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AIM-9X Acquisition: Missile Risk Reduction Underway But System Production Plans Need to be Reexamined
(Chapter Report, 04/28/98, GAO/NSIAD-98-45).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the development status
of the AIM-9X missile program and its concerns about the testing and
production of all elements of the AIM-9X weapon system, focusing on the:
(1) services' efforts to reduce missile development risk; (2) missile
program's plan to transition from development to production; and (3)
importance of separately managed but essential supporting systems.

GAO noted that: (1) the AIM-9X missile program includes many initiatives
to reduce the risk of technical, cost, and schedule problems; (2) it
uses many existing subsystems, components, and items not requiring
development, and government and contractor technical experts have joined
together in integrated product teams; (3) in addition, the services
conducted a competitive demonstration and validation of new technologies
to reduce technical risk; (4) GAO is concerned, however, about two
situations; (5) the plan to start missile low-rate initial production
about 1 year before completing development flight testing and before
operational testing of production-representative missiles will risk
later discovery of technical or operational suitability problems; (6)
accordingly, at this critical juncture, Department of Defense (DOD)
decisionmakers will not have enough verifiable information on the
system's key performance parameters in an operational environment to
make an informed production decision; (7) GAO is concerned that the
helmet-mounted cueing system is being developed under a separate program
from the missile even though U.S. fighter pilots need both the AIM-9X
missile and the helmet-mounted cueing system to ensure that they can
prevail in air-to-air combat against modern threat missiles; (8) while
the separate development programs are being coordinated, there is no
requirement that the missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications be
thoroughly and realistically tested and evaluated together as a system
of systems prior to initiating AIM-9X missile production; (9) until the
weapon system is tested and evaluated using production-representative
missiles and helmets, DOD decisionmakers will not have information on
whether the AIM-9X weapon system's key performance parameters--such as
the ability to acquire, track, and fire on targets over a wider area
than the AIM-9M--are achievable; and (10) further, if all elements of
the system are not produced and deployed together, the AIM-9X may not be
able to prevail in aerial combat against modern threat missiles.

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

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-98-45
     TITLE:  AIM-9X Acquisition: Missile Risk Reduction Underway But 
             System Production Plans Need to be Reexamined
      DATE:  04/28/98
   SUBJECT:  Defense procurement
             Advanced weapons systems
             Concurrency
             Defense capabilities
             Missiles
             Air warfare
             Defense cost control
             Combat readiness
IDENTIFIER:  AIM-9X Missile
             Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System
             AIM-9M Missile
             F-15 Aircraft
             F-16 Aircraft
             F-22 Aircraft
             F/A-18 Aircraft
             Sidewinder Missile
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Military Research and
Development Committee on National Security, House of Representatives

April 1998

AIM-9X ACQUISITION - MISSILE RISK
REDUCTION UNDERWAY BUT SYSTEM
PRODUCTION PLANS NEED TO BE
REEXAMINED

GAO/NSIAD-98-45

AIM-9X Acquisition

(707185)


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

  ASRAAM - Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile
  DOD - Department of Defense

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


B-274600

April 28, 1998

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

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

As you requested, this report addresses the development status of the
AIM-9X missile program and our concerns about the testing and
production of all elements of the AIM-9X weapon system. 

We are sending copies of this report to the other defense committees
and subcommittees; the Secretaries of Defense, the Air Force, and the
Navy; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; and other
interested parties.  We will also make copies available to others
upon request. 

Please call me at (202) 512-4841 if you or your staff have any
questions concerning this report.  Major contributors to this report
were William Graveline, Matthew Mongin, and Gerald Wood. 

Sincerely yours,

Louis J.  Rodrigues
Director, Defense Acquisitions Issues


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
============================================================ Chapter 0


   PURPOSE
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:1

The Navy and the Air Force are jointly developing the AIM-9X
short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9M missile.  The
Chairman, Subcommittee on Military Research and Development, House
Committee on National Security, requested that GAO provide an
independent assessment of the program's status.  Accordingly, this
report discusses the (1) services' efforts to reduce missile
development risk, (2) missile program's plan to transition from
development to production, and (3) importance of separately managed
but essential supporting systems. 


   BACKGROUND
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:2

The U.S.  Navy-designed and -built AIM-9 Sidewinder family of
air-to-air missiles has protected U.S.  fighter pilots for over 40
years.  These short-range missiles are carried on all tactical
fighter aircraft and are used when target aircraft are too close for
mid-range missiles to be effective.  The current missile is the
AIM-9M, which evolved in 1978, but this missile is becoming outdated. 
In April 1996, the Air Force Chief of Staff testified before Congress
that U.S.  pilots carrying the AIM-9M have the fourth best
short-range missile in the world.  According to the Naval
Intelligence Service, modern missiles, such as the Russian AA-11 and
Israeli PYTHON 4, both with their helmet-mounted cueing/targeting
systems, are very capable.  The services have for several years
sought to provide a better short-range missile system for U.S. 
forces.  Before beginning the AIM-9X program, the services considered
acquiring a modern foreign missile but, after a lengthy study,
concluded that none met all of the U.S.  requirements. 

