Index

Electronic Warfare: Phased Approach to Infrared Upgrades Would Reduce
Risk to Helicopters (Letter Report, 07/27/2000, GAO/NSIAD-00-171).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's acquisition
strategy for its Suite of Integrated Infrared Systems, focusing on
whether the requirements of the Army's helicopters.

GAO noted that: (1) the Army's strategy for acquiring improved infrared
countermeasure systems for its helicopters could be revised to better
satisfy the needs of the Army's helicopters; (2) the current strategy is
to defer production and fielding of the Suite of Integrated Infrared
Countermeasures until all four components of the system are successfully
developed; (3) however, because of delays in developing one of these
components, the laser-based infrared jammer, most Army helicopters will
remain vulnerable to currently fielded enemy missiles until the second
half of this decade or later; (4) if the strategy is revised to take a
phased approach, all helicopters scheduled to receive the
countermeasures could be better protected from current heat-seeking
missiles much sooner; (5) the phased approach could be accomplished by
installing either: (a) existing programmable dispensers, advanced
flares, and missile warning systems in use by the U.S. Army Special
Operations Command, for about $175,000 per helicopter; or (b) the new
programmable dispenser, advanced flares, and new missile warning warning
system when those components are ready, for about $300,000 per
helicopter; and (6) hence, the Army could provide improved infrared
countermeasures for the 1,047 helicopters planned to first approach, and
$314 million for the second approach.

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

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-00-171
     TITLE:  Electronic Warfare: Phased Approach to Infrared Upgrades
	     Would Reduce Risk to Helicopters
      DATE:  07/27/2000
   SUBJECT:  Electronic warfare
	     Helicopters
	     Missiles
	     Army procurement
	     Procurement planning
	     Weapons systems
	     Warning systems
IDENTIFIER:  ALQ-144 Infrared Jammer
	     Army Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures Program
	     Kiowa Helicopter
	     Apache Helicopter
	     Army Chinook Helicopter
	     Black Hawk Helicopter
	     ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System
	     DOD's AAR-47 Missile Warning System

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GAO/NSIAD-00-171

National Security and
International Affairs Division

B-285362

July 27, 2000

The Honorable Curt Weldon
Chairman, Subcommittee on
Military Research and Development
Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Chairman:

To survive against infrared guided (or "heat-seeking") missiles on the
modern battlefield, Army helicopters require infrared countermeasure
systems. However, the Army's currently fielded infrared countermeasure
systems are rapidly becoming inadequate to ensure survival against newer
generations of heat-seeking missiles.1 To address this problem, the Army is
acquiring a new set of countermeasure systems, referred to as the Suite of
Integrated Infrared Countermeasures, with fielding scheduled to begin in
2003. As you requested, we reviewed the Army's acquisition strategy for this
equipment to determine whether the strategy satisfies the infrared
countermeasure requirements of the Army's helicopters.

Heat-seeking missiles operate on the principle that an aircraft emits more
infrared energy (heat) than the surrounding environment. The missile's
heat-seeking sensor detects the heat emitted by the aircraft and guides the
missile toward the target by following the heat. The Army currently has two
types of infrared countermeasure systems fielded to defend its helicopters
from heat-seeking missiles. The first type seeks to decoy the missile away
from the aircraft by providing alternative heat sources for the missile to
follow. This is accomplished by using a missile warning system, which
detects approaching missiles and signals countermeasure dispensers on the
aircraft to launch flares that burn at high temperatures. The second type of
countermeasure system involves directing an infrared energy beam toward the
missile to try to confuse its heat-seeking sensor. An onboard device called
an infrared jammer produces the energy and then directs it at the incoming
missile.

