Status of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Programs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-02-18.

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

                         DOCURENT RESUMR
00097 - [A07513483
Status of the Remotely Piloted aircraft Programs.   PSAD-77-30;
B-163058. February 18, 1977. 9 pp.
Report to the Congress; by Ulser D. Staats, Comptroller General.
Issue Area: military Preparedness Plans (800); Federal
    Procurement of Goods and Services (1900);Pederal Procurement
    of Goods and Sarvices: Notifying the Congress of Status of
    Important Proclirement Programs (1905).
Contact: ProcurePent and Systems Acquisition Div.
Budget Function: iational Defense (050); National Defense:
    Weapon Systems (057)j.
Organization Concerned: Department of Defense; Department of the
    Air Force; Department of the Army; Lockheed Aircraft Corp.;
    Boeing Co.; Teledyne Ryan Co.
Congressional Relevance: House Committee on Armed Services;
    Senate Committee on Armed Services; Congress.
          In the next S years, about $700 cillion will be spent
on remotely piloted vehicles (RPV), primarily for two Air Force
projects--Compass Cope and multimissien--and one Army
RPV--Aguila. These are being developed because Department of
Defense officials believe RPVs are able to perform high-risk and
politically sensitive missions more practically and
inexpensively ihan piloted aircraft. Compass Cope is a large,
high-altitude, long-range RPV, which is being developed at a
cost of S160 million. The multisission APV, called BGH-34C,
medium-sized and shortr&nge, is being develcped to replace
single-mission, electronic warfare and reconnaissance RPYs. An
advanced RPV is also being planned to replace t'_ BGH-3,C. The
army's Aquila RPV is being developed to demonstrate the use of
small BPVs for tactical surveillance and target identif:.cation.
Findings/Concl.sions: The Compass Cope is in the developmental
stage, but production is planned for 1981, if funds are
available. The Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council, which
is supposed to review all major new systems three times during
development, has not reviewed Compass Cope. The Tactical Air
Command, primary user cf this RPV, has questioned the need for
it, indicating that existing aircraft can do the task as well
and as cheaply. Compass Cope may also have air-rights flyover
problems, but the countries involved and the Air Force think the
problem can be solved, possibly by onboard sensors to avoid
collisions. Half of the test flights of the BGN-34C have
resulted in missed midair retrieval, because of parachure
failure, but the damage has been minor, Preliminary performance
tests show the BGH-34C to fly faster and higher, and carry more
than the BPVs it will replace. Preliminary ccst studies indicate
that the BGH-34C is comparable to the RPVs it is replacing.
De;elopment of its replacement is scheduled for 1980. After
initial testing failures, the Armyes Aquila was modified and has
been 3uccessfully tested, including seven automatic launch and
recovery flights. Testing with TV camera, laser and other
equipment has not been completed. Recommendations: The Dsfense
systess Acquisition Review Council should review the Cor.pass
Cope program and other RPV programs to provide the three
services involved in their development with the benefit of such
reviews. Determiration should Lq made as to the need for Compass
cope and whether it is cost effective since there are existirg
aircraft to perform its functions. The issue of potential flight
restrictions should be resolved. Because of problems encountered
and the planned use of Aquila with Army weapons, the basic
concepts, such as launch and recovery, should he proven befcre
the program is allowed to proceed further. (Author/SS)

     ,.A"'':: .    OF THE UNITED STATES

                  Status Of The Remotely
                  Piloted Aircraft Programs
                  Departments of the Air Force and Army
                  Unmanned aircraft piloted by remote control
                  are being developed by the Air Force and
                  Army to perform some m;ssions now flown
                  by men in planes. The Department of Defense
                  has budgeted over $700 million to develop
                  and produce remotely piloted vehicles over
                  the next 5 years.
                  The Air Force began, and is continuing, the
                   Compass Cope program without resolving
                  questions on mission and cost effectiveness.
                  The Air Force awarded a contract for full-
                  scale development in August 1976. The
                  Army's Aquila program has been plagued with
                  design and procedural difficulties which have
                  led to cost growth and schedule delays.
                  GAO recommends that the Secretary of De-
                  fense closely monitor remotely piloted vehicle
                  progr :ms to -make sure that basic mission,
                  procedural, and cost-effectiveness questions
                  are resolved.

                  PSAD-77-30                                       FEE. 1 8, 1 9 77
                          WASHINGTON. D.C.   Z0S4


To the President of the Senate and the
Speaker of the House of Representatives

     This report presents our views on the major issues
concerning the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Programs. For the
past several years, we have annually reported to the Con-
gress on the status of selected major weapons systems.
This report is 1 of a series of 29 reports that we are
furnishing this year to the Congress for its use in review-
ing fiscal year 1978 requests for funds.