The AIM-9X missile system is to be a highly maneuverable missile,
with full day and night capability and helmet-mounted cueing
capability.  The missile is designed to have increased resistance to
countermeasures and improved target acquisition capability over the
AIM-9M.  It will have a new infrared seeker, sophisticated target
tracking software to interpret what the seeker sees, a streamlined
missile body, and thrust-aided steering for improved maneuvering.  It
is to be carried on all U.S.  fighter aircraft, including the F-22. 
The AIM-9X helmet-mounted cueing system will allow U.S.  pilots to
aim the missile by turning their heads and looking at the target. 
Importantly, however, the helmet-mounted cueing system is currently
being developed under a separate, parallel program from the missile. 
Another effort is developing the necessary hardware and software
modifications to integrate the missile and helmet into the aircraft. 

In late 1996, after an 18-month competitive demonstration and
validation program, Hughes Missile Systems Company (now the Raytheon
Corporation) was selected to be the prime contractor for the AIM-9X
missile.  Hughes has total missile performance responsibility,
including development, production, and lifetime maintenance support. 
The engineering and manufacturing development effort began in January
1997 and is scheduled to end in 2001.  The services plan to buy a
total of 10,000 missiles at an average unit production cost of
$264,000 (then-year dollars). 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3

The AIM-9X missile program includes many initiatives to reduce the
risk of technical, cost, and schedule problems.  It uses many
existing subsystems, components, and items not requiring development,
and government and contractor technical experts have joined together
in integrated product teams.  In addition, the services conducted a
competitive demonstration and validation of new technologies to
reduce technical risk. 

GAO is concerned, however, about two situations.  First, that the
plan to start missile low-rate initial production about 1 year before
completing development flight testing and before operational testing
of production representative missiles will risk later discovery of
technical or operational suitability problems.  Accordingly, at this
critical juncture, Department of Defense (DOD) decisionmakers will
not have enough verifiable information on the system's key
performance parameters in an operational environment to make an
informed production decision. 

Second, GAO is concerned that the helmet-mounted cueing system is
being developed under a separate program from the missile even though
U.S.  fighter pilots need both the AIM-9X missile and the
helmet-mounted cueing system to ensure that they can prevail in
air-to-air combat against modern threat missiles.  While the separate
development programs are being coordinated, there is no requirement
that the missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications be thoroughly
and realistically tested and evaluated together as a system of
systems prior to initiating AIM-9X missile production.  Until the
weapon system is tested and evaluated using production representative
missiles and helmets, DOD decisionmakers will not have information on
whether the AIM-9X weapon system's key performance parameters--such
as the ability to acquire, track, and fire on targets over a wider
area than the AIM-9M--are achievable.  Further, if all elements of
the system are not produced and deployed together, the AIM-9X may not
be able to prevail in aerial combat against modern threat missiles. 


   PRINCIPAL FINDINGS
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4


      MISSILE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
      USES RISK REDUCTION
      STRATEGIES
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.1

The services plan to reduce technical risk in developing the AIM-9X
missile by using several existing subsystems from the AIM-9M,
including the warhead, rocket motor, and fuze.  The Hughes' AIM-9X
design also includes nondevelopmental items--such as the airframe and
engine control system--which were developed and tested previously by
the Air Force.  To ensure low technical risk for the sensor, guidance
and control subsystem, and other critical subsystems, the services
conducted an 18-month competitive demonstration and validation
program.  Because of this program's success, both Hughes and the
program manager consider the AIM-9X missile's overall technical risk
to be low as it enters engineering and manufacturing development. 
There are some individual areas of technical risk, now considered to
be moderate to low, that could pose development problems.  For
example, since target acquisition and tracking can take place in the
presence of countermeasures, the development of the guidance and
control software is a complex and challenging task.  Program and
contractor officials understand these risks and believe adequate time
and resources are available within the program to resolve any
problems that may emerge during development. 

The effectiveness of the program's efforts to reduce technical, cost,
and schedule risk will not be known for at least another year when
the missile design is to be finalized and flight testing is underway. 
If the program remains on the planned schedule, both program and
contractor managers believe any remaining development risk will be
well understood.  At that time, the program's progress and readiness
to begin low-rate initial production can be considered, together with
the services' fiscal year 2000 budget request for initial production
funds. 


      MISSILE LOW-RATE INITIAL
      PRODUCTION TO START
      PREMATURELY
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.2

Low-rate initial production of the AIM-9X missile is planned to start
in March 2000, before sufficient testing is accomplished.  Production
would begin before demonstration by realistic flight testing that the
AIM-9X system's key performance parameters are achievable.  The
services plan to begin production about 1 year prior to the
completion of developmental flight testing.  All of the flight tests
to be conducted before the missile low-rate initial production
decision, including those to be conducted as part of the preliminary
operational testing, will use engineering development missiles. 
After the initial production decision, additional developmental
flight tests and all of the operational testing with production
representative missiles--which are development missiles but very
close in physical configuration and performance to production
missiles--are to be conducted for the following 2 years. 
Developmental flight tests will not be complete and no results of
operational testing of production representative missiles will be
available before the low-rate initial production decision. 
Accordingly, the test results may not accurately reflect the
capabilities of the final production configuration of the system. 
Making a production decision on the basis of such incomplete testing
risks the discovery of technical problems during later developmental
and operational testing that may require costly design changes after
production begins. 