The new Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures will include four
components: a laser-based infrared jammer, a programmable countermeasure
dispenser, advanced flares, and a missile warning system. Each of these is
expected to perform better than the Army's currently fielded infrared
jammer, dispenser, flares, and missile warning system. The laser will
deliver more direct energy than the current jammer to more effectively
disrupt a missile's seeker. Likewise, advanced flares that burn at
temperatures more closely approximating the heat of an aircraft, and
launched by a programmable dispenser, present more effective decoy patterns
than flares randomly launched from the current non-programmable dispenser.
The new missile warning system is being designed to more quickly and
accurately detect, identify, locate, and initiate a countermeasure reaction
to approaching missiles than the existing missile warning system.

The current procurement unit cost estimate for the entire Suite of
Integrated Infrared Countermeasures is about $1.6 million per helicopter.2
The Army plans to procure a total of 1,047 systems for a total procurement
cost of $1.7 billion.3

The Army's strategy for acquiring improved infrared countermeasure systems
for its helicopters could be revised to better satisfy the needs of Army
helicopters. The current strategy is to defer production and fielding of the
Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures until all four components of
the system are successfully developed. However, because of delays in
developing one of these components, the laser-based infrared jammer, most
Army helicopters will remain vulnerable to currently fielded enemy missiles
until the second half of this decade or later. If the strategy is revised to
take a phased approach, all helicopters scheduled to receive the Suite of
Integrated Infrared Countermeasures could be better protected from current
heat-seeking missiles much sooner. The phased approach could be accomplished
by installing either (1) the existing programmable dispenser, advanced
flares, and existing missile warning system in use by the U.S. Army Special
Operations Command, for about $175,000 per helicopter or (2) the new
programmable dispenser, advanced flares, and new missile warning system when
those components are ready, for about $300,000 per helicopter. Hence, the
Army could provide improved infrared countermeasures for the 1,047
helicopters planned to receive the Suite of Integrated Infrared
Countermeasures for about $183 million with the first approach and $314
million with the second approach.

To improve helicopter survivability sooner, we recommend that the Army take
a phased approach to acquiring improved infrared countermeasures for Army
helicopters as soon as is practical. In commenting on a draft of this
report, the Department of Defense agreed in concept to deploy infrared
countermeasures at the earliest possible date. However, it stated that our
proposed phased approach--using the existing programmable countermeasure
dispenser and missile warning system with advanced flares--is not feasible
because the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures is being developed
as an integrated system. The Department also stated that a phased approach
using the new programmable dispenser and missile warning system with the
advanced flares would be possible but unnecessary because the maturity of
all four components has converged, so that testing and fielding of the
system as planned is very probable. We continue to believe that a phased
approach is the fastest, surest way of reducing the vulnerability of Army
helicopters to heat-seeking missiles. As our report shows, the Army
continues to have problems in developing the new infrared jammer. Also, a
phased approach using the existing programmable dispenser and missile
warning system with advanced flares has proven feasible on the Army's
Special Operations aircraft. In response to the agency's comments, however,
we revised our report to recognize that a phased approach using the new
programmable dispenser, advanced flares, and new missile warning system is
an option because these components are more likely to be ready in the near
future than the new infrared jammer.

Needs

The Army's acquisition strategy for the Suite of Integrated Infrared
Countermeasures could be revised to better satisfy the needs of the Army's
helicopters. Under the current strategy, most Army helicopters will remain
vulnerable to currently fielded enemy missiles until the second half of this
decade or later. If the strategy is revised to take a phased approach to
upgrades, however, all helicopters scheduled to receive the Suite of
Integrated Infrared Countermeasures can be protected many years earlier from
such enemy missiles. This could be accomplished for an investment of about
$183 million or $314 million, depending on the configuration.

The Army's infrared countermeasure acquisition strategy is to defer
production and fielding of improved infrared countermeasures until all
four components of the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures are
ready for production. However, technical challenges associated with
developing the laser-based infrared jammer have delayed the production
schedule more than 3 years, from February 2000 to July 2003. Consequently,
under the current schedule, the Army's Apache helicopter will not begin
receiving the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures until fiscal year
2004, the Army Blackhawk until 2006, and the Army Chinook until 2012. (See
table 1.)

