Prototype THAAD System

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-01-06.

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

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    OGJA General Accounting Office

           Washington, D.C. 205481111111                                                1111111111111

             National Security and
             International Affairs Division


              January 6, 1997

              The Honorable William J. Perry
              The Secretary of Defense

              Dear Mr. Secretary:

              In July 1996, we issued a report on the Army's plans to commit funds for producing
              40 Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) prototype interceptors, called User
              Operational Evaluation System (UOES) interceptors, to provide an early deployable
              capability.'- That report noted our concern that funding for these interceptors will
              be committed well before testing provides certain assurances of the system's
              effectiveness. During our current review of the Army's planning for THAAD
              acquisition and testing, we identified information about UOES interceptor testing
              that raises additional concerns. The purpose of this letter is to indicate these
              concerns and request that the Department of Defense (DOD) provide us answers to
              the questions listed in this letter by February 6, 1997.


              As of October 1996, the THAAD Project Office estimated the cost of UOES
              interceptors, including the cost of spares, support equipment, and contractor
              support, at about $275 million. The Army plans to exercise a contract option for
              UOES interceptors after meeting one minimal criterion established by the Under
              Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology rather than wait until after
              early developmental testing is completed and a limited user test provides some
              basis for assessing the UOES interceptor's operational effectiveness.2 The Under
              Secretary's criterion is one successful intercept of a target while using the THAAD
              radar to guide the interceptor. Only three of the last six test flights were designed

              'BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE: Issues Concerning Acquisition of THAAD
              Prototvpe System (GAO/NSIAD-96-136, July 9, 1996).
              2DOD  defines operational effectiveness as the overall degree of mission
              accomplishment of a system when used by representative personnel in the
              environment planned or expected for operational employment of the system
              considering organization, doctrine, tactics, survivability, vulnerability, and threat.

                                                  GAO/NSIAD-97-70R Prototype THAAD System
                                          o6&u~/I 5 1IR5        I

to intercept a target, and all three intercept attempts failed. Test flight 7, currently
scheduled for late February 1997, will be the first intercept attempt using the
THAAD radar.

During our current review of the Army's planning for THAAD acquisition and
testing, we determined that the Army plans to begin using an indium antimonide
(InSb) focal plane array in the interceptor's seeker component beginning with test
flight 8 scheduled for June 1997.3 The more complex seeker including an InSb focal
plane array is needed because the current platinum silicide (PtSi) seeker is not
sensitive enough to meet all program targeting requirements. The InSb represents a
parallel seeker development effort which began in 1992. All subsequent interceptor
production, including UOES interceptor production, is to include the InSb focal
plane array seeker. All previous THAAD test flights used the PtSi seeker
configuration. In addition, the PtSi seeker, not the InSb seeker, is planned for test
flight 7- the UOES criterion test.


Our specific concerns focus on the use of one interceptor configuration in testing to
be the basis for production of UOES interceptors of a different configuration and
the extent of DOD acceptance of technical risk by using the more complex InSb
focal plane array seeker. 'Thus, we request that DOD provide us answers to the
following questions:

(1) How does DOD justify basing a production decision for UOES interceptors on a
test of a single intercept (if successful) with a PtSi seeker while planning to
produce interceptors with the InSb seeker?

(2)     How and by whom has the InSb seeker's performance been validated?

(3) What is the cost, schedule, and performance risk associated with the InSb
seeker? Also, what is the current status of InSb seeker production and the most
recent experience with the rejection rate during production of InSb and PtSi

(4) Will production of UOES interceptors with InSb seekers continue if test flight 8
using an InSb seeker fails to hit its target? If this occurs and production continues,
can the seekers be retrofitted to correct problems? If production stops, what is the
cost of stopping and restarting the production line?

3 The THAAD focal plane array is a heat-sensitive device that performs thermal
imaging for tracking, discIimination, and aim point selection of targets to achieve
hit-to-kill engagements.

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We are sending copies of this letter to appropriate congressional committees and
other interested parties. Your response to our questions will also be distributed to
the same congressional committees. If you or your designee have any questions,
please contact me at (202) 512-4841 or Lee Edwards, Assistant Director, at (205)

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Schulz
Associate Director
Defense Acquisitions Issues


                                  GAO/NSIAD-97-70R Prototype THAAD System