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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Hunter System Is Not Appropriate for Navy Fleet Use (Letter Report, 12/01/95, GAO/NSIAD-96-2)


GAO reviewed the Navy's Joint Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
program, focusing on the development of a shipboard variant of the
Hunter UAV for the Navy's use.

GAO found that: (1) the Joint Tactical UAV Projects Office's plans to
proceed with the acquisition of the Hunter shipboard variant even though
Navy fleet commanders oppose its deployment on Navy ships; (2) the
Navy's participation in the Hunter UAV program is expected to continue
until system performance testing is completed; (3) Navy fleet commanders
oppose the system's shipboard deployment because they do not believe it
will meet their UAV performance and space requirements; and (4) fleet
commanders are expected to complete their assessment of UAV shipboard
requirements by May 1996.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-96-2
     TITLE:  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Hunter System Is Not Appropriate 
             for Navy Fleet Use
      DATE:  12/01/95
   SUBJECT:  Military aircraft
             Military procurement
             Advanced weapons systems
             Naval warfare
             Air defense systems
             Combat readiness
             Testing
             Systems evaluation
IDENTIFIER:  Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
             Joint Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Secretary of Defense

December 1995

UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES - HUNTER
SYSTEM IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR NAVY
FLEET USE

GAO/NSIAD-96-2

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

(707117)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  DOD - Department of Defense
  UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-266159

December 1, 1995

The Honorable William J.  Perry
The Secretary of Defense

Dear Mr.  Secretary: 

As part of our ongoing review of the $4.2 billion Joint Tactical
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program, we are assessing the
development of a shipboard variant of the Hunter UAV for Navy use. 
We are issuing this interim report to bring your attention to a
conflict over Navy requirements for the Hunter UAV shipboard variant
that we believe should be resolved before the Navy portion of the
program proceeds. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The Hunter UAV shipboard variant is planned for deployment on Navy
amphibious assault ships to accomplish reconnaissance, target
acquisition, and other military missions.  Each system is to include
eight UAVs with payloads and modified Hunter support equipment for
launching and recovering UAVs, controlling UAVs in flight, and
processing information from the UAVs during flight missions. 

The Joint Tactical UAV Projects Office, which manages the program, is
currently identifying the UAV system modifications as well as the
ship modifications required for the Navy's use of Hunter.  Current
plans are to acquire 9 complete systems\1 for the Navy, begin
deployment to the fleet in 1998, and outfit the Navy's entire fleet
of 12 amphibious assault ships with shipboard control stations that
could be used to operate Hunter air vehicles. 


--------------------
\1 The Navy is acquiring eight complete systems for deployment on the
ships and one complete ground system for training. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

The Joint Tactical UAV Projects Office is proceeding with the
acquisition of the Hunter shipboard variant even though all Navy
fleet commanders have stated that they do not want the system on Navy
ships.  Thus, the Department of Defense (DOD) is at risk of investing
in a system that will not be used. 


   NAVY FLEET COMMANDERS DO NOT
   WANT HUNTER UAV
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

In April 1995, the Commander of the Atlantic Fleet informed the Chief
of Naval Operations that he, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, and
the Commander of Naval Forces in Europe did not support deploying
Hunter UAVs on Navy ships.  Fleet officials told us that they opposed
Hunter because of the adverse impact that it would have on flight
operations of other aircraft on the ships.  Some fleet
representatives also opposed Hunter because its performance
capability was insufficient and because the system required too much
space on the ships. 

Fleet officials provided the following details of their opposition to
Hunter: 

  First, all aircraft currently operating from amphibious assault
     ships, typically including some 25 helicopters and 6 AV-8B
     Harriers, can take off and land vertically from up to 9
     designated points on the ship's flight deck.  Since Hunter
     cannot take off or land vertically, a ship's crew would have to
     clear the back half of the ship's deck to allow Hunter
     operations, moving the helicopters and Harriers to the front of
     the ship or below to the hangar deck.  For Hunter landings, the
     crew would also have to erect a protective barrier to shield
     parked aircraft from a possibly errant, or out-of-control, 1,500
     pound Hunter UAV. 

  Moving aircraft and erecting the barrier to allow for each Hunter
     operational cycle would take about 1 hour.  This, coupled with
     the need for frequent Hunter takeoffs and landings necessitated
     by Hunter's limited flight endurance, would severely disrupt
     flight operations by other aircraft.  Fleet representatives
     pointed out that when other aircraft were moved to allow Hunter
     landings, the area remaining would be too crowded to safely
     conduct routine flight operations. 

  Hunter's limited performance capability detracts from its potential
     use by the Navy.  Hunter's range capability of about 100 miles
     is considered to be inadequate in the vast Pacific.  In
     addition, when Hunter is viewing land targets, its limited range
     means that the ship must move closer to shore, increasing the
     risk from shore patrol attacks, mines, and other threats. 
     Finally, because of weight limitations, Hunter cannot carry
     payloads capable of seeing in poor weather conditions. 

  Use of Hunter would compound an already existing space problem on
     amphibious assault ships.  Atlantic Fleet and Naval Forces
     Europe representatives also told us that because of a lack of
     available space, storage of Hunter air vehicles and related
     equipment (estimated to take up 12,000 cubic feet on each ship)
     would dictate that other combat mission equipment, such as
     helicopters and artillery pieces, be removed.  The number of
     Marines stationed on the ships for assault missions would also
     have to be reduced to make room for personnel needed to operate
     and maintain Hunter. 


   DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
   PROCEEDING WITH PLANS FOR
   SHIPBOARD VARIANT
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

Representatives of the Chief of Naval Operations told us that despite
the position of the Fleet Commanders, the Navy's participation in the
Hunter program would continue at least until testing shows whether
Hunter will meet its performance requirements.  The Joint Tactical
UAV Projects Office is proceeding with plans to identify and perform
the UAV and ship modifications required to install and operate
Hunter.  The first modified UAV system and ship are to be ready for
testing in 1997.  The cost of the Navy's portion of the Hunter
program is estimated to be about $340 million. 

We discussed with fleet representatives the Department of the Navy's
intention to continue with the Hunter program at least until testing
shows whether it will meet its performance requirements.  They told
us that they consider Hunter inadequate to meet shipboard
requirements even if it meets all of the UAV performance
requirements. 


   FLEET UAV REQUIREMENTS ARE
   UNCERTAIN
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

Fleet commanders plan to complete an assessment of their UAV
requirements by May 1996 and will not know what their specific
requirements will be until that time.  However, the Pacific Fleet
Commander believes that a UAV with substantially more capability is
needed while the Atlantic Fleet Commander and the Commander of Naval
Forces Europe believe that a system requiring less space than Hunter
is needed. 


   RECOMMENDATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

We recommend that the Secretary of Defense stop all acquisitions of
shipboard variants of the Hunter UAV System until the Navy (1) allows
fleet commanders to complete their assessments of shipboard UAV
requirements, (2) resolves the issue of whether Hunter will meet
those requirements, and (3) determines whether fleet commanders will
use Hunter if Navy acquisition officials procure it. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR
   EVALUATION
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD stated that it plans no
further acquisition of the Hunter shipboard variant until an
assessment is completed.  However, DOD also indicated that the
concerns of the Fleet Commanders about the Hunter system had been
resolved and cited a message from the Deputy Chief of Naval
Operations as representing a coordinated Navy position on the matter. 
Our review of the message and follow-up contacts with Fleet
Commanders' representatives indicate that the objections to Hunter
have not been resolved.  In addition, the Defense Acquisition Board
will meet shortly to consider a Joint Chiefs of Staff recommendation
to terminate the Hunter program.  This further indicates that the
issue remains unresolved.  DOD's comments are presented in their
entirety in appendix I along with our evaluation of them. 


   SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

Our examination of the shipboard variant requirements controversy was
done as part of our ongoing review of the Joint Tactical UAV program. 
We discussed the fleet commanders' objections to using the Hunter
shipboard variant with representatives of the Commanders in Chief,
U.S.  Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Virginia; U.S.  Pacific Fleet, Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii; and the Commander, U.S.  Naval Forces Europe, London,
England.  To better understand their objections, we visited a
deployed amphibious assault ship, the USS Kearsarge, and another
operational ship, the USS Nassau, and discussed with the ships'
commanders and crew the potential problems associated with use of the
Hunter UAV shipboard variant. 

We also discussed the issues with representatives of the Chief of
Naval Operations in Washington, D.C., and reviewed the Joint Tactical
UAV Project Office's plans for acquiring the shipboard variant.  We
conducted our work from June 1995 to October 1995 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :8.1

We are sending copies of this report to appropriate congressional
committees; the Secretaries of the Army and the Navy; the Commandant
of the Marine Corps; and the Director, 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 Jack Guin, Mark Lambert, John S.  Warren, and Charles A.  Ward. 

Sincerely yours,

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Systems Development
 and Production Issues




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix I
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
============================================================== Letter 



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)


The following are GAO's comments to the Department of Defense's (DOD)
letter dated November 8, 1995. 


   GAO COMMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :9

1.  Our review of the N8 message and follow-up contacts with Fleet
Commanders' representatives indicate that the objections to Hunter
have not been resolved.  The message from the Deputy Chief of Naval
Operations to the Fleet Commanders summarized Navy plans for
acquiring various UAVs.  With respect to Hunter, the message stated,
in part, that (1) continued Navy participation in the Hunter program
was pending results of a user demonstration in October 1995\2 and (2)
fleet concerns about Hunter would be resolved in an upgrade process,
including consideration of a vertical takeoff and landing air
vehicle.  The message also requested comments and concurrence with
the plans. 

In their response message dated October 3, 1995, the Fleet Commanders
stated that they supported the "focus" of the plans and concurred in
the need for an endurance UAV and certain other aspects of the plan. 
However, they did not mention the Hunter in their response to the N8
message. 

In an attempt to clarify the Fleet Commanders' position on Hunter, we
recontacted their representatives on October 20, 1995, to determine
if they had changed their position and supported the Hunter system. 
None would state that they supported Hunter.  The fact that the
Defense Acquisition Board will meet shortly to consider a Joint
Chiefs of Staff recommendation to terminate the Hunter program
further indicates that the issue remains unresolved. 

2.  These comments appear to be aimed at discrediting the Fleet
Commanders' opposition to Hunter.  We did not attempt to
independently determine whether Hunter is suitable for shipboard
operations.  Rather, we point out the Fleet Commanders are opposed to
it and outline the reasons for their opposition.  We believe that
these issues should be settled by the Navy before DOD allows the Navy
portion of the program to proceed. 

3.  We do not question the Navy's need for a tactical UAV, but show
why the Fleet Commanders believe that the Hunter System is not
appropriate for Navy Fleet Use. 


--------------------
\2 This demonstration was not held because the Hunter system has been
grounded due to technical problems.