Lockheed Martin [LMT] locked up a $66.3 million contract for the next stage of the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) competition, which will replace the ubiquitous Hellfire missile currently used by 28 countries.
The Army announced July 31 it would award a fixed price incentive firm target contract to Lockheed Martin for the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase. The contract also includes two options for low-rate initial production (LRIP), each worth about $60 million, which would be exercised after a Milestone C decision in late 2017, Col. James Romero, the Army’s project manager for joint attack munition systems, said on August 3.
Lockheed Martin was the only competitor for the JAGM contract after Raytheon [RTN] decided not to propose an offering, he said.
During the EMD phase, the Army will certify Lockheed Martin’s JAGM production line and complete safety, lethality and air worthiness testing for the first two aircraft to use the weapon: the Army’s AH-64 Apache and the Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Super Cobra helicopters, Romero said.
“At this point we do not forecast any changes to the design [or] anything significant that would cause us to change schedule and cost,” he said.
Lockheed Martin’s JAGM offering comprises a new dual-mode guidance containing a semi-active laser and millimeter wave radar, which is mated with the Hellfire Romeo missile’s backend that includes a motor, warhead and electronics. The missile can be used by fixed and rotary-wing aircraft to destroy both stationary and moving targets, according to the company.
The Navy and Marine Corps are partnering with the Army on JAGM, however, the service is having technical discussions with the Air Force, Romero said. The Army is also in the “planning stages” of integrating JAGM with an unmanned aerial system, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle manufactured by General Atomics.
As part of the EMD contract, JAGM will undergo a system-wide critical design review as early as December, and initial missile deliveries are scheduled for March, said Lt. Col. Phil Rottenborn, the Army’s JAGM product manager. The service will buy approximately 185 missiles during EMD, while the LRIP contract options will not exceed 2,600 units.
Winning a JAGM full rate production contract would likely be a lucrative endeavor for Lockheed Martin. The Army will ultimately buy enough of the new missiles to replace its stock of Hellfires, said Romero, who declined to provide a more specific number. JAGM is on track to cost about 10 percent to 20 percent more than its older brother, which cost about $80,000 to $130,000 per unit depending on the quantity ordered.
Though Lockheed Martin expects “a fairly significant amount of international sales,” the company will exclusively build up U.S. stocks in the first several years of production, said Frank St. John, its president of tactical missiles and combat maneuver systems. Additionally, the U.S. government must figure out which countries would be eligible for foreign military sales, a process that could drive exports out until three to five years down the line.
Any platform that can fire the Hellfire II will be able to integrate JAGM, Romero said.
“We haven’t had a lot of interest yet, but I think part of that is just because we’re not in production yet,” he said. “We think once this program gets into EMD, we’re going to get a lot of interest from all those countries that buy Hellfire right now.”
The government and Lockheed Martin conducted four test flights as part of the technology demonstration phase. The first demonstration, which was funded by the company, validated the JAGM software as well as the mating of the guidance system to the Hellfire backend, Rottenborn said. The laser designated the target—a moving pickup truck 6.4 kilometers away—and successfully guided the missile to it, while the radar was used to collect data. In the next Lockheed Martin-funded test, the laser designated the target, and the radar took over the engagement.
Two later government-funded demonstrations in 2015 tested JAGM against stationary targets, which are more difficult for the radar to track, Romero said.
The service also carried out many tests during the TD phase that are often relegated to later stages of development, including electromagnetic and environmental evaluations that prove the weapon can survive hot and cold temperatures, vibration and shock, Rottenborn said. The missile also completed a functional qualification test of its software and the critical design review of the guidance section.
JAGM initially was envisioned as a more expensive missile with a tri-mode seeker, but that requirement was dropped in 2012 as a result of budget cuts. Later increments of JAGM, which would add a third sensor and a longer-range motor, have not been funded by the Army, although those requirements still exist, Romero said. “As we execute the EMD phase, we will be discussing of course with Army leadership and with Navy leadership … on whether or not we should structure a program to go after the next increment.”
Lockheed Martin is using internal funds to develop a cooled infrared sensor that could be added in a second JAGM increment, St. John said.
“I think what will happen in the near future is there’s going to be some refinement of those requirements so that we know exactly what would be required in that third mode,” he said. “But as it currently stands, that’s not part of the program. That’s just something that we’re pursuing in the background.”