Payton: Air Force Mulls Future Of JASSM Cruise Missile; Termination Is Option

Payton: Air Force Mulls Future Of JASSM Cruise Missile; Termination Is Option
May 18th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Payton: Air Force Mulls Future Of JASSM Cruise Missile; Termination Is Option

Payton: Air Force Mulls Future Of JASSM Cruise Missile; Termination Is Option
Defense Daily
May 18, 2007
By Michael Sirak
The Air Force is exploring the path ahead for its stealthy cruise missile, the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built JASSM, after a recent series of four unsuccessful flight tests and lingering questions over component reliability, the service's acquisition executive said yesterday.
Included in the options under consideration is termination of the multi-billion-dollar missile program, but the service is awaiting analysis of flight data, which is expected within the next 30 days, before rendering a decision, Sue Payton, assistant secretary of the Air Force, said yesterday on Capitol Hill.
"Whether we terminate this and start over, or whether we fix it and move on is really the decision that we have to make," Payton said during a breakfast speech sponsored by the Air Force's Strategic Planning Directorate and DeticaDFI, the recent pairing of the Detica Inc. of the United Kingdom and DFI International. "Today I am not willing to say termination is the way to go. I think there are some options there to help get this program well.
"This is an incredibly relevant needed capability," she stressed. "At this point, we do not think that we have a design flaw. We will know more in 30 days."
Payton said upon assuming her current post she would not shy away from terminating programs, not matter how large, if they are not performing well (Defense Daily, Dec. 1, 2006).
JASSM stands for Joint Air-To-Surface Standoff Missile. The air-launched weapon is designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable targets when fired from standoff ranges. It uses Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance en route and an imaging infrared seeker in the final stages of approaching the target.
In addition to the baseline version of the missile, which has a range of about 250 nautical miles, the Air Force is also developing an extended-range variant with a reach in excess of 500 nautical miles. It is also pursuing a JASSM fitted with a datalink for dynamic retargeting in flight, and one configured for attacking naval surface ships.
The Air Force designates the JASSM as the AGM-158 and has a program of record to buy more than 5,000 of them. Already greater than 500 JASSMs are in the service's inventory. The missiles have been cleared for operations on the B-1B, B-2A, B-52H bombers and F-16 multirole fighter.
Early production units of the missile experienced component reliability issues, but the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said they took steps to address and resolve them. However, during flight tests held in early May, four JASSM missiles missed their mark and did not destroy their targets.
Payton said three of the missiles experienced "GPS dropout" and the fourth had a "failure" of its fuze.
The Air Force is working closely with the Joint Staff and operational commands as it examines potential alternatives to the JASSM, she said.
"If we cancel and we start over again, will that be the smart solution relative to the taxpayer dollar or are there things we need to do next to ensure better reliability?" she asked.
"After that 30 days, we will have a better idea," she continued. "We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. We have a good solid investment."
She also called on Lockheed Martin "to get more people on this team from industry that are more experienced."
The Bethesda, Md.-based company said in a statement: "An investigation is underway to identify the most likely cause of those anomalies; until this process is completed, it would be purely speculative to comment on potential factors contributing to the anomalies."
The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) announced in April that the JASSM program had grown in price from $4.9 billion to $5.8 billion due to additional engineering work to support the three variants of the baseline missile as well as the implementation of robust reliability measures and a stretchout of the missile's annual buy profile.
As a result, the Air Force and OSD must certify to Congress, by a law known as the Nunn-McCurdy provisions, that the JASSM program merits continuation despite the cost growth. This recertification is due no later than June 5.
"The May tests are unrelated to the recent Nunn-McCurdy notification to Congress," Lockheed Martin said in its statement. "The apparent JASSM Nunn-McCurdy breach was triggered by a variety of factors, including procurement of the JASSM Extended Range variant, which more than doubled the overall JASSM buy, previous congressional budget cuts and implementation of reliability improvements.
"Lockheed Martin has maintained its cost and schedule and the reported budget increases have come principally from growth in the quantity of missiles ordered and additional capability requested by the Air Force. The Joint Requirement Oversight Council recently reiterated that JASSM is essential to national security."

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