oversight

Apache Longbow Helicopter: Fire Control Radar Not Ready for Multiyear Procurement

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-11-17.

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




November 1997
                  APACHE LONGBOW
                  HELICOPTER
                  Fire Control Radar Not
                  Ready for Multiyear
                  Procurement




GAO/NSIAD-98-11
                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division

                   B-276448

                   November 17, 1997

                   The Honorable William S. Cohen
                   The Secretary of Defense

                   Dear Mr. Secretary:

                   The Army plans to award a multiyear contract for the Apache Longbow
                   helicopter’s fire control radar in December 1997. We reviewed the Apache
                   Longbow program to determine if the fire control radar design is stable
                   and ready for multiyear contract award.


                   The Longbow is a modification of the Apache helicopter that consists of
Background         an upgraded airframe, a newly developed radar, and the Longbow Hellfire
                   missile. The Apache Longbow is designed to conduct precision attacks in
                   adverse weather conditions, automatically engage multiple targets,
                   provide fire-and-forget missile capability, and operate on the digital
                   battlefield of the future. The radar, the key component of the Longbow, is
                   designed to provide the helicopter with the capability to automatically
                   detect, classify, and prioritize targets.

                   In 1991, the Army planned to develop and procure 227 Longbow Apache
                   helicopters. In May 1993, the program was restructured to upgrade the
                   entire fleet of 758 helicopters to the Apache Longbow configuration but
                   outfit only 227 with the fire control radar and a more powerful 701C
                   engine. Full-rate production of both the Apache Longbow airframe and fire
                   control radar was authorized in October 1995. The first contract for 10 fire
                   control radars (lot 1) was awarded in March 1996, and the second contract
                   was finalized in January 1997 for an additional 11 radars (lot 2). The Army
                   plans to award a multiyear contract for the fire control radar in
                   December 1997.


                   Under 10 U.S.C. 2306b, before awarding a multiyear contract, the design of
Results in Brief   the system should be stable. The radar’s transmitter, a critical component,
                   is being redesigned. Additionally, DOD regulations require that qualification
                   test and evaluation be completed prior to the full-rate production decision.
                   The original transmitter may not complete qualification testing and the
                   redesigned transmitter’s performance will not be demonstrated before the
                   contract is awarded. In our January 1997 letter to you, we expressed our
                   concern about the stability of the transmitter’s design and concluded that




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                         B-276448




                         the radar would not be ready for the planned multiyear procurement.1 Our
                         review confirmed this conclusion; however, the Army still plans to
                         proceed with the multiyear contract. Award of the multiyear contract
                         should be delayed until all statutory and regulatory requirements are met.


                         The fire control radar’s transmitter has had development problems, and
Multiyear Contract for   parts will not be available for a full production run of the original
Fire Control Radar Is    transmitter; therefore, it is being redesigned. However, the contractor has
Inappropriate, as        experienced delays in redesigning the radar’s transmitter and,
                         consequently, does not yet have a prototype. As a result, the actual design
Planned                  of the radar’s transmitter is not stable, and its performance will not be
                         known when the scheduled multiyear contract is awarded. Since the
                         design of the radar is not yet stable, multiyear contract approval will occur
                         without meeting the statutory requirement.

                         In our January 1997 letter, we expressed concerns about the performance
                         of the Apache Longbow’s fire control radar, particularly the transmitter.
                         We noted that (1) the transmitter was being redesigned, (2) the lot 2
                         contract unit production costs had doubled from the original estimate, and
                         (3) the lack of a stable radar design could increase logistics support costs
                         due to two differently configured transmitters. We asked whether the
                         contract for the lot 2 fire control radar contract would be delayed and, if
                         not, what actions would the Department of Defense (DOD) take to ensure
                         that our concerns were resolved before awarding the contract. DOD
                         responded that it did not direct the Army to delay the award of the lot 2
                         contract because it believed that current program management oversight,
                         combined with the Integrated Product Team process, was adequate to
                         address all of our concerns.

