has
                            requested $30 million for fiscal year 1998 to do so. According to DOD, the
                            purpose of the Outrider ACTD is to evaluate the utility of the system
                            through a series of operational demonstrations. The Army, the Navy, and
                            the Marine Corps will prepare assessments of the system’s military utility
                            based on the operational demonstrations. At the end of the ACTD, Defense
                            Acquisition Board executives will review the service assessments and
                            determine if the ACTD should become a formal acquisition program. If DOD
                            approves transition to the formal acquisition process, program officials
                            must prepare documentation identical to that required of traditional
                            acquisition programs.

                            Prior to beginning the Outrider ACTD, DOD acquired three other
DOD Has Not Learned         nondevelopmental tactical UAV systems: Pioneer, Hunter, and Predator.
Past UAV Lessons            Each of these UAV programs provided DOD with important lessons about
                            acquisition strategies, system integration, and logistic supportability.
                            However, DOD is not applying these lessons to the Outrider ACTD.

Outrider Acquisition        DOD’s acquisition strategy for the Outrider closely resembles the
Strategy Repeats Mistakes   acquisition strategy used for the Hunter program. After a user
of the Hunter               demonstration, DOD awarded a low-rate production contract for 7 Hunter
                            systems with 56 aircraft before demonstrating through operational testing
                            that the system was potentially operationally effective and suitable.4
                            Testing of the low-rate production Hunter systems revealed numerous
                            problems, and eventually DOD terminated the Hunter program.

                            Similarly, according to an Outrider program official, DOD plans to exercise
                            a contract option for low-rate production of three to six additional
                            Outrider systems in April 1998 before conducting realistic operational
                            testing. The program official stated that user demonstrations conducted
                            prior to April 1998 as part of the ACTD will provide a sufficient basis for
                            making a low-rate production decision. These user demonstrations,
                            however, will not provide the same level of assurance for justifying a

                             Operational effectiveness refers to the ability of a system to accomplish its mission in the planned
                            operational environment. Operational suitability is the degree to which a system can be placed
                            satisfactorily in field use considering such factors as reliability and maintainability.

                            Page 3                                               GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                        low-rate production commitment as would operational testing since such
                        testing involves meeting minimally acceptable thresholds for key
                        performance parameters. Outrider as an ACTD system has neither key
                        parameters nor thresholds, and DOD is not required to establish them for
                        the demonstrations.

                        Lessons learned from prior UAV programs illustrate that nondevelopmental
                        UAV systems should be operationally tested in realistic environments
                        before beginning low-rate production. Our past work has shown that
                        production of nondevelopmental UAV systems before operational testing
                        can result in adverse consequences. DOD started producing two
                        nondevelopmental UAVs—the Pioneer and, more recently, the
                        Hunter—before subjecting either to any operational testing. The problems
                        DOD has experienced with these systems clearly illustrate the adverse
                        consequences of beginning production without having adequate assurance
                        of satisfactory system performance. Specifically, in 1990, we reported that
                        lack of Pioneer operational testing led the Navy to costly and
                        time-consuming trial and error while trying to adapt the system for
                        shipboard use.5 Ultimately, DOD spent about $50 million redesigning and
                        modifying Pioneer systems initially acquired for $56 million.

                        Undeterred by the experience with Pioneer, DOD then started production of
                        the Hunter without subjecting it to operational testing. In 1992, we
                        reported that DOD should not award a production contract for the Hunter
                        based on limited testing in unrealistic environments.6 Nevertheless, DOD
                        awarded a contract for seven Hunter systems. These systems were unable
                        to meet requirements, and the program was terminated in 1995 after an
                        investment of over $757 million.

Outrider System         Integrating nondevelopmental components into a fieldable Outrider
Integration May Prove   system is proving more challenging than DOD anticipated. According to
More Difficult Than     program officials, integrating components necessary to satisfy the naval
                        requirements, such as electromagnetic interference shielding and stronger
Expected                landing gear, delayed Outrider’s first flight from November 1996 to
                        March 1997. Because the Outrider ACTD has a 2-year time limit, schedule
                        delays result in less time available for the users to assess the system’s
                        military utility.

                         Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Realistic Testing Needed Before Production of Short-Range System
                        (GAO/NSIAD-90-234, Sept. 28, 1990).
                         Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: More Testing Needed Before Production of Short-Range System
                        (GAO/NSIAD-92-311, Sept. 4, 1992).