                           (Fiscal years 2003-14)
 Helicopter          FY   FY  FY  FY   FY  FY   FY  FY  FY   FY  FY
 type           FY03 04   05  06  07   08  09   10  11  12   13  14  Total
 Special
 Operations     12   17   12  12  7                                  60
 Blackhawks
 Special
 Operations          10   16  11                                     37
 Chinooks
 Army Apaches        1    40  60  70   70  15                        256
 Army
 Blackhawks                   6   22   35  92   107 108 12           382
 Army Chinooks                                          38   35  7   80
 Army Kiowa
 Warriorsa                                              58   73  101 232
 Total                                                               1,047

aThese aircraft will not receive the new infrared jammer and will be
replaced eventually by new Comanche helicopters.

Source: U.S. Army.

While the Army continues to address the problems with the new jammer, the
advanced flares have performed well in testing and are already fielded with
an existing programmable dispenser (DOD's joint-service ALE-47 dispenser)
and missile warning system (the AAR-47) on Special Operations helicopters.
(The Army Special Operations Command has taken this action to reduce the
vulnerability of its helicopters while waiting for the new suite.) A
programmable dispenser is capable of ejecting a combination of flares in
certain sequences at specific time intervals. The advanced flares are more
effective than the Army's current flares because their material composition
when burning closely matches the aircraft's heat signature. To maximize
their effectiveness, the advanced flares require the programmable dispenser
to be cued to launch by a signal from a missile warning system.

 Infrared     Currently fielded   Currently Fielded    Future Suite of
 missile      Army infrared       Special Operations   Integrated Infrared
 typea        countermeasures     infrared             Countermeasures
                                  countermeasures
 1st
 generation   Yes                 Yes                  Yes
 2nd
 generation   Partial             Yes                  Yes
 3rd
 generation   No                  Partial              Yes
 Future
 missiles     No                  No                   Yes

aThirty-nine percent of currently fielded infrared threats are 1st
generation, 37 percent are 2nd generation, and 24 percent are 3rd
generation. The different generations are characterized by differing levels
of performance and resistance to countermeasures. Further details about
these characteristics are considered classified by the Department of
Defense.

Source: Department of Defense.

As shown in table 2, in contrast to the performance of the Army's currently
fielded infrared countermeasure systems, the current Special Operations
infrared countermeasure systems and expected Suite of Integrated Infrared
Countermeasures provide greater levels of effectiveness against the three
generations of infrared missiles that are currently fielded. The Army's
current countermeasure systems can defeat first-generation missiles. Second-
and third-generation infrared guided missiles are more difficult to defeat,
but the Special Operations' programmable dispenser and missile warning
system with advanced flares have demonstrated the ability to defeat second-
and some third-generation infrared missiles during flight testing. Looking
to the future, more advanced infrared guided missiles are being developed
that will have even greater capabilities against current countermeasures.
Addressing this last missile category will ultimately require the Army to
successfully complete development of and field the new laser-based infrared
jammer for itself and for Special Operations Forces.

If the Army were to revise its strategy and take a phased approach to
upgrading its infrared countermeasures by installing the advanced flares
with existing or new programmable countermeasure dispensers and missile
warning systems on its helicopters, it could immediately improve the
capability of Army helicopters to defeat currently fielded infrared
missiles. The Army has an opportunity to begin such installations
immediately.