     A draft of this report waE reviewed by agency offi-
cials associated with the program and their comments are
incorporated as appropriate.

     We made our review pursuant to the Bulget and Account-
ing Act, 1921 (31 U.S.C. 53), and the Accounting and Audit-
ing Act of 1950 (31 U.S.C. 67).

     We are sending copies of this report to the Director,
Office of Management and Budget, and the Secretary of

                                   Comptroller General
                                   of the United States
                         Con tents




      2   AIR FORCE RPV PROGRAMS                  2
              Compass Cope                        2
                  ?rogram status                  2
                  Observations                    3
              Multimissiou RPVs                   5
                  Program status                  6
                  Advanced mult-i ission RPV      6
              Conclusions and recommendations     7
      3   ARMY RPV PROGRAMS                       8
              Aquila                              8
                  Program status                  8
              Conclusions and recommendations     9


GAO       General Accounting Office

RPV       remotely piloted vehicle
                                             Department of Defense

                  DI GE ST

                  The Army, Navy, and Air Force are develop-
                  ing unmanned aircraft piloted by remote
                  control for reconnaissance, surveillance,
                  and communication missions now flown by
                  men in planes.

                  The Department of Defense thinks remotely
                  piloted vehicles can fly some missions
                  at less cost and can accomplish other mis-
                  sions that are impractical for manned air-
                  craft.  They have budgeted over $700 million
                  to develop and produce remotely pilote3
                  vehicles over the next 5 years.

                  In fiscal year 1977 they budgeted about
                  $105 million for these programs, $77 million
                  of which was for the Air Force's Compass
                  Cope and BGM-34C and the Army's Aquila re-
                  motely piloted vehicles.

                  The Compass Cope is a high-altitude, long-
                  endurance, relatively large aircraft that
                  is being developed by the Boeing Company.
                  It is being designed to carry changeable
                  equipment for different missions, such as
                  battle area surveillance, communication,
                  target location, and signal intelligence.
                  The BGM-34C is a multimission, medium-sized
                  remotely piloted vehicle being developed by
                  Teledyne Ryan. it is designed for short-
                  range electronic warfare and reconnaissance
                  missions. The Air Force is also studying
                  ways to use this aircraft for carrying
                  offensive weapons.
                   The Army's Aquila is a 135-pound aircraft
                   with a 35-pound payload being developed
                   by the Lockheed Missile and Space Company.
                   LU.unched from a truck-mounted catapult, it
                   i; designed for surveillance, reconnaissance,
                   and r.::rgeting missions.

Tear Sheet. Upor removal, the report     i        PSAD-77-30
Cover date should be noted hereon.
GAO found that the Air F rce did not follow
establisnhed procedures for developing new
systems and that the Army Aquila program
has incurred major cost and schedule overruns.
Spec ificall y:

-The Air Force began developing the Compass
  Cope without first resolving issues on mis-
  sion, need, and cost effectiveness, and
  the need for the system was questioned by
  the Tactical Air Command as late as Apri)
  1976.   (See pp. 3 and 4.)

-- The Compass Cope program still has not been
   reviewed by the Defense Systems Acquisi-
   tion Review Council and its cost effective-
   ness has not been resolved. Due to a
   change in Department of Defense practices
   this program may not be reviewed by the
   Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council.
   (See pp. 3 and 4.)

-- The Air Force has not resolved Federal
   Aviation Administration and international
   restrictions which may restrict some
   routine Compass Cope operations.  (See
   pp. 4 and 5.)

-- The Army's Aquila program has been plagued
   with design and procedural difficulties
   which have led to cost growth and schedule
   slippage.  (See p. 9.)

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense
determine if the Air Force needs the Compass
Cope and if it is cost effective to deploy a
new weapon system when there are existing
aircraft which may be able to perform the
Compass Cope mission.

Also, the matter of flight restrictions im-
posed by the United States or foreign govern-
ments should be resolved.

The Secretary of Defense should also direct
the Defense Systems Acquisition Review
Council to review the Compass Cope program,
as well as other remotely piloted vehicle
programs, to provide the three services

             involved in remotely piloted vehicle de-
             velopment programs tne benefits of such

             Because of the problems encountered and the
             planned use of remotely piloted vehicles
             with Army weapons, such as the cannon
             lauinched guided projectiles, GAO recommends
             that the Secretary of Defense make sure
             the basic concepts, such as launch and
             recovery, are proven before the Aquila
             program is allowed to proceed further.

