What will be lacking from the dual-mode missiles is an imaging infrared seeker, an element that Lockheed Martin officials said drove a disproportionate amount of the cost into the design. This sensor is used to classify or identify a target, and it is also used in coordination with the radar and laser modes in the endgame of an engagement to precisely guide the weapon to its destination. Infrared sensors often require expensive onboard cooling to function correctly in a variety of operational environments because they rely on heat-sensitive detectors.
“It was unaffordable,” says Ken Musculus, Lockheed Martin director of air-to-ground missiles. “It turns out that [imaging IR] drives a lot of the cost within the seeker.”
To develop the dual-mode version, the Army is extending JAGM technology design time by 27 months. Lockheed Martin and a Raytheon/Boeing team have been working on JAGM concepts for years, and Lockheed Martin won a predecessor program, called the Joint Common Missile, only to have it canceled by the Pentagon.
On Aug. 15, the Army issued its contract extension to Lockheed Martin to focus on the new, dual-mode guidance section design. The company plans to fly a seeker similar to the final configuration platform during a captive carry test in October, Musculus says.
Army officials say they are meeting with Raytheon to issue a similar extension. However, Raytheon argues that it can deliver the tri-mode seeker at a low enough cost to bypass the dual-mode, Increment 1 option, says J.R. Smith, JAGM business development director. “We think the right answer is not to back up . . . not after spending more than $900 million” on this technology, he says, noting the total amount spent by the Pentagon in developing technologies for JAGM, including the earlier Joint Common Missile program.
Raytheon is able to substantiate its claim of a low-price tri-mode seeker owing to its win of the Air Force-led Small-Diameter Bomb (SDB) II program, Smith says. The company has for two years been working under a $450 million development contract to design and test a 250-lb. weapon capable of striking moving targets through all weather conditions. Smith says the exact same tri-mode seeker being tested for SDB II would be integrated onto the company's version of JAGM, allowing the Army to reap the benefits of the Air Force's investment. That design employs an uncooled imaging infrared, a differentiation that Raytheon officials say helped them win the SDB II contract over Lockheed Martin in 2010. During that competition, Lockheed had designed a cooled imaging infrared sensor.
Meanwhile, Raytheon's SDB II effort is proceeding. Despite a six-month delay to the first guided-test-vehicle flight that took place in July, the weapon tracked and destroyed a moving target using its tri-mode seeker. During that test, the weapon, designated the GBU-53/B, was launched from an F-15E. The next guided-test-vehicle demonstration is slated for October.