Multiple Launch Rocket System: Range Less Than Needed and Sustained Rocket Production Not Ensured

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-07-30.

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

        United States
GA!!0   General Accounting Office
        Washington, D.C. 20548

        National Security and
        International AfFairs Division


        July 30,’1997

        The Honorable Togo D. West, Jr.
        The Secretary of the Army

        Subject:    Multiple Launch Rocket System: Range Less Than Needed and
                    Sustained Rocket Production Not Ensured

        Dear Mr. Secretary:

        During our review of the Multiple Launch Rocket System’s (MARS)
        improvements, we noted that although the extended range rocket meets its
        requirement to provide longer range capability, it wiU not satisfy the Army’s
        stated needs concerning range. In addition, we noted that the Army approved
        limited production of extended range rockets about 1 year ago, but one of the
        rocket’s five critical performance requirements has not yet been met-the
        number of hazardous, unexploded submunitions left after fh+ng.

        We also observed that planned Army procurements of extended range rockets
        will not sustain the production of affordable, quabfied rockets during fiscal
        years 1998 - 2001 and that foreign military sales expected to tll.l the production
        gap have not yet materialized. In addition, although’ the Army prefers the more
        capable follow-on guided rocket, Army funding actions are delaying guided
        rocket production and requiring extended range rocket production a year longer
        than planned.

        The purpose of this letter is to summarize issues raised during our review,
        express our concerns, and elicit your views and perspectives on the matters.


        The MLRS is designed to attack enemy indirect fire weapons, air defenses,
        personnel, and light materiel at ranges up to 32 kilometers. The system’s self-
        propelled launcher can fire 12 rockets in 60 seconds. Each rocket dispenses
        644 submunitions, which are designed to detonate upon impact. The Army’s
        inventory of about 419,000 basic rockets were purchased at an average price of
        $6,424 each.

                                         GAO/NSIAD-97-196R Multiple Launch Rocket System

                                    /m 073

The Army is developing two improvements to the MLRS launcher, and it has
begun producing an extended range rocket that is expected to (1) increase the
rocket’s maximum range from 32 to 45 kilometers and (2) decrease the
submunitions’ hazardous dud rate by incorporating a self- destruct fuze.’ The
Army approved limited production of the extended range rocket in May 1996; it
awarded a contract in July 1996 for 1,326rockets at an adjusted price of about
$16,931 per rocket; and it awarded another contract in February 1997 for 1,500
rockets at a price not to exceed $21,533per rocket.’ Fiscal year 1997 budget
documents showed that the Army planned to buy about 2,000 or more extended
range rockets each year from fisca3 years 1998 - 2001. However, the Army later
revised its plans, and it now plans to buy a total of 1,590 extended range
rockets during that period.

The Army plans to begin developing a guided rocket in fiscal year 1998 to
increase the range to 60 or 70 ldlometers and to improve accuracy. Guided
rocket production is currently scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2002.


The extended range rocket will not fully meet the Army’s stated need for
maximum rocket range because some of the artillery and rocket systems
available to potential adversaries have longer ranges-50 to 80 kilometers
compared to the extended range rockets’s 45kilometer range. Therefore,
according to a user official, the Army needs an even longer range rocket to (1)
reach more targets, (2) permit engagements of the enemy’s longer range artillery
and rocket systems, and (3) reduce the vulnerability of MLRS launchers by
firing rockets when positioned farther away from possible counterfire. He is
currently revising the Army’s requirements to document that need.

Army officials believe that the planned guided rocket will meet the Army’s
needs. According to a user official, the guided rocket is to have a 60- to 70-
kilometer range and is expected to permit engagement of the enemy’s longer
range targets. Also, because the guided rocket is to be more accurate, fewer
rockets per target will be required, thereby reducing the amount of time the
system is exposed to enemy counter&e.

Even though the enemy may have longer range capabilities, MLRS project
management and user officials told us that the extended range rocket will
provide a tactical benefit that is currently not available because it has a longer

‘A hazardous dud is a submunition that does not explode or disarm itself within
6 minutes of impact. The self-destruct fuze is to detonate unexploded
submunitions or make them inoperable.
%L’hefinal price has not been determined.

Page 2                       GAOLNSIAD-97-196RMultiple Launch Rocket System

range than the basic rocket. According to a user officid, commanders in one
region have already requested the rockets to assist in countering a potential
enemy’s longer range weapons deployed there.


The Army has not yet demonstrated that the extended range rocket meets the
required submunition hazardous dud rate-one criterion for beginning limited
production. Recent tests showed improvements, but the Army has not
demonstrated that the rockets will (l> achieve an acceptable dud rate in hot
temperatures or (2) consistently meet the dud rate requirement under other
conditions. Therefore, according to a project management official, the Army
has not yet authorized self-destruct fuze production, and extended range rocket
deliveries may be delayed.

The Army’s requirements document specifies that the extended range rocket is
to have a hazardous dud rate of less than 1 percent. Demonstration of the
required dud rate was one of five criteria established for beginning limited
production. However, prior to the start of limited production, the demonstrated
dud rate was about 2.6 percent, and the rocket has not achieved the required
dud rate in tests conducted to date.

March 1997 tests showed improvements in the dud rate for rockets at mid-range
(ambient) and cold temperatures, but the Army reported the submunition dud
rate as “quite unacceptable” for the rocket conditioned to hot temperatures.3
Additional tests, done in May 1997, to verify the cause for the hot rocket dud
rate and further evaluate the self-destruct fuze, scored dud rates of 0.7 percent
and 1.3 percent for ambient and cold conditioned rockets, respectively; and a
July test scored a 0.4 percent dud rate for an ambient rocket. However, heat-
conditioned rockets failed in both the May and July tests-preventing
reassessments of the submunition dud rate.

