The Army's Standoff Target Acquisition System--A Program Having Development Difficulties

Gao ID: C-MASAD-81-2 February 18, 1981

The Standoff Target Acquisition System (SOTAS) is a $1.1 billion Army program to develop an airborne radar system to detect and locate moving targets at distances far beyond the forward edge of the battle area. Although an experimental SOTAS has been fielded in Europe, a better model, operating from a helicopter with an advanced radar and a jam-resistant data link, is now in development.

Technical difficulties are causing significant delays in the program's schedule and could signal substantial cost overruns. The problem arose because SOTAS did not lend itself to the fast-paced development effort that the Army has attempted in order to field the system quickly. Thus, the system's initial operating capability date has slipped several years. To expedite the SOTAS development, the Army elected to curtail some of the testing normally done in the advanced development phase and placed the engineering development phase on a very ambitious schedule. Difficulties have been compounded because: (1) the most critical components involved advanced technology, and these were creating technical problems that were not anticipated by the Army and its contractors; (2) the data link, a critical component being developed, has to meet the requirements of two other programs unrelated to SOTAS; (3) the management of the major SOTAS components, the helicopter, the radar, and the data link, has been diffused among three project offices which operate independently and are separately responsible for the performance of the components they manage; and (4) the SOTAS project office has not been able to provide the necessary intensive program management because of limited resources. Because the Army expects SOTAS to be a high-priority target, SOTAS must be made as survivable as possible. Reliability demonstrations of the helicopter used by SOTAS shows that a mission abort due to a malfunction can be expected with a rate more than twice that which the Army considers acceptable.


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