UPDATED: Raytheon Video of Missile Destroying T-72
Raytheon and Boeing took a step closer last week to qualifying their prototype Joint Air to Ground Missile for the next acquisition milestone in the $5 billion program with what company officials say was a visually spectacular test.
The missile, which had no explosive warhead, struck a working T-72 tank after a 4-kilometer flight and destroyed the tank, driving it half a foot across the ground, sending a several hundred pound road wheel flying through the air and leaving White Sands Missile Range with nothing much left to shoot at, said Mike Riley, Raytheon business development manager for JAGM. (Pictures and video coming soon, we hope.) As long as the propellant did not explode that is all to the good. The propellant is not supposed to be volatile enough to explode, an important consideration for the Navy as it packs missiles belowdecks.
The successful test leaves the Raytheon team with two of three successful tests needed under the framework set up by former Pentagon acquisition czar John Young. The company has fired the missile four times, twice on the company dime. The final test, company officials said, will occur very soon. The prototyping deadline is mid-September. They are competing against Lockheed, which has not fared as well in the testing contest so far. Lockheed's first test went well. The second test missed the target by roughly 500 yards.
Lockheed says they now know what caused the missile in the second government test to miss the target. As often happens with high-tech weapon systems it was a simple part that failed. "You're going to think this is silly, but it’s a mechanical bracket that holds one of the rocket motors. It wasn’t a design issue. We are confident the design is sound," Frank St. John, head of Lockheed's JAGM's effort.
Time is tight for Lockheed. The three government tests must be finished by Sept. 11, 24 months after the contract for this phase was awarded. St. John says they've got a range slot at White Sands on Sept. 10 for the third government supervised test, which will require them to use the missile's radar sensor prior to launch to capture the target. The next day, St. John says Lockheed will pay for what will essentially be a make-up test to compensate for the failed second test. Lockheed will pay for that test. And the company may do more test shots after that date as long as it pays for them. Data for any test after the Sept. 11 deadline that is paid for by Lockheed or Raytheon may be submitted to the government for consideration in the program's next phase.