             A draft of this report was reviewed by
             agency officials associated with manage-
             ment of the programs and their comments
             have been incorporated as appropriate.

Tear Sheet                        i ii
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                          A:R FORCE BGM-34C MULTIMISSION RPV

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                          CHAPTER 1

     The Department of Defense plans to spend over $700
million in the next 5 years to develop and prorduce remotely
piloted vehicles (RPVs) with about $105 million requested for
fiscal year '977. Over 70 percent of the requested funds
were for twc Air Force programs--the Compass Cope and Multi-
mission--and one Army program--the Aquila.

     The Air Force. Army, and Navy have used RPVs as ai.-
borne target drones for the past 20 years.  The Air Furce
has successfully used them for recrnnalssance and electronic
warfare. The last major RPV development programs were. in the
late 1950s and early 1960s. The Army spent about $300 mil-
lion on five different programs to develop reconnaissance
drones but the programs were unsuccessful.  The Navy spent
more than $250 million to develop and purchase 750 drone anti-
submarine helicopters which, after 411 crashed, were removed
from serv'ce. RVs are being developed because Depart-
ment of Defense officials believe RPVs may be able to per-
form high-risk and politically sensitive missions more
practically and at le-s cost than piloted aircraft.


     This review was done to document the status of the Com-
pass Cope, Multimission, and Aquila RPV programs, and to
provide data for helping the Congress evaluate RPV programs
and budget requests. We reviewed records, documents, and
reports, and held discussions with responsible officials.
The work was done at the Pentagon; Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base, Dayton, Ohio; Army Aviation Systems Command,
St. Louis, Missouri; and the Army Mobility Research and De-
fense Laboratory, Fort Eustis, Virginia.

     A copy of this report was reviewed by agency officials
associated with management of the program and their
comments have been incorporated as appropriate.
                         CHAPTER 2

                    AIR FORCE RPV PROGRAMS

     The Air Force plans to spend $831 million to develop
and produce five RPV programs through fiscal year 1983.
The major programs are the Compass Cope and the Multi-
mission RPV, designated the BGM-34C. The status of these
programs and our observations are discussed below.


     The Compass Cope is a large, high-altitude, long-
endurance unmanned aircraft.  Its potential missions include
(1) battle area surveillance, (2) communication, (3) target-
ing, and (4) signal intelligence. Work on the Compass Cope
began in 1971 and 1972 after the Air Force received unsolicited
proposals from the Boeing Company and Teledyne Ryan offering
to demonstrate a high-altitude long-endurance aircraft. The
Air Force awarded contracts to each company to demonstrate
the technology necessary to build such an aircraft. During
1971 to 1975 each company designed, built, and tested pro-
totypes of their aircraft:.

Program status

     Following the tests, the Air Force decided to enter
full-scale development with the Compass Cope. After a com-
petitive phase between Teledyne Ryan and Boeing, the Air
Force selected Boeing as the contractor.  In August 1976
the Air Force awarded them a $77.2 million cost plus incen-
tive fee development contract to desion, build, and test
three aircrafL, including the necessary supporting equipment,
by late 1980. The Air Force said that the contract is a
two phase contract covering subsystem development as well
as development of the full production system; Boeing is
currently limited to subsystem design and test effort.
The total development program, including Air Force and
contractor costs, was estimated at $160 million.

     The Boeing development contract also gives the Air
Force the option to buy 20 production aircraft and 2 ground
command systems. The estimated unit flyaway cost of these
20 aircraft is $4.5 million with a total production program
cost of about $202 million. Production is planned to start
in early 1981 provided development is successfully completed
and funds are available. Although only 20 aircraft are now
planned for prodlction, an Air Force official said they may
purchase up to 108 of these aircraft.

     The Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council was
established as an advisory body to the Secretary of Defense
on acquisition of major systems. The council is supposed to
review new systems at least three times: before programs
are started, before full-scale engineering development,
and again before production starts. In part, the council
evaluates the program and satisfies itself that:
     -- A military need has been demonstrated for the new
     -- Mission, performance requirements, and specifications
        are adequately defined and economically plausible.
     -- Major problems, issues, and risks are identified
        and suitably resolved.
     -- Future support costs, including comparisons with
        current systems, have been evaluated.
     In the case of Compass Cope, two reviews should have
taken place because it is now in the full-scale engineering
development phase. The council, however, has not reviewed
the program. A review was initially scheduled in October
1975, but was delayed because Department of Defense officials
believed the Air Force's justification was not sufficiently
defined. Another review was scheduled for the spring or
early summer of 1976, but the Air Force still had not completed
its justification.
     As of February 1976, the Air Force intended to obtain
a Secretary of Defense decision through the Defense Systems
Acquisition Review Council. In the fall of 1976, this approach
was changed to call for an Air Force review in March 1977,
rather than a Defense Council review. This is in line with
current Defense Department desires to decentralize reviews
of certain weapon systems.    The Air Force review does riot
eliminate the possibility  of  a Defense Council review.
     Review of the Compass Cope program by the Defense Sys-
tems Acquisi'ion Review Council is necessary because the
need for and iost effectiveness of the system have not been
fully establishzed. The Tactical Air Command, which is expected
to be the primary user, questioned the need for the lompass
Cope as late as Ap7il 1976. In a message to the Air Force