      AIM-9X SYSTEM OF SYSTEMS
      NEEDS TO BE TESTED,
      PRODUCED, AND DEPLOYED
      TOGETHER
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.3

All elements of the AIM-9X weapon system--the missile, the helmet,
and associated aircraft modifications--must be present and working
together for the system to prevail against modern missile threats. 
The services are trying to closely coordinate the separate
development of the AIM-9X missile, the helmet-mounted cueing system,
and associated hardware and software modifications to their aircraft. 
However, DOD does not require that production representative versions
of all three elements of the weapon system be tested together as a
single system of systems prior to the AIM-9X missile's low-rate
initial production decision.  Without this testing, DOD will not have
data to determine the extent to which the AIM-9X weapon system's key
performance parameters are achievable. 

In addition, although the services have approved an AIM-9X missile
production plan and made long-term funding commitments to buy the
missiles, there are no approved production plans or funding for the
helmet or associated aircraft modifications.  The helmet program
manager told us the individual aircraft program offices, such as the
F-15 and F-16, are expected to separately budget for and buy helmets
and modification kits consistent with their other aircraft
improvement plans.  If DOD is making a commitment to the AIM-9X
system, that commitment needs to extend beyond the missile and
include the helmet cueing system and the associated aircraft
modifications.  Navy and Air Force officials have stated that their
fighters need both the AIM-9X missile and helmet-mounted cueing
system to ensure that they can prevail against modern threat
missiles. 


   RECOMMENDATIONS
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:5

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretaries
of the Navy and the Air Force to revise the AIM-9X missile's
acquisition strategy and production plan to allow for all
developmental flight testing and enough operational testing of the
AIM-9X missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications to be accomplished
using production representative hardware and software to demonstrate
that the AIM-9X weapon system can meet its minimum performance
requirements before low-rate initial production begins.  GAO also
recommends that they achieve a single, coordinated production,
deployment, and funding plan for the AIM-9X missile, helmet-mounted
cueing system, and associated aircraft modifications at the low-rate
initial production decision. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND GAO
   EVALUATION
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:6

In response to a draft of this report, DOD disagreed with most of
GAO's recommendations.  DOD believes that the risks associated with
AIM-9X missile development are well characterized and mitigation
plans are in place to address the risks.  Accordingly, DOD believes
current test plans are adequate to provide an informed decision at
the low-rate initial production milestone.  DOD agrees that all
elements of the AIM-9X weapon system are needed for the full
capability of the system to be realized.  However, because of the
current disadvantage warfighters face, DOD states that it is
unwilling to delay missile production should technical problems with
the helmet occur.  DOD stated the AIM-9X missile by itself offers a
significant improvement over the current operational system that
should not be withheld.  Finally, DOD pointed out that while there is
no formal requirement to tie these programs together, it agreed that
it is extremely important to achieve an integrated system as soon as
possible and will continue to emphasize coordination and review
efforts. 

GAO recognizes that DOD has done much to anticipate and manage risk
in the AIM-9X development program.  In GAO's view, however, DOD is
willing to enter production with many unknowns.  As DOD stated in its
comments, a basic tenet of the AIM-9X program is that all elements of
the AIM-9X system are necessary to eliminate the disadvantage
currently faced by U.S.  warfighters.  Yet, in its response, DOD
states that, if the aircraft radar were used for cueing purposes, the
AIM-9X--even without the helmet-mounted cueing system--offers an
increased capability against fielded threat systems.  It is important
to note, however, that to take advantage of this potential
capability, pilots would be required to follow yet to be developed
procedures and tactics that would be considerably different than
current practices for aerial combat.  Moreover, DOD officials GAO
spoke with agreed that it is questionable whether DOD can meet its
own positive identification requirement using the aircraft radar for
cueing purposes.  In addition, at this time of limited defense
resources, GAO continues to believe that specific consideration of
coordinated funding and production plans at the low-rate initial
production decision point is necessary to ensure that all elements of
the AIM-9X system, once tested, are produced and deployed together. 

DOD's entire comments on the draft report are included in appendix I. 
DOD's specific comments and GAO's evaluation appear at the end of
each report chapter. 


INTRODUCTION
============================================================ Chapter 1

The AIM-9 family of air-to-air missiles has protected U.S.  fighter
aircraft for over 40 years, but now there are more modern foreign
missiles that may present a threat to U.S.  aircraft.  The U.S.  Navy
and Air Force considered buying a foreign missile but determined that
the best solution to meet U.S.  requirements was to extensively
upgrade the current AIM-9M missile.  The services selected Hughes
Missile Systems Company (now the Raytheon Corporation) to develop and
produce a very maneuverable missile that, together with a new
helmet-mounted cueing system, is expected to be the best in the
world. 


   THE AIM-9M IS NO LONGER THE
   BEST SHORT-RANGE MISSILE IN THE
   WORLD
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 1:1

The AIM-9 Sidewinder family of air-to-air missiles is carried on all
tactical fighter aircraft and is used at short ranges when target
aircraft are too close for radar-guided missiles to be effective. 
The Sidewinder was first deployed in the 1950s--as the AIM-9B.  Over
the years, improvements were made as new models were introduced.  The
missiles have been sold to many friendly countries.  The current
missile, the AIM-9M, evolved in 1978.  U.S.  fighter aircraft
equipped with the AIM-9M missile, however, are facing modern
foreign-built missiles and advanced cueing/targeting systems. 