                        Page 4                                           GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                       These nondevelopmental UAV integration lessons are not new to DOD. The
                       Hunter and Pioneer were both procured by DOD as nondevelopmental
                       systems. Both systems required the expenditure of unexpected
                       development time and money in retroactive attempts to solve integration
                       problems. For example, we stated in our September 28, 1990, report, that
                       the Pioneer system required substantial development to integrate the
                       system into a shipboard environment. In addition, in 1995, DOD concurred
                       with us that the complexity of the Hunter subsystem integration was
                       significantly underestimated by both the government and the contractor.7

                       An independent DOD team that reviewed the Hunter UAV in 1995 reported
                       that using nondevelopmental subsystems misled many into believing that
                       integrating nondevelopmental subsystems would not require substantial
                       development. The team recommended that the services should consider
                       and reevaluate the advantage of attempting to procure nondevelopmental
                       subsystems without allowing for some developmental effort needed to
                       integrate them into the overall system.

ACTD Will Not          DOD plans to award a low-rate production contract for up to six Outrider
Demonstrate Outrider   systems without demonstrating a critical component of military
Supportability         utility—whether the system is user-supportable. The ACTD’s operational
                       demonstrations will not realistically address the user-supportability of the
                       Outrider system. According to an Outrider program official, the user will
                       perform only basic maintenance during the operational demonstrations,
                       while the contractor will perform all other maintenance. Furthermore, the
                       Outrider ACTD will not include a logistics demonstration to show that the
                       system is user-supportable without contractor assistance.

                       UAV  lessons learned show that procuring nondevelopmental systems
                       without assurance that they are user-supportable results in cost growth
                       and program delays. For example, a logistics demonstration conducted
                       after DOD procured seven low-rate production Hunter systems revealed the
                       system was not user sustainable. DOD analysts reported that the perception
                       in the Hunter program was that logistics would be easy to add to a
                       nondevelopmental system. In reality, adding military logistics to a
                       nondevelopmental system proved a significant challenge. The analysts
                       noted that an expensive, time-consuming developmental effort was needed
                       to acquire the logistics support for Hunter. In addition, while ACTD unit
                       cost may be low, militarizing capabilities and adding logistics support

                        Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: No More Hunter Systems Should Be Bought Until Problems Are Fixed
                       (GAO/NSIAD-95-52, Mar. 1, 1995).

                       Page 5                                          GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                           increases program costs. For example, while a Predator ACTD system cost
                           about $15 million, a Predator combat-ready production system, with
                           configuration changes, added subsystems, and full integrated logistics
                           support provisions, costs about twice that amount.

                           The Outrider system may not satisfy user needs unless problems
Outrider May Not           associated with meeting joint requirements are resolved and
Satisfy User Needs         interoperability with other DOD systems can be achieved. Design changes
                           necessary to increase Outrider’s range to 200 kilometers have delayed the
                           program and have increased the weight of the air vehicle to the point it
                           may not be suitable for shipboard operations. Furthermore, developing an
                           air vehicle engine suitable for naval use has proven problematic. In
                           addition, the Outrider analog datalink is not compliant with DOD’s
                           communications interoperability standards for reconnaissance assets and
                           provides limited payload growth options.

Problems Associated With   The Outrider system is encountering technical problems that must be
Meeting Joint              resolved before the system can meet user needs. First flight of the
Requirements               Outrider system was delayed 4 months because of these problems.
                           According to program officials, these problems arose from modifying the
                           Outrider to satisfy joint requirements. The Outrider system was originally
                           designed to satisfy the 50 kilometer, land-based, Army maneuver UAV
                           requirement. Under the ACTD, Outrider’s joint range requirement is
                           200 kilometers and includes operation from amphibious ships.

                           Modifications to satisfy joint requirements have necessitated several
                           changes to the air vehicle design. These changes, such as adding
                           electromagnetic interference shielding for shipboard operations and
                           increasing air vehicle size to satisfy the range requirement, have added a
                           large amount of weight to the air vehicle. Since DOD awarded the ACTD
                           contract in May 1996, the weight of the fueled air vehicle has grown from
                           the proposed 385 pounds to an actual of 578 pounds. The added weight
                           increases the distance necessary to launch and recover the air vehicle.
                           According to an Outrider oversight official, this could necessitate the use
                           of arresting cables or barrier nets on the deck of a ship.