vice chief of Staff, the Vice Commander of the Tactical
Air Command said.
     -- There was no operational need for the Compass Cope
        System because there was no firm vehicle require-
     -- Alternative aircraft, such as the U-2, T-39, and
        RF-4 should be considered for the Precision
        Wpcation Strike System and Side Looking Airborne
     -- Development and procurement funds planned for the
        Compass Cope program are needed for more critical
The Vice Chief of Staff agreed that piloted aircraft could
do many of the missions which may be assigned to the Compass
Cope but said the Compass Cope development program should
be continued until the Air Force had fully investigr -d the
program and its cost effectiveness.
     The Air Force completed a cost-effectiveness study for
the Compass Cope as a carrier for the Precision Emitter
Location Strike System, which is one of the potential mis-
sions. They compared it with 10 existing manned aircraft
and concluded from their study that no one system dominated
the others on the basi4 of cost, effectiveness, and surviva-
bility. The Air Force later concluded from the study that
Compass Cope and U-2 were the most effective carriers of
the Precision Emitter Location Strike System and contracted
for a cost comparison of the two aircraft. That study showed
that the Compass Cope could operate at a lower life cycle
cost as a carrier of the Precision Emitter Location Strike
System. The Air Force is studying the cost of other potential
Compass Cope missions but the studies have not been completed.
     Another issue is whether the Compass Cope may be re-
stricted during some routine operations. The Air Force ex-
pects to operate the aircraft in the United States, Germany,
Belgium, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Italy. In the
United States, the Federal Aviation Administration permits
RPV operations in positive control airspace (all airspace
above 18,000 feet), and in restricted and warning areas.
When RPVs are flying outside these areas, they must comply
with the "see and avoid' concept or be accompanied by a chase
plane which can communicate with the control source.

         Air Force officials said the restrictions should not
    severely affect U.S. operations because of the limited
    number of Compass Cope aircraft and operating bases. They
    are also considering onboard sensors, such as a television
    camera or a collision avoidance system, which could ease
    existing restrictions. Air Force officials said that
    the British, Italian, and Dutch governments think Compass
    Cope can be integrated into their air traffic control
    systems without major problems. The Belgian and German
    governments have not yet provided official opinions.


         The Air Force is developing a multimission, medium-
    sized, short-range RPV, designated the BGM-34C, to replace
    single-mission electronic warfare and reconnaissance RPVs.
    An interchangeable modular nose section is added for either
    electronic warfare or reconnaissance flights. The BGM-34C
    will also be tested for carrying offensive weapons.

         The Teledyne Ryan Company, under a development contract
    awarded in November 1974, is developing the BGM-34C. The
    drawing below shows the planned design.

                      DRAWING OF BGM-34C SHOWING EQUIPMENT
                            USED FOR VARIOUS MISSIONS

                                                             SrTRI KE

PHOTOGRAPHIC                                                 AN

    WARFARE                      PYLONS


                           WEAPONS   C-1

Program status

     The contractor began flight testing in September 1976,
and four test flights have since been completed. Midair
retrieval, the planned method of recovery, failed during
the second flight because the engagement parachute did not
inflate properly. Using the main parachute, the RPV landed
and was damaged. Program officials said damage was minor
and the aircraft was repaired. They also reported no major
problems on the remaining three flights.

     The Air Force began flight testing on November 15, 1976.
Two flights have been completed with both ending in missed
midair retrievals and damage to the aircraft. Program of-
ficials said the engagement parachute again failed to open
properly and that damage to both RPVs was minor and the
aircraft would be repaired. The contractor and Air Porce
plan to complete testing in May 1977. Preliminary perfor-
mance estimates show the BGM-34C, under most conditions,
is faster, will fly higher, and carry more than the RPVs
it will replace. The Ar Force also projects the maint-
enance time between missions will be reduced by about
50 percent.