The rules of engagement for U.S.  pilots require that, in many
situations, they make a positive identification before firing on an
adversary.  This results in the pilot's not being able to fire until
the target aircraft is well within visual range.  At combat speeds
such an encounter can quickly evolve into a close-in fight,\1 during
which a short-range missile is required.  A joint Navy and Air Force
study predicts that a significant percentage of air-to-air encounters
will result in a close-in flight. 

In April 1996, the Air Force Chief of Staff testified that U.S. 
pilots have the fourth best short-range missile in the world.  Modern
short-range missile systems with their cueing/targeting systems can
engage targets throughout the forward hemisphere of the aircraft,
providing a decisive advantage in a close-in fight.  The services are
trying to develop tactics and countermeasures to neutralize these
threats, but there is general agreement that a more capable U.S. 
short-range missile system is needed as soon as possible. 


--------------------
\1 In "close-in fight," combatants are within visual range of each
other. 


   FOREIGN-MADE MISSILES DO NOT
   MEET U.S.  REQUIREMENTS
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 1:2

In the 1970s, the United States and several European countries signed
a Memorandum of Agreement that specified that the Europeans would
develop a new short-range missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder
series.  That missile became the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air
Missile (ASRAAM).  In the late 1980s, however, the European
consortium dissolved.  When the consortium dissolved, the Navy and
the Air Force reexamined U.S.  requirements and determined that the
ASRAAM did not have the capability they required.  The United States
subsequently left the ASRAAM program.  The two services then worked
on separate upgrades to the AIM-9M.  After false starts with their
separate programs, a joint Navy and Air Force program with the Navy
as lead service was started to extensively upgrade the AIM-9M.  The
upgraded missile is the AIM-9X. 

As a part of the alternative evaluation process before starting the
AIM-9X program, the services considered acquiring one of the modern
foreign missiles such as the Russian AA-11, the Israeli PYTHON 4, or
the British ASRAAM as an alternative to developing a new U.S. 
missile.  DOD determined, however, that none of these missiles was
able to meet all of the U.S.  requirements. 

The services conducted an evaluation of the ASRAAM, including a
6-month Foreign Comparison Test that included firing the missile from
a U.S.  F-16 aircraft.  The ASRAAM is electrically and physically
compatible with U.S.  aircraft and uses the same infrared sensor as
the AIM-9X.  The evaluation, however, showed that ASRAAM does not
meet all of the U.  S.  performance requirements.  Also, the
evaluation showed that, because of the additional time and cost that
would be needed to upgrade, test, and integrate ASRAAM for U.S. 
aircraft, it offered no advantage over the proposed AIM-9X missile. 


   THE AIM-9X WEAPON SYSTEM IS TO
   HAVE ENHANCED CAPABILITIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 1:3

During the 2-year AIM-9X concept development phase, the services
analyzed user needs, current and future threats, and available
technology to determine the requirements for the new missile.  The
resulting AIM-9X system requirement has five key performance
parameters: 

  -- the ability to operate during the day or at night;

  -- the ability to operate over land and at sea in the presence of
     infrared countermeasures;

  -- weight, size, and electrical compatibility with all current U.S. 
     fighters and the F-22;

  -- the ability to acquire, track, and fire on targets over a wider
     area than the AIM-9M; and

  -- a high probability that a missile launched will reach and kill
     its target. 

The analyses showed that user requirements could be met and that
technical risk could be reduced, by modifying the existing AIM-9M and
developing a new targeting/cueing system. 

The AIM-9X missile is planned to have increased resistance to
countermeasures and improved target acquisition capability over the
AIM-9M.  It will have a new infrared seeker, a tracker to interpret
what the seeker sees, a streamlined missile body, and rocket motor
thrust vectoring for improved maneuvering.  It will be carried on all
U.S.  fighter aircraft, including the F/A-18, F-15, F-16, and F-22. 

An 18-month AIM-9X competitive demonstration and validation program
began in 1994 with the Hughes Missile Systems Company and the
Raytheon Corporation as the competing contractors.  Both companies
demonstrated, among other things, how they would reduce the technical
risk of developing the AIM-9X missile.  Examples of demonstration and
validation work include trade studies, simulating missile
performance, analyzing missile compatibility with Navy and Air Force
aircraft, and flight testing target-tracking capability. 
Additionally, the contractors were required to plan for manufacturing
the missile, including identifying new or unique processes and
special tooling and facilities requirements.  Hughes was selected as
the AIM-9X missile contractor in December 1996. 

Hughes has total performance responsibility, including development,
production, and maintenance support for the missile.  Engineering and
manufacturing development began in January 1997 and is planned to end
in 2001.  The services plan to buy a total of 10,000 missiles at an
average unit cost of $264,000 (then-year dollars).  The AIM-9X
missile is shown in figure 1.1. 

   Figure 1.1:  AIM-9X Short-Range
   Air-to-Air Missile

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  Hughes Missile
   Systems.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

A separate, parallel program is developing a helmet-mounted cueing
system that would allow U.S.  pilots to aim the AIM-9X missile seeker
toward a target aircraft by turning their heads and looking at the
target.  The pilot can then fire the missile without having to turn
the aircraft toward the target, increasing the probability of killing
a hostile aircraft before it can launch a missile.  Another effort is
developing the necessary hardware and software modifications to
integrate the missile and helmet into the aircraft.  All three
elements of the AIM-9X weapon system--the missile, helmet, and
aircraft modifications--are seen as critical to countering the
capabilities of modern threat missiles. 