                           According to Navy officials, the Navy is reluctant to use cables or nets to
                           recover the Outrider because of the impact on other shipboard flight
                           operations. The Navy has previously expressed concerns about the
                           adverse impact of arresting cables and barrier nets on the normal flight

                           Page 6                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                             operations of amphibious assault ships. In December 1995, we reported
                             that Navy fleet officials opposed fielding the Hunter UAV on Navy ships
                             because erecting barrier nets would adversely impact other flight
                             operations from their amphibious assault ships.8

                             Additionally, Outrider’s joint requirements include a heavy fuel engine.
                             Naval use requires a heavy fuel engine because the automotive gasoline
                             currently used by the Outrider is considered too combustible for safe use
                             on ships. DOD research officials estimate it may ultimately cost
                             $100 million to develop a heavy fuel engine that is small enough to power
                             the Outrider. Without a heavy fuel engine, the system will not satisfy naval
                             users. A senior program official acknowledged the heavy fuel engine
                             development is not proceeding as successfully as planned, and the current
                             gasoline engine is not performing adequately. Consequently, 1 year into
                             the ACTD, DOD now plans to acquire another gasoline engine.

Potential Interoperability   DOD is not capitalizing on opportunities to demonstrate that Outrider will
Issues Exist                 be interoperable with other DOD systems during the ACTD period. DOD will
                             not be demonstrating the Outrider with the Army and the Navy’s
                             standardized computer workstations or with the software being designed
                             to control all tactical UAVs, including the Predator UAV system, which is
                             already in production. Nor will DOD be demonstrating the Outrider with a
                             DOD-compliant Common Data Link (CDL) that would allow information
                             from the Outrider to be more easily transferred to other DOD systems.

Outrider ACTD Schedule       DOD is developing a tactical control system that will control all tactical
Not Aligned With Tactical    UAVs. The current Outrider and Predator control systems are incompatible
Control System Schedule      and do not meet standards for communications compatibility with DOD’s
                             other airborne reconnaissance systems. Although the Outrider will be
                             required to work with the tactical control system, according to an Outrider
                             program official, DOD will attempt to demonstrate interoperability on only
                             one occasion during the ACTD.

                             A potentially serious interoperability issue may arise if the Outrider
                             development schedule is not aligned with the tactical control system
                             program schedule. The tactical control system is primarily software
                             designed to perform common mission planning and control for all tactical
                             UAVs, including the Outrider, and it will be installed on computers already

                             Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Hunter System Is Not Appropriate for Navy Fleet Use (GAO/NSIAD-96-2,
                             Dec. 1, 1995).

                             Page 7                                          GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                        used by the services, such as the Navy’s TAC-4 and the Army’s Sunspark
                        Systems. However, during the ACTD, DOD is allowing the Outrider
                        contractor the option of using either (1) Outrider-specific hardware and
                        software that is supposed to be interoperable with the tactical control
                        system or (2) the tactical control system. According to the Outrider
                        Demonstration Manager, the contractor has opted to use the
                        Outrider-specific equipment, and only one demonstration of
                        interoperability between the Outrider equipment and the tactical control
                        system is planned for the ACTD. If the actual tactical control system and
                        service computers are not used during the ACTD, the services’ overall
                        assessments of military utility will not be based on actual system
                        performance. DOD acknowledges the risk their plan creates of not
                        achieving the required interoperability between the Outrider and the
                        tactical control system.

Outrider Datalink Not   The Outrider datalink is not compliant with the CDL, DOD’s standard for
Compliant With DOD      communications interoperability for all airborne reconnaissance and
Standard Architecture   surveillance missions, including those missions performed by the Outrider.
                        The CDL requires a digital data link, whereas the Outrider employs an
                        analog data link.

                        According to officials from the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office,
                        which is responsible for airborne reconnaissance and intelligence
                        communications interoperability, the analog data link has no growth
                        options and operates in the same widely used band of the microwave
                        spectrum as European and Korean television. These officials noted that a
                        CDL-compliant digital data link would offer the Outrider program several
                        advantages over the current analog link. For example, a digital data link
                        would (1) be less susceptible to distortion and interference, (2) minimize a
                        system’s signature, (3) provide anti-jam capabilities, and (4) offer
                        encrypted communications. The digital data link also provides for greater
                        capability, including (1) a means to upgrade to all-weather payloads, such
                        as the synthetic aperture and millimeter wave radars and (2) computer
                        processing of gathered imagery.

