August 27, 2012
Credit: Credit: US Army
Amy Butler Huntsville, Ala., and Washington
The U.S. Army's plans to develop a missile guided by a sophisticated tri-mode seeker are falling victim to the budget ax after spending roughly $900 million in pursuit of the technology.
Reaction from the two industry teams vying for the work is mixed. Lockheed Martin, which is behind in developing an affordable imaging infrared (IR) sensor for its seeker, is eager to continue its work on technology development of a dual-mode version under the $64.15 million, 27-month contract extension.
Raytheon, by contrast, says it can build the high-end tri-mode seeker at a low enough cost to bypass the dual-mode, incremental solution. This is because the company can build on its Air Force-funded work developing a tri-mode seeker—including an uncooled imaging infrared sensor—for its 250-lb. Small-Diameter Bomb II program.
The Army's decision to curtail work on the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) is the latest chapter of its long saga to replace the Hellfire, Maverick and air-launched TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) weapons with a single platform. Although originally a final decision on the competing designs was due late last year, the service opted in its latest budget request to curtail plans for JAGM due to cost, forcing program officials to go back to the drawing board as to how to engage moving targets on the battlefield.
JAGM has since been “scaled back” into two increments, says Brig. Gen. Ole Knudson, Army program executive officer for missiles and space. The focus now is on building a dual-mode weapon that can handle the majority of requirements while delaying introduction of a more expensive tri-mode model into the fleet, he told Aviation Week during this month's 15th Space and Missile Defense Conference here.
In the near term, Knudson says, the Army intends to add a low-frequency millimeter wave radar—optimized to track moving targets—to Hellfire-R missiles. The existing semi-active laser seeker is not suited for bad weather.
The goal is to build a missile at roughly $125,000 per unit, a 30% reduction in unit cost and up to a 60% reduction on total development cost based on earlier estimates of the JAGM program, he said. The Army will conduct a formal cost estimate for the Increment 1, dual-mode version prior to entering development, says Dan O'Boyle, an Army spokesman.