Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Progress of the Global Hawk Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration Gao ID: NSIAD-00-78 April 25, 2000

The Defense Department (DOD) has built five prototype Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft as part of an advanced concept technology demonstration. The goal of the demonstration is to determine whether the concept works as an Air Force reconnaissance aircraft before the military decides to acquire a production version of the plane. In response to congressional concerns about the cost of the Global Hawk, GAO reviewed the demonstration. This report discusses (1) whether the average unit flyaway price for the 10 Global Hawk production aircraft numbered 11 through 20 will be within DOD's price goal of $10 million each in fiscal year 1994 dollars; (2) the status of the military user demonstration, including the extent to which the Global Hawk has shown reconnaissance capabilities; and (3) DOD and Air Force plans to switch to a formal acquisition program. In an earlier report (GAO/NSIAD-99-29, Dec. 1998), GAO concluded that DOD was not making progress toward meeting its price goal for Global Hawk.

GAO noted that: (1) the Global Hawk Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration has made progress in terms of achieving performance objectives, but has not made progress toward the price goal; (2) neither DOD nor the Global Hawk contractor expects to achieve the $10 million average unit flyaway price goal for the 10 production air vehicles numbered 11 through 20; (3) the most recent projection from the contractor in July 1999 is an average unit flyaway price of $15.3 million in fiscal year 1994 dollars; (4) the contractor's projection is based on data from actual costs incurred for construction of the third prototype built, assumes there will not be significant design changes to the prototype aircraft, and assumes higher annual production rates than DOD is now planning; (5) moreover, the Air Force, which manages the Global Hawk Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, has not finalized its design requirements for a future production version or completed an analysis to determine the total number of Global Hawks it needs; (6) although the Air Force expects to address these issues before the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration is complete in September 2000, based on a set of draft minimum requirements the Air Force is considering adopting, the actual average unit flyaway price paid by DOD in the future for the production version could be significantly higher than $15.3 million; (7) to assess whether Global Hawk has military utility, the Air Force began demonstrating the prototype aircraft in June 1999 for military users and their assessment is ongoing; (8) to date, the Global Hawk prototype has demonstrated basic flying capabilities but has not yet undergone sufficient testing to determine whether it can successfully conduct reconnaissance missions on a regular basis; (9) DOD plans to increase the number of flight-test hours dedicated to demonstrating reconnaissance capability before the flight-test phase is complete in June 2000; (10) although the Air Force had hoped to secure an early decision to proceed with the acquisition of Global Hawk in July 1999, DOD delayed a formal decision on whether to acquire it until September 2000 after the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration is complete; (11) in the meantime, at DOD's request, Congress has authorized the Air Force to procure the sixth and seventh prototype air vehicles to sustain the Global Hawk industrial base; and (12) DOD's decision to wait for the conclusion of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration before committing to formally acquire Global Hawk is prudent because by September 2000, a number of important unknowns will be addressed.

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