                        A Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office study indicates that a short
                        development effort could result in a CDL-compliant digital data link for the
                        Outrider at an acceptable cost. However, Outrider officials maintain that a
                        CDL-compliant digital data link would be too expensive given Outrider’s
                        post-ACTD cost limit of $350,000 for the 33rd air vehicle and sensor.

                        Page 8                                GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

                     Because DOD’s strategy for acquiring the nondevelopmental Outrider
Recommendation       system will not provide assurance of successful performance and
                     interoperability before DOD’s planned low-rate production decision, and to
                     avoid repeating the mistakes of prior UAV programs, we recommend that
                     the Secretary of Defense delay low-rate production of the Outrider system
                     until the results of operational testing of available systems demonstrate it
                     is potentially operationally effective and operationally suitable for all
                     intended users.

                     DOD  reviewed a draft of this report. DOD disagreed with most of our
Agency Comments      findings. It partially concurred with our recommendation. Specifically, DOD
and Our Evaluation   disagreed that it had not learned from problems in past programs and
                     stated these problems in part led it to initiate the Outrider ACTD. DOD also
                     disagreed that Outrider may not satisfy user needs unless it meets the
                     Navy’s shipboard requirements and is interoperable with the tactical
                     control system. It stated that the ACTD responds to an approved joint
                     requirement and does not identify service unique requirements, but will
                     address the effect of weight and engine type. DOD also noted that it has
                     formed an integrated team between the Outrider and tactical control
                     system programs and taken other measures to ensure interoperability.

                     We recognize that DOD is aware of problems with past UAV programs and
                     agree that an ACTD can provide useful insights. However, we remain
                     concerned about DOD’s strategy for the Outrider because the planned
                     demonstrations of military utility that will precede DOD’s low-rate
                     production decision are (1) limited in scope; (2) will not be complete
                     before the decision; and (3) may not identify and resolve serious system
                     deficiencies, such as compatibility with joint requirements, and
                     interoperability with the tactical control system. As detailed in this report,
                     similar acquisition strategies for the Hunter and Pioneer programs resulted
                     in the acquisition of additional systems that required costly modifications
                     in order to meet user needs.

                     DOD has the opportunity to operationally test the Outrider’s performance
                     without risking commitment to additional unproven systems under
                     low-rate production. DOD is acquiring 6 Outrider systems with 24 aircraft
                     under the original contract. If the Outrider is assessed positively during the
                     ACTD, DOD could modify the ACTD hardware to the production
                     representative design for operational tests. If the required changes are so
                     significant that the ACTD systems cannot be made production

                     Page 9                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

              representative, DOD guidance on transitioning ACTDs to formal acquisition
              indicates that a new competition should be conducted.

              In responding to our recommendation, DOD concurred that Outrider should
              not enter production until the results of operational testing demonstrate
              its effectiveness and suitability. DOD noted that completing operational test
              and evaluation is a statutory requirement for formal acquisition programs
              entering production. DOD added, however, that this statute does not apply
              to ACTDs entering low-rate production. We recognize that full operational
              testing is not a statutory requirement for ACTDs entering low-rate
              production. However, our past work shows that awarding low-rate initial
              production contracts without any operational testing has resulted in the
              procurement of substantial inventories of unsatisfactory weapons
              requiring costly modifications to achieve satisfactory performance and, in
              some cases, deployment of substandard systems to combat forces.

              To determine whether DOD is applying lessons learned from prior UAV
Scope and     lessons learned to this program, and whether the Outrider would meet
Methodology   user needs, we reviewed program plans, test schedules, performance
              documents, and other records relating to the Outrider ACTD and examined
              DOD guidance related to systems acquisition, acquisition streamlining and
              reform, and ACTDs.

              We also interviewed and obtained information from knowledgeable
              officials of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Office of the Secretary of Defense;
              Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office; Chief of Naval Operations;
              Department of the Navy, Program Executive Office for Cruise Missiles and
              UAV Joint Project; Department of the Army, Operational Test and
              Evaluation Command; and the Department of the Air Force, Deputy Chief
              of Staff Plans and Operations. All of these officials are located in the
              greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Furthermore, we interviewed
              and obtained information from representatives of the Commander in
              Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Virginia; the Department of the Navy,
              Operational Test and Evaluation Forces Command, Norfolk, Virginia; the
              Joint Tactical UAV Project Office, Huntsville, Alabama; Defense Contract
              Audit Agency, Hopkins, Minnesota; Defense Contract Management
              Command, Hopkins, Minnesota; and the Outrider ACTD contractor, Alliant
              TechSystems, Hopkins, Minnesota.