   OBJECTIVES, SCOPE, AND
   METHODOLOGY
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 1:4

The Chairman, Subcommittee on Military Research and Development,
House Committee on National Security, requested that we provide an
independent assessment of the AIM-9X program's status.  Our
objectives were to determine (1) the services' efforts to reduce
missile development risk, (2) the missile program's plan to
transition from development to production, and (3) the importance of
separately managed but essential supporting systems. 

To evaluate the missile's development risk, we visited the program
office and the contractor where we discussed technology and schedule
risk.  We reviewed the program acquisition and test plans.  We
visited the Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake, California, where
we discussed the missile program's technology and schedule with the
government short-range missile experts.  We reviewed reports prepared
by the contractors during the program demonstration and validation
phase.  We also reviewed several studies of foreign missiles,
including the Senior Review Team analysis of the ASRAAM program. 

To assess the missile program's plan to transition from development
to production, we examined the planned development and operational
test schedules and production plans.  We considered the amount and
type of testing that is planned to be accomplished before the first
and subsequent production decisions.  We discussed test plans and
potential risks with program, contractor, and DOD officials charged
with managing and overseeing missile flight testing.  We also
reviewed our previous reports on other major acquisition systems with
regard to readiness to enter low-rate initial production. 

We reviewed the helmet-mounted cueing system, a separately managed
but essential supporting system, to determine its importance to the
AIM-9X system.  We discussed program technical issues with program
managers.  We also compared schedule plans for the AIM-9X missile,
helmet-mounted cueing system, and associated aircraft modifications. 

During the course of this review, we met with representatives from
the DOD Inspector General, Naval Air Systems Command, and Air Force
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet,
Norfolk, Virginia; Naval Air Weapons Center, China Lake, California;
Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia; Aeronautical
Systems Center and National Air Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson
Air Force Base, Ohio; ASRAAM Senior Review Team, Baltimore, Maryland;
and Hughes Missile Systems Company, Tucson, Arizona. 

We performed our audit between July 1996 and October 1997 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 


STRATEGIES TO REDUCE MISSILE
TECHNICAL, COST, AND SCHEDULE
RISKS
============================================================ Chapter 2

The AIM-9X missile development program is designed to balance the
requirements for a more capable short-range missile with the users'
limited resources and the need to field the new missile as soon as
possible.  Key elements of the approved development plan are
strategies to reduce technical risk and incentives to lower cost and
ensure schedule performance.  By early 1999, when the AIM-9X missile
design is expected to be finalized and flight tests are underway, a
more accurate assessment of the program status can be made. 


   STRATEGIES TO REDUCE TECHNICAL
   RISK
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 2:1

Technology problems are often the cause of cost growth and schedule
delays in development programs.  To help ensure a successful AIM-9X
missile development program, the services have adopted several
strategies to minimize technical risk.  Among these are: 

  -- using existing subsystems, components, and items not requiring
     development;

  -- conducting a competitive demonstration and validation of new
     technology; and

  -- combining government and contractor technical expertise through
     integrated product teams. 

The AIM-9X missile will use some existing subsystems that do not
require development.  For example, several key components are
identical to those used in the AIM-9M missile, including the warhead,
rocket motor, and fuze.  These components satisfy user requirements
and can be obtained either from existing inventory missiles or from
new production.  In either case, the design and production processes
for these items are tested and proven. 

The winning Hughes missile design also includes many nondevelopmental
items.  For example, Hughes will use fins, an airframe, and an engine
control system previously developed and tested by the Air Force.  The
cryoengine, which cools the missile sensor, is a modified version of
a similar device used in other systems.  These components do not
require lengthy development and testing but will require some
modification for the AIM-9X.  Hughes officials told us that over 70
percent of the missile design uses parts that do not require
development.  The company also estimates that 66 percent of AIM-9X
missile software can be obtained from existing programs. 

To help anticipate, identify, and solve technical problems, the
government's technical experts in short-range missile development
have been added to the Hughes AIM-9X development team as a part of
the integrated product teams concept.  Technical experts from the
Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, California, and the
Aeronautical Systems Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, are now
a part of the AIM-9X team.  Under this teaming approach, the combined
knowledge and efforts of both contractor and government are focused
on the development process. 

Hughes has also implemented a comprehensive technical risk assessment
system that identifies and tracks all known technical risks in the
program.  Each risk is described, quantified, monitored, and
reported.  For example, Hughes has assessed the guidance and control
and thrust vectoring system as moderate to low-risk items.  The
company has developed management plans to address these risks. 


   STRATEGIES TO REDUCE AIM-9X
   COST
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 2:2

Affordability is a central objective of the AIM-9X missile program. 
The emphasis on cost began during the requirements definition
process, continued through the demonstration and validation phase,
was a factor in the selection of the development contractor, and is
an integral part of the program acquisition strategy.  As a DOD
flagship program for the Cost as an Independent Variable
Initiative--under which cost is considered more as a constraint and
less as a variable--the AIM-9X program has incorporated a series of
acquisition reforms to focus both government and contractor efforts
to reduce and control program costs. 