                         According to the Apache Longbow project manager, while the radar was
                         approved for full-rate production in October 1995, it was apparent to the
                         program office that it would need time to resolve problems with the
                         radar’s design. As we noted in our January 1997 letter, some of the radar
                         transmitter’s electrical components, such as diodes and amplifiers, did not
                         perform well in cold temperatures. In addition, to achieve the required
                         output, the current transmitter must undergo time-consuming and costly
                         manual integration efforts. Also, suppliers informed the fire control radar’s
                         manufacturer in 1995 that they would no longer provide critical
                         transmitter components. To improve performance and address parts
                         availability and cost problems, the Army determined in November 1995

                         1
                          Apache Longbow Fire Control Radar (GAO/NSIAD-97-97R, Jan. 27, 1997).



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                 B-276448




                 that the radar’s transmitter had to be redesigned. The program office has
                 now scheduled the radar’s full-rate production to occur with award of the
                 multiyear contract.

                 DOD regulations require that qualification test and evaluation be completed
                 prior to the full-rate production decision. Qualification tests require that a
                 system satisfactorily demonstrate performance as specified in the
                 production contract. As early as 1993, the Army realized the program
                 contained a high degree of production risk because of the possible need to
                 redesign and requalify the fire control radar’s components. The Army
                 acknowledged that this concern would not be completely resolved until all
                 qualification tests were completed. However, the original transmitter may
                 not complete qualification testing prior to the multiyear contract award,
                 and the redesigned transmitter is not scheduled for qualification tests until
                 December 1998, over 3 years after full-rate production of the radar was
                 authorized. According to contractor officials, this performance
                 demonstration could be delayed until early 1999.

                 The contractor has experienced delays in developing the radar’s
                 redesigned transmitter and, therefore, does not yet have a prototype.
                 Because a prototype of the redesigned transmitter was not ready, bench
                 testing scheduled for March and then June 1997 did not occur. In addition,
                 the redesigned transmitter will not be available for the government’s first
                 article test,2 scheduled to begin in March 1998; therefore, the Army plans
                 to use the original transmitter for these tests. Because approximately
                 85 percent of the fire control radars will be equipped with the redesigned
                 transmitter, first article test results using the original transmitter will not
                 provide an adequate basis for assessing the radar’s performance. Although
                 the current transmitter does not include the fixes from the redesign, the
                 Army still plans to use it in the event further delays occur in the
                 development and testing of the redesigned transmitter.


                 Because the redesigned transmitter will be used in approximately
Recommendation   85 percent of the Apache Longbow’s fire control radars, we recommend
                 that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Army to delay the
                 award of the multiyear contract until the radar has successfully passed
                 testing as required by the regulations and the design is stable as required
                 by 10 U.S.C. 2306(b).



                 2
                  First article testing comprises preproduction and initial production tests to ensure that the contractor
                 can furnish a product that meets the established technical criteria.



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                     B-276448




                     In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD nonconcurred with our
Agency Comments      recommendation. DOD informed us that the Army plans to test a prototype
and Our Evaluation   of the redesigned transmitter in November and December 1997 to verify
                     the compatibility and functionality of the transmitter with other
                     components of the radar and that lot acceptance testing will be completed
                     in December 1998. According to DOD, this test and evaluation approach and
                     the projected $80 million savings from the multiyear contract are in the
                     best interest of the government. DOD noted that the transmitter represents
                     only 2 percent of the fire control radar’s total parts and does not
                     jeopardize the design stability of the fire control radar or the Longbow
                     Apache weapon system. Further, DOD stated that we are incorrect in
                     asserting that the Army has not met the statutory requirement for a stable
                     design prior to multiyear contract approval. According to DOD officials, the
                     redesign effort is only a procedure to requalify an out-of-production part.

                     It now appears that DOD will delay award of the multiyear contract.
                     According to DOD officials, the contract that was originally scheduled to be
                     awarded in November 1997 will now be awarded after completion of the
                     functionality testing in December 1997. However, the Army’s plan does not
                     satisfy the lot 2 contract and regulatory requirements for testing. The lot 2
                     fire control radar production contract specifically requires qualification
                     testing of the redesigned transmitter. As we noted in the report,
                     qualification and first article testing validate that a component can operate
                     in an integrated system environment. However, neither DOD’s planned
                     November-December testing nor its planned first article test will achieve
                     these purposes. The first time that the redesigned transmitter will be
                     tested in a system environment is during the December 1998 qualification
                     tests.