              Page 10                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

We performed our work from July 1996 to June 1997 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

This report contains a recommendation to you. As you know, 31 U.S.C. 720
requires the head of a federal agency to submit a written statement on
actions taken on our recommendations to the Senate Committee on
Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Government Reform
and Oversight not later than 60 days after the date of the report. A written
statement also must be submitted to the Senate and House Committees on
Appropriations with an agency’s first request for appropriations made
more than 60 days after the date of the report.

We are sending copies of this report to appropriate congressional
committees; the Secretaries of the Army and the Navy; and the Office of
Management and Budget. We will make copies available to others on
request. Please contact me at (202) 512-4841, if you or your staff have any
questions concerning this report. Major contributors to this report were
Tana Davis, John Warren, and Charles Ward.

Sincerely yours,

Louis J. Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues

Page 11                                 GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Appendix I

Comments From the Department of Defense

See pp. 9 and 10.

See comment 1.

                    Page 12   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
                    Appendix I
                    Comments From the Department of Defense

See pp. 9 and 10.

                    Page 13                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
                 Appendix I
                 Comments From the Department of Defense

See comment 1.

See comment 2.

See comment 3.

                 Page 14                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
                 Appendix I
                 Comments From the Department of Defense

See comment 4.

See comment 5.

                 Page 15                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
                 Appendix I
                 Comments From the Department of Defense

See comment 6.

See comment 6.

                 Page 16                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
                 Appendix I
                 Comments From the Department of Defense

See comment 7.

See comment 8.

                 Page 17                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
                    Appendix I
                    Comments From the Department of Defense

See comment 8.

See pp. 9 and 10.

                    Page 18                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
               Appendix I
               Comments From the Department of Defense

               The following are GAO’s comments to the Department of Defense’s (DOD)
               letter, dated July 9, 1997.

               1. We understand that the purpose of the Outrider Advanced Concept
GAO Comments   Technology Demonstration (ACTD) is to assess the utility of the Outrider
               system and note that DOD is acquiring 6 Outrider systems with 24 air
               vehicles under the original ACTD contract. If the Outrider is assessed
               positively, these could be used instead of building production
               representative systems under low-rate production. Specifically, DOD could
               modify the ACTD systems to create a production representative system that
               could be operationally tested prior to low-rate production. If required
               changes are so significant that the ACTD system cannot be successfully
               modified, DOD ACTD guidance indicates that a new competition should be

               2. We agree that ACTDs should be based on mature technologies. However,
               DOD officials have acknowledged the Outrider system is not mature. We
               therefore continue to believe that DOD should resolve the integration
               challenges for Outrider before proceeding to a low-rate production

               3. Although DOD maintains that the development of Outrider is event rather
               than schedule driven, we note that DOD has not slipped the planned
               low-rate production decision or ACTD completion date in response to
               delays to the Outrider test schedule.

               4. DOD states that it will demonstrate supportability prior to the full system
               acquisition. DOD ACTD guidance states that the full range of support areas
               must be considered if the plan for an ACTD is to transition to low-rate
               production. We believe that committing to further Outrider production
               without taking advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate supportability
               adds unnecessary risk to the planned acquisition program.

               5. Our report specifically identifies the differences in the cost of a Predator
               ACTD system compared with a Predator production system.

               6. We modified the text to clarify that the Outrider ACTD is based on joint

               7. ACTD guidance points out that overall systems engineering efforts
               performed during the ACTD should include actions ensuring connectivity,

               Page 19                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
           Appendix I
           Comments From the Department of Defense

           compatibility, and synchronization of ACTD products with systems these
           products will operate with on the battlefield. Receipt of secondary imagery
           from the Outrider ground control station (level 1) does not provide any
           evidence that the tactical control system will be able to control or receive
           information directly from the Outrider air vehicle (levels 2 and 3). DOD’s
           plan to demonstrate Outrider’s compliance with tactical control system’s
           interoperability standards during the ACTD is not the same as
           demonstrating that levels 2 and 3 can be achieved in the field.

           8. DOD’s response indicates a tactical Common Data Link (CDL) may be
           available for use in Outrider in less than 2 years. The ACTD is scheduled for
           completion in May 1998. If Outrider low-rate production were delayed
           until the CDL became available, DOD could avoid retrofit risks and expenses.

(707181)   Page 20                                   GAO/NSIAD-97-153 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
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