By Geoff Fein

The Navy is optimistic a new Joint Expeditionary Fires Analysis of Alternatives (JEF AoA) will help them and the Marine Corps find a solution that meets the requirement at an affordable price, a top Admiral said.

Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, Deputy CNO for Integration of Capabilities and Resources (N8), and Lt. Gen. George Flynn, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration both signed off on the memo establishing the JEF AoA last month.

McCullough told Defense Daily in a recent interview that he and Flynn would work to see the JEF AoA through to recommend a material solution to the NSFS capability gap.

“There are several alternative paths you can go down,” McCullough said.

For example, the Non Line-Of-Sight Launch System (NLOS LS) built by NetFires LLC, a limited liability company established by Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon [RTN], for the surface warfare mission package for the Littoral Combat Ship is one possibility. McCullough noted that NLOS LS has a GPS targeting capability and has relatively the same net explosive weight as a 5-inch projectile.

“Now, it doesn’t go as far as what we were projecting ERGM would go, but it goes significantly farther than what we have in a 5-inch gun,” he said. “That’s a potential material solution.”

Raytheon was under contract to produce a 5-inch projectile for the Extended Range Munition effort. Their ERGM, or Extended Range Guided Munition, was supposed to reach a distance of up to 55 nautical miles and withstand the pressure of 10,000 Gs (Defense Daily, April 26, 2006, Jan. 16, 2007).

The Navy had planned to fire the 5-inch ERGM from BAE Systems’ Mk 45 Mod 4 naval gun system. The service had planned to install the Mk 45 Mod 4 on 32 DDGs, beginning with DDG- 81 (Defense Daily, May 24).

But ERGM had a number of challenges, including the inability of Raytheon to demonstrate consistent reliability, culminating in the Navy terminating the effort in March 2008.

ATK [ATK] was also pursuing a similar effort with its Ballistic Trajectory Extended Range Munition (BTERM). However, the company had numerous rocket motor problems and until recently was also unable to demonstrate reliability.

But just last month, ATK successfully fired BTERM, with one of the rounds hitting the target at range (Defense Daily, Oct. 1).

The company used funds it had remaining from prior congressional plus-ups for last month’s test.

“That was good to see that worked,” McCullough said.

Another possibility is downsizing Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), McCullough added.

The 6-inch LRLAP projectile was to be fired from BAE’s Advanced Gun System (AGS). Both the gun and projectile were to be used on DDG-1000.

But with the Navy’s plan to truncate the Zumwalt-class combat ship, the future appears uncertain for AGS and LRLAP.

There has been some discussion of installing AGS onto a DDG-51. McCullough recently told a gathering of Surface Navy Association members that the Navy had looked at that, but such a proposal would require some modification. “The issue is the size of magazine. It goes down a third of what is on DDG-1000,” he said last month (Defense Daily, Sept. 22).

McCullough has also been approached about installing AGS on a LPD-17-class amphibious ship.

“We have not looked at that…I can honestly say we have not looked at that, but that is something I am willing to explore in the future, because we liked the way AGS performed,” he said. “The EDM (Engineering Development Model) for AGS has been highly successful.”

And LRLAP tests have “gone relatively well overall,” McCullough added.

“So we know the capability is there. It’s been demonstrated, in limited capacity, with the projectiles, but it had a great success rate for what we did,” he noted. “We will continue to look at ways where we can forward fit it or back fit it as we go forward.”

McCullough has also looked at the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). “That has potential. I think they just shot an extended range one in excess of 70 kilometers.”

In July, the Army established a new 85-kilometer distance record for Lockheed Martin’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rocket, which was fired from a HIMARS launcher (Defense Daily, July 8).

Whatever system the Navy and Marine Corps agree to pursue to fill the NSFS gap, McCullough said it comes down to what best serves the requirement at the most affordable cost to the government.

“[It’s] what hopefully the AoA will show us and we will take that forward as a program,” he said. “There are a lot of alternatives that I think we could adapt relatively easy.”