A project management official said that the recent tests showed that the dud
rate can be achieved, but he agreed that because of the small number of tests,
the results do not demonstrate that the rocket will consistently meet the
required dud rate even for ambient and cold conditions. An Army report of the
May test results acknowledged that questions remain about the self-destruct

3These tests included three rocket firings at different operating temperatures-
one ambient (about 68”F.), one conditioned to cold temperatures (-25°F.) and
one conditioned to hot temperatures (140°F.). The tests were done without the
self-destxuct fuze in order to verify submunition enhancements. The dud rate
for the rocket exposed to hot temperatures was 21.6 percent-a rate that,
according to a project management official, would not reduce to 1 percent, even
with a highly reliable self-destruct fuze.

Page 3                     GAO/N&ID-97-196R Multiple Launch Rocket System

fuze; but a project management official said that the July tests showed
improvement in the fuze. However, as a result of the uncertainties, the Army
has not yet authorized fuze production>

According to a project management official, the delays-in developing and
producing an acceptable fuze probably will prevent the Army from meeting its
schedule for delivering submunitions to the contractor. As a result, the Army
probably will suffer a late penalty. This situation may also cause late delivery
of the extended range rockets to the Army.


Although extended range rocket production was accelerated to prevent a break
in production, sustained production is not ensured at this time. Project
management officials told us that, based on contractor cost information, about
1,500 rockets must be procured each year to sustain affordable production of
qualified missiles. But, the Army’s planned procurements are sigmficantly less
than that.

?t’he Army independently contracts ,for self-destruct fuze development,
production, and assembly into the submunitions, and the Army will supply the
submunitions as government-furnished material to the rocket contractor.

Page 4                      GAO/NSIAD-97-196R Multiple Launch Rocket System

Fi,me 1 shows the Army’s procurements of extended range rockets for fiscal
years 1996 and 1997 and those planned for fiscal years 1998 - 2001.

F’ime 1: Extended Range Rocket Procurement


                      1996   1997     1998      1999   2000   2001
                                        Fiscal Year

Source: MLRS Project Office.

Project management officials believe there are other alternatives for sustaining
production, but those alternatives have not yet materialized. For example, the
Project Manager told us that he believes sufficient quantities will be sold to
foreign customers to fill the gap between the U.S. quantity and the affordable
production quantity. However, our review indicates that although foreign
customers are considering buying the extended range rocket, no quantities have
been fjrtnly agreed upon at this time.

Project management officials also told us that if foreign sales did not fill the
gap, there are other alternatives, such as maintaining a “warm” production lineV5
However, according to Army and contractor studies, maintaining the line would
cost between $11 rnilhon and $17 million a year, and the Army requested fiscal
year 1998 funding of only $2.9 mihion for extended range rockets. The Project
Manager stated that Army repro gramming or congressional increases are
possibilities for funding a “warm” production line or for funding sufficient
rocket production to sustain the line.

5A “warm” line would produce a limited number of rockets to ensure that the
production facility retains its qualification by maintan-ung critical skills,
equipment, and processes.

                                    GAO/NSIAT%97-196RMultiple Launch Rocket System

According to project and user officials, the Army plans to minimize production
of extended range rockets, pending availability of a more capable guided rocket.
However, recent funding actions have delayed guided rocket production and
added another year of extended range rocket production.

The Army previously reduced funding planned for the extended range rocket
program in order to fund guided rocket development. Army plans showed
funding of $19.3 mihion in fiscal year 1998 and $22.3 million in fiscal year 1999
for the guided rocket development program. Based on this funding, the Army
had planned to begin guided rocket production in fiscal year 2001.
However, the fiscal year 1998 budget request includes only $11.2 million for
guided rocket development and shows planned funding of $19.2 million for
fiscal year 1999. As a result of the funding decreases, the Army currently
plans to delay guided rocket production until fiscal year 2002 and produce 480
more extended range rockets in fiscal year 2001.


In summary, we are concerned that the Army is procuring the extended range
rocket although the rocket does not fully meet the Army’s needs, and it has not
yet met all of the criteria for beginning limited production. We are also
concerned that the program may be overly dependent on foreign military sales
to susta.in affordable production of the weapon, and Army funding actions may
delay production of the more capable follow-on weapon.

In light of these concerns, we would appreciate your insights on the following

(1) Are there any plans to modify the number of extended range rockets to be
procured in light of their performance to date and the Army’s desire to buy only
a minimal quantity until a more capable rocket is available?

(2) From your vantage point, what are the nature and extent of the risks of
producing the extended range rocket before tests show that it meets all criteria
for entering limited production ? How do these risks compare with the benefits
of continued production over the long term?

(3) To what extent is the Army relying on foreign military sales to sustain
affordable production of extended range rockets? What is the Army’s back-up
plan if the level of foreign military sales is not sufficient to sustain production?

Page 6                        GAOINSIAD-97-196R Multiple Launch Rocket System

(4) Is it feasible to accelerate guided rocket development and buy fewer
extended range rockets?

We would appreciate receiving your response within 30 days.


If you or your designee have any questions, please call me at (202) 512-4841 or
Lee Edwards, Assistant Director at (205) 650-1411. Major contributors to this
assignment were Wayne Gil&n-n and Angel Sharma.


Page 7                     GAONXAD-97-196R Multiple Launch Rocket System
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