It is one of the hottest weapons system contests around. The Raytheon/Boeing team has hit the target in the government-funded tests of the $5 billion Joint Air To Ground Missile three out of three times. Lockheed has missed two out of three times in the government tests, though they plan to pay for more tests. But DoD Buzz has learned that Raytheon and Boeing are not using the same missile they are likely to use for production should they beat Lockheed Martin out for the program.
This appears to raise questions about whether Raytheon is offering an integrated system at a high enough level of development to prove to the Army that the system is low enough risk and is ready to meet production requirements soon after EMD.
Raytheon dismisses those questions, saying they are meeting all requirements of the RFP. The current contest is a test of the seeker -- not the missile. "The RFP very clearly states that the shoot-off will be done with a PDR level system, which is what we did. We met the requirements," said Raytheon spokesman Michael Nachshen.
Here is what the RFP says: "The fly-off missile prototypes will represent PDR level configurations using a Warhead Replacement Telemetry Unit. It will include a series of Tactical Missile Air-gun and/or Rail Test Firings with a Warhead integrated into a non-functional Tactical Missile to gain insight into Warhead /Fuze functioning."
And Nachshen says that the company has done component testing of its EMD missile, including the new nearly-smokeless fuel they have developed.
But Lockheed's close combat systems director, Frank St. John, notes that their “JAGM test missiles are all production representative,” something company sources say should reduce risk later on. “The alternative was to use hardware that wouldn’t meet JAGM requirements. We felt it was in the best interest of our customers and the program to reduce EMD risk in advance. The lessons we are learning now are doing exactly that,” St. John said.
Much of this really boils down to what I fondly call the cooler wars, the debate about whether Raytheon’s uncooled infrared sensor – with lower costs, less weight, fewer parts and less chances for leaks – is superior, or if Lockheed’s cooled sensor – with superior discrimination -- is the best approach for the weapon.
“Our cooled IIR technology provides 50% greater visibility and range than the alternative, allowing pilots and aircrews to engage threats at greater distances than other technologies. Simply put, cooled seeker technology will save lives,” Lockheed’s St. John argues. Lockheed also “selected dome materials compatible with our cooled seeker that are proven to have superior durability for captive carry on JAGM’s platforms. This will avoid costly dome replacement and dramatically reduce life-cycle costs for the services.”
Lockheed’s bottom line is that they think their system offers the Pentagon a “low-risk” system with “operational maturity.”
Raytheon thinks the same. Let the test results be known as soon as they are ready.