                     We are not persuaded by DOD’s assertion regarding the significance of the
                     transmitter to the design stability of the radar or Apache Longbow weapon
                     system. Although the transmitter represents only 2 percent of the part
                     count for the radar, proper functioning of the transmitter is critical to the
                     performance of the weapon system. The transmitter is the critical
                     component of the radar, which is the single critical distinction between
                     the Apache Longbow and the original Apache helicopter. If the transmitter
                     does not work, the fire control radar will not provide the helicopter with
                     the capability to automatically detect, classify, and prioritize targets in
                     adverse weather conditions.

                     Also, we do not agree that this effort is only a procedure to requalify an
                     out-of-production part. The original transmitter has not completed and



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              B-276448




              may not complete full qualification testing prior to award of the contract.
              In addition, the redesigned transmitter has not and will not be subjected to
              qualification testing until 1 year after the multiyear contract award. It is
              only through qualification testing that the Army can be assured that the
              redesigned transmitter performs as required in an integrated system
              environment. Therefore, we continue to believe that the multiyear contract
              should be delayed until the radar has successfully passed first article and
              qualification tests with the redesigned transmitter. DOD’s detailed
              comments are reprinted in appendix I.


              To determine whether the Apache Longbow fire control radar design was
Scope and     stable and whether it was ready for multiyear contract award originally
Methodology   scheduled for November 1997, we reviewed various program documents
              related to the development and acquisition of the Apache Longbow fire
              control radar. We interviewed cognizant officials at the Program Office for
              Aviation; the Apache Attack Helicopter Project Management Office; and
              the Office of the Executive Director, Aviation Research, Development, and
              Engineering Center, at the Army’s Aviation and Troop Command,
              St. Louis, Missouri; the Office of the Secretary of the Army for Research,
              Development, and Acquisition, Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Army Office
              of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Washington, D.C.
              We also interviewed officials from Lockheed Martin, Longbow Limited
              Liability Company, and Northrop Grumman, manufacturers of the fire
              control radar, in Orlando, Florida. In addition, we obtained documentation
              from the Defense Contract Management Command located at McDonnell
              Douglas Helicopter Systems, Mesa, Arizona.

              To determine whether Apache Longbow fire control radar performance
              requirements would be met and operational capabilities demonstrated, we
              reviewed relevant Army, contractor, and DOD documents. These included
              the Defense Acquisition Executive Summaries, contractor’s Fire Control
              Radar Program Progress Review, and the Apache Longbow’s Operational
              Requirements Document. We also discussed performance and capability
              requirements with cognizant Army officials in St. Louis, Missouri, and
              Washington, D.C.

              We conducted our review from February through August 1997 in
              accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




              Page 5                               GAO/NSIAD-98-11 Apache Longbow Helicopter
B-276448




As you know, the head of a federal agency is required by 31 U.S.C. 720 to
submit a written statement of 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 this report. A written statement also must be submitted to the Senate
and House Committees on Appropriations with the 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 the Chairmen and Ranking
Minority Members, Senate and House Committees on Appropriations,
Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senate Committee on
Governmental Affairs, House Committee on National Security, and House
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight; the Secretary of the
Army; and the Director, Office of Management and Budget. We will also
provide copies to others upon 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
Robert J. Stolba, Charles Burgess, Richard Burrell, and Nora Landgraf.

Sincerely yours,




Louis J. Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues




Page 6                               GAO/NSIAD-98-11 Apache Longbow Helicopter
Page 7   GAO/NSIAD-98-11 Apache Longbow Helicopter
Appendix I

Comments From the Department of Defense




             Page 8        GAO/NSIAD-98-11 Apache Longbow Helicopter
           Appendix I
           Comments From the Department of Defense




(707238)   Page 9                                    GAO/NSIAD-98-11 Apache Longbow Helicopter
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