The Army is extending the service life of its helicopters through a series
of remanufacturing programs. During the remanufacturing process, the
helicopters will be available for lengthy periods of time in a factory
environment, creating ideal opportunities for the installation of new
equipment. The Army is currently remanufacturing the Apache, will begin
remanufacturing programs for the Chinook in fiscal year 2002, and plans to
begin remanufacturing the Blackhawk helicopter in fiscal year 2003. By
installing existing programmable countermeasure dispensers, advanced flares,
and missile warning systems during the remanufacturing period, the Army
could improve protection for the Apache 4 years earlier than currently
planned, the Chinook 10 years earlier, and the Blackhawk 3 years earlier. We
discussed this revised approach with acquisition officials from the Army,
the Special Operations Command, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
All were supportive of getting upgraded infrared countermeasure systems for
the Army's helicopters as soon as practical. According to the Army's program
manager for the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures, a phased
approach will be considered if the new infrared jammer component fails to
meet requirements in upcoming tests.

The Army's current procurement unit cost estimate for the entire Suite of
Integrated Infrared Countermeasures is about $1.6 million. According to a
rough estimate provided by an infrared countermeasure contractor, the
Special Operations' programmable dispensers, advanced flares, and missile
warning systems could be installed on Army helicopters for about
$175,000 per aircraft. Alternatively, according to the Army's program
manager for the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures program, the
new programmable dispenser, advanced flares, and new missile warning system
could be installed on Army helicopters for about $300,000 per aircraft. On
the basis of these estimates, the Army could provide improved infrared
countermeasures for the 1,047 helicopters planned to receive the Suite of
Integrated Infrared Countermeasures for about $183 million with the first
approach and about $314 million with the latter approach. The Army's total
procurement cost for the complete Suite of Integrated Infrared
Countermeasures would remain at $1.7 billion.

Advances in the development of improved infrared guided missiles have made
it necessary to develop new infrared countermeasure systems to ensure the
survivability of aircraft and aircrews. However, the Army's acquisition
strategy for improved infrared countermeasures does not begin to address the
risk to Army helicopters from currently fielded heat-seeking missiles until
after 2004. Taking a phased approach to upgrades would begin to address this
need immediately.

To reduce the risk to the Army's helicopters from heat-seeking missiles, we
recommend that the Army acquire and install programmable countermeasure
dispensers, advanced flares, and missile warning systems as part of a
revised acquisition strategy that takes a phased approach to fielding
improved infrared countermeasures. These installations should be done during
the Army's ongoing and planned helicopter remanufacturing programs.

In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Defense agreed in
concept to deploy infrared countermeasures at the earliest possible date.
(See app. I.) However, it stated that our proposed phased approach--using
the existing programmable countermeasure dispenser and missile warning
system with advanced flares--is not feasible because the Suite of Integrated
Infrared Countermeasures is being developed as an integrated system. The
Department also stated that a phased approach using the new programmable
dispenser and missile warning system with the advanced flares would be
possible but unnecessary because the maturity of all four components has
converged, so that testing and fielding of the system as planned is very
probable. We continue to believe that a phased approach is the fastest,
surest way of reducing the vulnerability of Army helicopters to heat-seeking
missiles. As our report shows, the Army continues to have problems in
developing the new infrared jammer. Also, a phased approach using the
existing programmable dispenser and missile warning system with advanced
flares has proven feasible on the Army's Special Operations aircraft. In
response to the agency's comments, however, we revised our report to
recognize that a phased approach using the new programmable dispenser,
advanced flares, and new missile warning system is an option because those
components are more likely to be ready in the near future than the new
infrared jammer.

To determine whether the Army's acquisition strategy can be revised to
better satisfy the infrared countermeasure requirements of the Army's
helicopters, we analyzed the Army's modernization, acquisition, and fielding
plans for infrared countermeasures and reviewed related classified test
reports, requirements documents, and threat information. We also reviewed
Selected Acquisition Reports and other program documentation for the Suite
of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures program.

We discussed the Army's infrared countermeasure acquisition strategy and the
Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures program with knowledgeable
officials of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Department of the
Army, at Alexandria, Virginia; the Program Executive Office for Army
Aviation, and Missile and Space Intelligence Center at Redstone Arsenal,
Alabama; the 101st Airborne Division and 160th Special Operations Aviation
Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; the Army Aviation Directorate of Combat
Development at Fort Rucker, Alabama; and the Suite of Integrated Infrared
Countermeasures contractor, Lockheed Martin--Sanders Division, in Nashua,
New Hampshire.