As a program objective, AIM-9X affordability is second only to
achieving the missile's key performance characteristics.  Low cost
was and remains one of the users' critical requirements for the
system.  During the concept development phase, an assessment of
needed capabilities and anticipated cost considered the projected
threat, available and emerging technologies, and projected resources. 
Performance and cost trade studies identified the minimum essential
performance requirements and determined they could be obtained at an
acceptable cost if the AIM-9M was upgraded with a new sensor and
airframe instead of developing an entirely new missile. 

Reducing AIM-9X missile development and production cost and obtaining
high confidence in the contractors' cost estimates and cost
management approach were key objectives of the 18-month demonstration
phase.  Under the competitive pressure of the winner-take-all
development contract, the government required the contractors to
establish design-to-cost goals and implementation plans, conduct
affordability and producibility studies, and propose a production
quantity and price structure.  According to the program manager, this
emphasis on cost control and cost management both reduced the
expected cost of the program and increased the program office's
confidence that the contractor's development and production cost
proposal was sound and likely to be achieved. 

Eight initiatives were pursued during the demonstration phase to
reduce program costs with only minor changes to the system's
performance requirements resulting in an estimated cost avoidance of
$1.2 billion.  Examples of successful reductions include relaxing
computer processing time requirements (which eliminated one circuit
board) and standardizing missile seeker cooling methods (which
eliminated the need for two different cooling systems). 


   STRATEGIES TO ENSURE SCHEDULE
   PERFORMANCE
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 2:3

The AIM-9X missile program has adopted several strategies to
establish a realistic and achievable development schedule that
provides the first missiles to Navy and Air Force fighter units as
soon as possible.  Principal among these strategies is the
requirement that Hughes develop and follow a detailed integrated
master plan and master schedule. 

The program manager told us that the government strategy for reducing
schedule risk on the AIM-9X program has been to encourage the
contractor to develop and follow soundly based development plans. 
Accordingly, both contractors were required to develop and submit
integrated master plans and schedules for development and low-rate
initial production during the demonstration phase. 

Following the successful demonstration phase, Hughes and the missile
program office reexamined the proposed development schedule.  On the
bases of that reexamination, they agreed to reduce the development
schedule from 68 to 61 months and to begin low-rate initial
production a year earlier, thereby lowering development cost by $35
million.  This reduction, according to the program manager, was made
possible by the Hughes comprehensive development and test schedule. 



   CONCLUSIONS
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 2:4

The AIM-9X missile development program contains a series of
strategies to reduce technical risk and incentives to lower cost and
ensure schedule performance.  Whether program efforts to reduce
technical, cost, and schedule risk will succeed will not be known for
at least another year.  Both program and contractor officials told us
that most of the AIM-9X missile development will be completed by the
spring of 1999.  At that time, the AIM-9X design will be finalized,
assembly of engineering development missiles underway, and
development flight testing in process.  The missile program manager
believes any remaining development risk will be well understood at
that time. 


AIM-9X MISSILE LOW-RATE INITIAL
PRODUCTION APPEARS TO BE PREMATURE
============================================================ Chapter 3

In an effort to initiate AIM-9X missile production as soon as
practical, the services plan to make the low-rate initial production
decision in early 2000.  This production decision is to be made
before completing development flight tests, before adequately testing
production representative missiles, and before full operational
testing begins.  This plan risks later discovery of problems
requiring design changes and the associated cost, schedule, and
performance impacts.  We believe initiating low-rate initial
production before developmental flight testing is complete and before
there is some operational testing with production representative
missiles adds unnecessary risk to the production program. 


   LOW-RATE INITIAL PRODUCTION
   PLANNED BEFORE TESTING OF
   PRODUCTION REPRESENTATIVE
   MISSILES
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 3:1

The services plan to begin AIM-9X missile low-rate initial production
in early 2000 by exercising the first production contract option for
150 missiles.  A year later, the second production contract option
for 250 missiles is to be exercised.  Figure 3.1 shows the program's
planned test and production decision schedule. 

   Figure 3.1:  AIM-9X Flight Test
   and Low-Rate Initial Production
   Schedule

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  AIM-9X Program Office. 

As figure 3.1 shows, the low-rate initial production decision for the
AIM-9X missile is to be made about 1 year before completion of the
planned developmental flight test program.  All of the flight tests
to be conducted before the missile low-rate initial production
decision, including those to be conducted as part of the preliminary
operational testing, will use engineering development missiles. 
These missiles are manufactured early in the development program and
represent the contractor's design before any significant flight
testing begins.  These flight tests will also use development level
software and may not incorporate the helmet until the last several
flights. 

Later in the development program, changes to the missile design are
likely as the test results and manufacturing improvements are
incorporated in production representative missiles.  These test
missiles are intended to be very close in physical configuration and
performance to the AIM-9X production missile.  They are to be used
during the last phase of the developmental flight tests and for all
of the operational flight tests. 


   FLIGHT TESTING TO CONTINUE FOR
   2 YEARS AFTER START OF LOW-RATE
   INITIAL PRODUCTION
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 3:2

Developmental and independent operational flight testing using
production representative missiles is scheduled to begin at about the
same time as the low-rate initial production decision and continue
for about
2 years.  These tests expand upon earlier developmental testing,
verify design changes incorporated in the production representative
missiles, and focus on the system's operational effectiveness and
suitability.\1 These test results, however, will not be available
until after low-rate initial missile production begins, with most
operational flight tests occurring after the second missile
production contract is exercised.  Indeed, the first low-rate initial
production missiles are expected to be delivered before the
operational testing is complete. 