      The contractor's estimated development cost is $20.6
million (the initial estimate was $13.8 million).   A
program official attributed  the cost growth to changes the
Air Force has directed and to projected contractor over-

     A production decision will be made for the electronic
warfare model in March 1977 and the reconnaissance model in
September 1977. Air Force officials said that either addi-
tional single-mission or BGM-34C RPVs will have to be bought
to fulfill projected requirements. The Air Force has not
completed life cycle cost studies. Preliminary comparisons
of single-mission RPVs and a mixed force of single-mission
and BGM-34C RPVs show procurement costs are about the same
and the mixed force will have about a 6-percent lower life
cycle cost.

     The Air Force plans to buy 136 production model BGM-34C
RPVs at a total estimated cost of $195.5 million.

Advanced Multimission RPV

     The Air Force is working on an Advanced RPV which will
eventually replace the BGM-34C. The Advanced RPV will perform

reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and strike missions.
In April 1976 three contractors completed conceptual studies
which identified missions, defined performance requirements,
and established initial designs.

     The Advanced Multimission RPV program is just getting
started. The Air Force plans to spend about $5.9 million
during fiscal year 1977 through 1980 for additional studies.
Development is expected to cost at least $159 million and
start in the early 1980s.


     The Compass Cope program hao entered full-scale develop-
ment although basic questions concerning mission, need, flight
restrictions, and cost effectiveness have not been resolved.
Furthermore, the Compass Cope program has neither been r -
viewed by the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Counci nor
is it included in the selected acquisition reporting system.
We believe the proposed Air Force review may not provide
sufficient review of this program. Further, since RPV work
is being carried out by the Army and Navy, we recommend
that the Secretary of Defense:

    -- Direct the Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council
       to review the Compass Cope program as well as other
       RPV rograms, at the appropriate time, to provide the
       three services involved in RPV development programs
       the benefits of such reviews.

    -- Determine if there is a valid requirement for the
       Compass Cope and whether it is cost effective to deploy
       another new weapon system when there are existing air-
       craft which may be able to perform the Compass Cope

    -- Resolve potential flight restrictions.

                           CHAPTER 3

                       ARMY RPV PROGRAMS
     The Army's principal RPV program is the Aquila,
is to demonstrate the use of small RPVs for tactical which
veillance and target identification. The Army plans sur-
                                                      to de-
velop an operational RPV (Little Scout) incorporating
nology gained on the Aquila and other related programs.tech-


     The Aquila is a small RPV, weighing about 135 pounds,
with a 35-pound payload. It is launched from a
catapult, cruises at 75 to 120 knots, and is recovered
flying into nets suspended several feet above the
                                                  ground. The
Aquila can be programed to fly a course or can be
controlled.                                       remotely

     The Lockheed Missile and Space Company is developing
system under a contract awarded in December 1974.         the

Program status

     Lockheed began testing the Aquila in December
six successful test flights. These aircraft were 1975, with
controlled and equipped with landing gear for conventional
takeoff and landings. The landing gear was removed
testing on catapult launchers and for recovery using
arresting wires and nets.

     Flight testing between January and September 1976
plagued with design and procedural problems on          was
                                               the recovery
and other systems, and eight out of nine aircraft
Because of these crashes the Aquila has been       crashed.
                                             modified and
the landing apparatus changed. The program had
flights from October 4 through December 16, 1976,13 successful
                                                   and one
flight was parachute recovered. Seven of the flights
automatic launch and recovery. The last three flights included
conducted by military personnel.                        were

     All flight testing to date has been on the basic
system, including propulsion, airframe, launch        RPV
                                               and recovery,
and control stations. Testing of the RPV with equipment,
such as television camera, target locator, and laser,
                                                      to be
used for planned missions has not been completed.

     The Aquila program has been extended
have increased from the initial estimate    13 months and costs
$14 million. The schedule slippage        of  $7.6 million to
                                     and the cost increase
were primarily caused by the problems
                                       experienced during
testing. The Army is funding the contractor
to week until the necessary changes            from week
                                     are made  in the system.
Testing is scheduled to be completed
                                      by the contractor in
May 1977. The Army will start field
                                      testing in June 1977.

     Delays in completing the Aquila program,
design and procedural difficulties            caused by
                                   identified during testing,
have led to $6.4 million in cost growth.
has been concentrated on proving the      To date, testing
                                     Aquila can be launched
and recovered. Teits to show that
                                   an Aquila-type RPV
do the missions it is being designed for have not been can

     Because of the problems
use of RPVs with Army weapons encountered  and the planned
                               such as the cannon launched
guided projectiles, we recommend that
Defense make sure the basic corcepts, the Secretary of
recovery, are proven before the* Aquila such as launch and
                                         program is allowed
to proceed further.