WASHINGTON: One of the few entirely new major Pentagon weapon systems appears to be rising from the dead, with the $5 billion Joint Air To Ground Missile living on roughly $300 million of money already appropriated and securing supportive language in the House Armed Services Committee’s first draft of the defense policy bill.
“The rumors of the program’s demise were greatly exaggerated,” said J.R. Smith, Raytheon’s head of business development for JAGM. He says “it’s probably reasonable to assume there is about $300 million left” over from 2011 and 2012 funding to keep the program running through fiscal 2013. The Army, which has been named executive acquisition authority for the program, is expected to award two sole source contracts of the “not-to-exceed-undefinitized” type this summer to both companies.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have been locked in one of the more dramatic weapons contests in some time. It began with a fly-off, during which the Raytheon-Boeing team initially appeared to substantially best Lockheed, hitting the target three out of three tries, while America’s number one defense company missed two of three tries. Since then both companies have successfully tested their nearly smokeless missiles for the vibrations and temperatures they would face being used on a helicopter or on a jet fighter and Lockheed put the missile through several shots on its own dime after the government sponsored tests ended.
The Raytheon-Boeing JAGM features an uncooled tri-mode seeker with semiactive laser (SAL), uncooled imaging infrared and millimeter wave guidance. Lockheed’s system uses a cooled seeker that it claims provided much better resolution. Raytheon counters that its system is lighter, more reliable and cheaper.
The missile is designed to fire from the Army’s AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, ARH-70 Arapaho scout helicopters, MQ-1C Sky Warrior unmanned aerial vehicles, Marine Corps AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopters, the Navy MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters and F/A-18E/Fs.
The positive indicators for the program’s survival aren’t exactly legion, but they are pretty clear. Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, signed an Acquisition Decision Memorandum, granting new life to the program on March 20.
And we obtained markup language for the House Armed Services markup of the defense authorization bill. It OKs the $10 million in leftover 2011 money to be used to keep the program going for now. Here’s what it says:
“The committee supports the JAGM program and approves of the decision to continue the program as outlined in the revised Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) issued by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics on March 20, 2012. The committee notes that significant prior-year funding is available to continue the program and encourages expedited contracting actions to ensure that these funds can be obligated in fiscal year 2012.
“While the committee agrees with the decision in the ADM to explore technical trades to achieve a more affordable solution, the committee recommends that the Army retain a requirement for an all-weather, moving target-capable missile, with an emphasis on missile solutions capable of being fielded within 3 years of contract award. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing to the congressional defense committees by August 1, 2012, on the revised acquisition plan, anticipated requirements, and program schedule and funding
UPDATED Washington: The Raytheon-Boeing team building took another significant step ahead of Lockheed Martin in the $5 billion Joint Air To Ground Missile competition, successfully testing its rocket motor for helicopter flight.
Raytheon officials said the fifth and sixth rocket engines were subjected to temperatures as low as -65 Fahrenheit and successfully fired after being subjected to helicopter motion and vibration stresses on July 13. Keep reading →