This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $23 million contract for 12 extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM-ERs) despite ongoing questions about the reliability of the baseline model.
The contract includes the purchase of 12 JASSM-ERs, stealthy cruise missiles which are designed to travel up to 500 nautical miles to strike a ground target. Six will be used in developmental flight-tests and the remaining six are slated for operational testing, says Alan Jackson, JASSM program director for developer Lockheed Martin.
Meanwhile, the Air Force and Lockheed Martin are preparing for Lot 6 acceptance flight-tests; this will demonstrate the capability of the baseline JASSM, which is designed for a 200 nautical mile range. The tests are likely to take place in August. "If the next round of missiles do not perform well, then it will not be positive for the program," David Van Buren, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force, told reporters during a roundtable May 15.
Problems with missile reliability in previous lot acceptance tests have cast a pall over the program. Four of 10 missiles tested from Lot 5 in February failed to hit their targets. However, the problems with reliability began more than two years ago. Jackson says the company is committed to a 90 percent reliability rate no later than Lot 11.
The root cause of problems with Lot 5 missiles was found to be a cable harness, which has been redesigned. Jackson says the company is retrofitting the fix onto other Lot 5 missiles at Lockheed Martin's expense. This change was also built into the Lot 6 missiles on the production line.