We conducted our work from June 1999 through June 2000 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

We will send copies of this report to interested congressional committees,
the Honorable William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense; the Honorable Louis
Caldera, Secretary of the Army; and the Honorable Jacob Lew, Director,
Office of Management and Budget. Copies will also be made available to other
interested parties.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact me
or Robert Levin at (202)512-4841. Key contributors to this assignment were
Marcus Ferguson, Dana Solomon, Charles Ward, and John Warren.

Sincerely yours,
Louis J. Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues

Comments From the Department of Defense

The following are GAO's comments on the Department of Defense's (DOD) letter
dated June 20, 2000.

1. A phased approach to fielding is feasible if DOD and the Army are willing
to consider using the existing programmable dispenser, advanced flares, and
missile warning system configuration that has already been tested and
fielded on the Army's Special Operations aircraft. Alternatively, our
recommendation does not preclude inclusion of the Common Missile Warning
Sensor (new missile warning system) in a phased fielding approach if, as
indicated in DOD's comments, development has now progressed to the point
where it could be fielded with the new programmable dispenser and advanced
flares.

2. According to the system contractor's latest monthly progress report to
the Army, the new infrared jammer continues to have problems. Consequently,
we believe a phased approach is still likely to be the most expeditious way
to field an improved infrared capability.

3. DOD's comment that "the programmable dispenser and (advanced) flares
cannot be deployed without the Common Missile Warning Sensor and its
Electronic Control Unit" is incomplete. DOD is referring to the new
programmable dispenser, a close derivative of the existing ALE-47
programmable dispenser currently fielded on numerous aircraft, including
U.S. Army Special Operations helicopters. The major difference between the
two dispensers is that the new dispenser's programming function has been
moved to the Common Missile Warning Sensor's Electronic Control Unit. Hence,
as DOD's comment indicates, the new programmable dispenser and the Common
Missile Warning Sensor must be fielded together. However, the existing
ALE-47 programmable dispenser and advanced flares could be fielded with the
existing AAR-47 missile warning system, as in the U.S. Army Special
Operations helicopter configuration. We did not intend to imply that
components of the new system could be easily mixed and matched with
components of the existing Special Operations configuration. We have
modified our report to clarify this.

4. DOD's existing joint service ALE-47 programmable dispenser with advanced
flares has been successfully tested and is currently fielded on Army Special
Operations helicopters. DOD's comment refers to the new programmable
dispenser being used in the Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures
program. (See also comment 3.)

5. If, as indicated by DOD's comment, the Common Missile Warning Sensor
development has progressed to the point where it can be fielded with the new
programmable dispenser and advanced flares, our recommendation does not
preclude DOD from adopting the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior configuration as an
interim improved infrared countermeasure solution for Army helicopters until
the new infrared jammer is ready for fielding.

6. DOD's comment that "proposed phased fielding would require a second
downtime to retrofit" would be accurate if the Army were not already
planning to take helicopters out of the field for remanufacturing. However,
our report clearly indicates that the first "downtime" is already scheduled
as part of ongoing remanufacturing efforts for Army Helicopters. The second
"downtime" to which DOD refers is required to install Suite of Integrated
Infrared Countermeasures components, regardless of whether or not a phased
approach is taken. Moreover, by not taking a phased approach, DOD's
acquisition strategy leaves Army aviators at risk while they attempt to
complete development of the new infrared jammer.

(707434)
  

1. Details about the performance of specific heat-seeking missiles against
specific countermeasure devices are considered classified by the Department
of Defense.

2. This unit cost does not include the cost of the advanced flares.

3. The Army's 232 OH-58 Kiowa Warriors will not receive the laser-based
infrared jammer portion of the system.
*** End of document. ***