The significant body of developmental and operational flight testing
planned after the low-rate initial production decision point is
important to realistically demonstrate and assess the AIM-9X weapon
system's ability to meet its minimum acceptable requirements for
performance and suitability without major or costly design changes. 
Should problems be disclosed in these tests necessitating changes to
the missile design, the missile cost, schedule, and performance may
be adversely affected.  Moreover, because the low-rate initial
production missiles are to be deployed directly to operational units,
such changes would directly affect operating units. 


--------------------
\1 DOD 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.  DOD defines "operational
suitability" as the degree to which a system can be placed
satisfactorily in field use with consideration given to such factors
as availability, compatibility, transportability, interoperability,
reliability, wartime usage rates, maintainability, safety, and
supportability. 


   RECOMMENDATION
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 3:3

We recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretaries of
the Navy and the Air Force to revise the AIM-9X missile's acquisition
strategy to allow for the completion of all developmental flight
tests and enough operational flight tests with production
representative missiles to demonstrate that the missile can meet its
minimum performance requirements before low-rate initial production
begins. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS AND OUR
   RESPONSE
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 3:4

DOD did not concur with the recommendation, stating that adequate
testing is planned prior to the low-rate initial production decision
for an informed decision. 

The performance data to support the low-rate initial production
decision will be based on incomplete testing of developmental
missiles and software.  Flight testing of the production
representative missiles and associated systems is scheduled to begin
more than a year after the planned production decision.  As we have
reported previously, many of the weapon systems that start production
without performing operational tests to gain assurance that the
systems will perform satisfactorily later experience significant
operational effectiveness and/or suitability problems.\2


--------------------
\2 Weapons Acquisition:  Low-Rate Initial Production Used to Buy
Weapon Systems Prematurely
(GAO/NSIAD-95-18, Nov.  21, 1994). 


AIM-9X SYSTEM OF SYSTEMS NEEDS TO
BE TESTED, PRODUCED, AND DEPLOYED
TOGETHER
============================================================ Chapter 4

All three elements of the AIM-9X weapon system--the missile, the
helmet-mounted cueing system, and the associated aircraft
modifications--must be present and properly working together to
ensure that U.S.  fighters can prevail against modern threat
missiles.  The services are closely coordinating the separate
development programs and plan to test all of the elements together
during AIM-9X flight testing.  However, there is no requirement that
production representative versions of the missile, helmet, and
associated aircraft modifications be successfully demonstrated
together before the AIM-9X missile goes into low-rate initial
production.  Moreover, helmets and associated aircraft modifications
are not linked to the approved AIM-9X missile production and funding
plans.  By not requiring that the missile, helmet, and aircraft
modifications be tested, produced, and deployed together, as a
"system of systems," DOD risks fielding a missile unable to prevail
in aerial combat. 


   ALL ELEMENTS ARE NEEDED TO
   FIELD A SUPERIOR SYSTEM
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 4:1

To help them prevail in the close-in air battle, U.S.  pilots are
going to need not only the AIM-9X missile, but also the helmet and
associated aircraft modifications.  The Russians and Israelis have
already developed, produced, and deployed short-range missile systems
with helmet-mounted cueing systems.  The Russian AA-11 missile and
helmet system have been widely exported.  The British, French, and
other nations are also developing modern missiles.  While the AIM-9X
missile with the helmet is expected to be superior to all of them,
the missile alone is not.  Figure 4.1 illustrates the relative
capabilities of the AIM-9X system of systems, the AA-11, and the
AIM-9M, which is currently operational. 

   Figure 4.1:  Comparison of
   Short Range Missiles' Lethal
   Range ( not to scale)

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  Hughes Missile Systems. 


Service officials told us that the rules for engaging enemy aircraft
and the requirement for positive identification of targets increase
the likelihood of close-in air battles in the future.  While the
AIM-9X and other missiles can be used at longer ranges, the positive
identification requirement, together with the speed and agility of
modern fighter aircraft, can quickly transform the fight into a
close-in air battle where the advantage is held by the aircraft that
can lock-on to its adversary and shoot first. 

As figure 4.1 shows, the AIM-9X missile without a helmet is expected
to have greater lethal range than the AIM-9M and the AA-11.  Without
the helmet, however, a U.S.  pilot would be unable to take full
advantage of the AIM-9X capability to take the critical first shot
that often determines the survivor in a close-in air battle.  This
first shot capability is achieved by the combination of the (1)
helmet and the missile sensor acquiring a target well off to the side
of the aircraft, as well as in front of it and (2) computer software
that links the pilot's helmet, the missile, and the aircraft fire
control system.  As shown in the figure, the AIM-9X system (missile,
helmet, and aircraft modifications) is expected to have a distinct
advantage over the AA-11 missile. 

In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD stated that the
projected range and sensor tracking capability of AIM-9X without the
helmet-mounted cueing system is equivalent to the capability of the
AA-11 threat missile in azimuth and exceeds the capability of the
AA-11 in range.  DOD's position is based on using the fighter
aircraft radar to cue the AIM-9X missile to the target of interest
when it is beyond the view of the aircraft's heads-up display.  Using
the radar to cue the missile, however, will take more time and be
less certain than with the helmet and will require DOD to train
pilots in yet to be developed procedures and tactics that would be
considerably different than current practices for aerial combat. 
Moreover, DOD officials we spoke with agreed that it is questionable
whether DOD can meet its own positive identification requirement
using the aircraft radar for cueing purposes. 


   DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS ARE
   SEPARATE BUT CLOSELY
   COORDINATED
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 4:2

The AIM-9X missile, helmet, and associated aircraft modifications are
being developed under separate but closely coordinated programs.  The
missile and helmet contractors have negotiated detailed working
agreements to ensure the missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications
are developed to operate together and to be fully compatible with
both Navy and Air Force aircraft.  While each development program
will test its system independently, the missile, helmet, and aircraft
modifications are also planned to be tested together as a part of
AIM-9X missile flight testing.  An early operational assessment of
the combined system, including five flight tests, is planned prior to
the AIM-9X low-rate initial production decision.  Then, for the next
2 years, production representative missiles, helmets, and aircraft
software are to be tested under both developmental and realistic
operating conditions. 

While plans are in place to perform total system testing with the
missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications prior to the initial
AIM-9X missile low-rate initial production decision, those tests will
not be done using production representative hardware and software. 
Moreover, there is no formal requirement that sufficient total system
testing take place prior to starting missile low-rate initial
production to demonstrate that the AIM-9X weapon system can meet its
key performance parameters.  We are concerned about this because of
the criticality that all three elements work together to ensure that
the AIM-9X system will prevail against modern threat missiles.  If
technical problems delay development of the helmet or aircraft
modifications, missile testing will proceed to support the low-rate
initial production decision.  At that time, the ability of the AIM-9X
system to achieve its performance parameters will not be known. 


   PRODUCTION PLANS AND FUNDING
   ARE NOT FULLY COORDINATED
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 4:3

There is an approved and funded AIM-9X production plan to acquire
10,000 missiles over 18 years beginning in 2000; however, no such
production plan or approved funding exists for the helmet or for the
associated aircraft modifications.  We were told by the helmet
program manager that each of the aircraft program offices must plan
and budget for helmets and associated modifications consistent with
their needs and resources. 


   CONCLUSIONS
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 4:4

All elements of the AIM-9X weapon system must be in place to achieve
the program's objective, which is to ensure that Navy and Air Force
fighters prevail in close-in aerial combat.  Without a requirement
that all elements of this system of systems be tested together,
produced together, and deployed together, the full capability of the
system will not be realized.  Until the weapon system is tested and
evaluated using production representative missiles and helmets, DOD
decisionmakers will not have information on whether the AIM-9X weapon
system's key performance parameters are achievable. 


   RECOMMENDATIONS
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 4:5

We recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretaries of
the Navy and the Air Force to revise the AIM-9X missile acquisition
strategy to allow for enough operational testing of the missile,
helmet, and associated aircraft modifications to be accomplished,
using production representative hardware and software, to demonstrate
that the AIM-9X system can meet its minimum performance requirements
before low-rate initial production begins.  We also recommend that
the Secretary of Defense direct the services to provide a coordinated
production, deployment, and funding plan for all three elements of
the system. 


   DOD COMMENTS AND OUR RESPONSE
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 4:6

On the first recommendation, DOD did not concur and stated that
significant improvement over the current operational system is
possible with just the AIM-9X missile only.  DOD added that it would
not be prudent to delay the missile development and testing to
provide concurrent development and test demonstration with the helmet
and aircraft modifications.  On the second recommendation, DOD
partially concurred and stated that it would continue to coordinate
all three elements of the system but would not formally tie the three
elements together.  DOD expressed concern that insisting that the
schedules for the missile, helmet, and aircraft modifications remain
synchronized risks burdening it with higher costs if one element
falls behind schedule and the other elements have to proceed at a
reduced, inefficient level. 

The objective of the AIM-9X program has been to develop a system that
will provide the capability to prevail in aerial combat against
modern threat missiles.  Using the missile without the helmet will
not provide that capability and will require DOD to train pilots in
yet to be developed procedures and tactics that would be considerably
different than current practices for aerial combat.  Although there
are risks in continuing to synchronize the helmet and missile
schedules, we believe that DOD would be accepting more risk than
necessary by committing to low-rate initial production of the
missiles before demonstrating, using production representative
hardware and software, that the total AIM-9X system can meet its
minimum performance requirements. 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix I
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
============================================================ Chapter 4



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)



(See figure in printed edition.)


Following are our comments on the Department of Defense's (DOD)
letter dated January 16, 1998. 

GAO COMMENTS

1.  The last AIM-9X schedule that we reviewed indicated that one test
firing of a production representative missile is planned to occur
within days of the low-rate initial production decision.  Should
these two development (vice operational) tests be accomplished as DOD
now proposes, the detailed assessment of the test results will not be
available to decisionmakers. 

2.  Figure 4.1 has been modified to indicate the potentially greater
level of lethal azimuth of the AIM-9X when the missile is cued by the
aircraft radar.  However, that radar cueing of the missile is neither
as fast nor as certain as with the helmet.  Also, procedures and
tactics for using the radar cueing capability with the AIM-9X would
have to be developed and pilots would have to be trained. 

3.  Our recommendation addresses only those aircraft modifications
needed to integrate the AIM-9X missile and the new helmet into each
aircraft.  Other aspects of the operational flight program should not
be affected. 


*** End of document. ***