—Marc V. Schanz
September 16, 2008—Both the Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile program director and the weapon’s Air Force deputy touted the new successes of the now-recertified weapon at AFA’s Air & Space conference Tuesday. At the same time, they explained what went awry when the program was slapped with a Nunn-McCurdy breach and suffered multiple test failures.
Program Director Alan Jackson said the experience “galvanized” the contractor team, which undertook an ambitious scrub of the program.
Lt. Col. Greg McNew, commander of the 676th Armament Systems Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., and the JASSM deputy program manager, said that, a year ago, the program was plagued with cost and affordability issues, abetted to some extent by the Air Force’s decision to increase the program from 2,400 missiles to 4,900 JASSM and JASSM extended range variants. And, last year, four successive flight test failures—three of which were GPS drop outs and one flight failure—brought the program to the verge of cancellation.
After the Joint Requirements Oversight Council signed off on the need for a stealthy standoff strike weapon, the Air Force and Lockheed got together to complete a top-to-bottom review of the program, scrutinizing every aspect from suppliers to testing practices to manufacturing processes in a search for reliability enhancements, McNew said. After the review, a resumed ground-testing effort at Eglin certified the weapon’s GPS capability. And, in February, the JASSM team conducted an unprecedented reliability characterization program, featuring 16 test flights in four days at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It was, said McNew, the Air Force’s most ambitious cruise missile test in peacetime.
Fourteen of the 16 tests were successful, with launch impact and detonation on target. In the two missteps: One weapon’s fuse did not go off and another did not make it to target. The successful flights were key to Congressional approval of recertification in May, McNew said.
Anti-Surface JASSM Variant to Begin Next Year
Now that JASSM is out of the doghouse, Lockheed Martin and the Air Force plan to conduct another reliability demonstration flight test later this year and then begin work on a new surface warfare variant of the weapon next year, program officials told reporters Tuesday.
The last of the 75 missiles in Lot 5 were delivered to the Air Force as of July 31 and Lot 6 deliveries will commence 30 days after the next flight test which has not been given a date yet, Program Director Alan Jackson said. The Air Force awarded the Lot 7 contract in June, which features 111 JASSMs and brings the total contracted number of the weapon to 1,053.
Total delivery of operational JASSM missiles stands at 779 as of August, Jackson said.
Currently the baseline JASSM is operational on the F-16C/D, B-52, B-1B, and B-2. The program office is working to get the weapon certified for the F/A-18, F-15E, and F-35. Granted, at this point, certification for the F-35 is merely a paper study; it remains to be seen whether the new Joint Strike Fighter would carry two or four JASSMs, Jackson said.
He added that the program is set to begin work next year on an anti-surface warfare variant that features a data link and will provide maritime interdiction capabilities as well as line of sight communications and flexible and emerging targeting.
Program officials expect to see the ASuW variant in Lot 11, with fielding slated for 2013.
Work also is ongoing with the JASSM-Extended Range variant. It has made three of three successful test flights and has another seven scheduled. Initial production for the ER currently is set at between 20 to 40 missiles to be delivered in 2010 as part of Lot 9.
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Daily Report: Read the top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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