Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Florida, said the Air Force “has been dragging its feet” on preparing the weapon for deployment and instead redirecting $10 million the service received in 2015.
“The Air Force has really been skating around this congressional intent a lot lately, and almost everyone has experienced frustration [with their] tactics,” Nugent said, citing the service’s determination to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt over the will of Congress.
Nugent hoped to remedy that by including an amendment in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act ordering the Air Force to direct $10 million to the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Missile Project.
The missile is considered non-lethal because it is designed to knock out electronics systems but not directly harm people or destroy structures.
The Air Force started developing the $40 million program in 2009. Service officials completed what was called a successful test in 2012 when the missile was flown on the wing of a B-52. The program is led by Boeing.
The amendment failed to get a vote, however, after HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, opposed it on technicalities, “not because I disagree with anything that [Nugent] said about the program itself,” Thornberry told the hearing.
Nugent first pitched using the CHAMP system on a cruise missile in June 2014, arguing the Air Force could have it ready for combat within 18 months.
He said the Air Force appears to be holding off developing the system for use until they can put it onto a reusable vehicle.
“The problem is, they can have the best of intentions in wanting something reusable, but they have nothing in design now and no idea of what it would be,” he told Military.com. “By the time they do the development and testing, and then get to procurement, it’ll be way down the road.”
Combatant commanders have asked for this capability, he said.
“And we’re saying use it, on short term put them on cruise missiles that we have that are sitting there in warehouses because we’ve removed the nuclear devices off them” he said.
Nugent told the committee the Air Force can place the system onto cruise missiles while developing a reusable vehicle.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.