The U.S. Air Force is assessing its inventory of munitions and future needs for high-end conflicts in which the service plans to use the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) architecture for rapid targeting of mobile adversaries, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said on Feb. 13.
Brown told a Brookings Institution forum that the Air Force is in a “pretty good spot for most of the munitions.”
“I think about not only capability, but capacity and how you have that balance because you could have some highly capable weapons that are very expensive, but you may not have the capacity, and that’s why JADC2/being able to do moving targets at scale is really important because otherwise you could have a bunch of targets and no munitions or a bunch of munitions and no targeting because you can’t move the information,” he said.
The Air Force is “doing deeper dives on these to take a really hard look at where we are from a munitions standpoint so I feel pretty good, but I know there’s a handful, a couple of different munitions without getting into details, that we wanna make sure we continue to move forward on,” Brown said.
In December, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s armaments directorate at Eglin AFB, Fla., said that it intends to award a more than three-year, cost plus fixed fee contract modification by this October to Lockheed Martin‘s [LMT] Missiles and Fire Control/Integrated Systems sector in Orlando, Fla., to allow a rampup of the company’s AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).
“The scope of this contract modification includes direction to increase the JASSM/LRASM inventory to a yearly capacity rate of quantity 1,100 in the new JASSM production facility in Troy, Ala., in combination with the existing facility [in Orlando],” per the December business notice. “In order to accomplish the new direction, tooling (including supplier tooling and special test equipment) is needed. This requirement is to procure equipment needed to increase JASSM/LRASM production to a maximum rate where installation is required. As Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control’s obligations under existing contracts continue, any government-owned peculiar equipment will not be available to any second source.”
The 1,100 number looks to be a significant production increase.
The Air Force requested nearly $785 million in the fiscal 2023 budget request for 550 JASSM, and $114 million for 28 LRASM. The fiscal 2023 omnibus fully funded the JASSM request but decreased the LRASM funds by $8 million due to “unit cost growth.” In 2021, the Air Force said that 525 represented the highest possible, yearly production level–“max production”–of JASSM, including the AGM-158B JASSM Extended Range (JASSM-ER) and the AGM-158D, 1,000 nautical mile “extreme range” JASSM-ER (Defense Daily, June 7, 2021).
On Feb. 13, Brown spoke of supply chain lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to ensure enough plants are building munitions but also to leverage industry advances in production.
“We’ve talked about how we’ve been very efficient over the years, and, in some cases, to be able to move forward, we have to be probably less efficient, but I think we’re also in a different place because of technology where you’re able to do things a bit faster with some of the digital engineering and modular capabilities, and I’ve had a chance to visit some of our industry partners to see how they’re looking at automation and the ability to build weapons a bit faster,” Brown said.
“We’re in a decent spot, but what I don’t want to do is just be in a decent spot,” he said. “I want to make sure we have an overwhelming advantage.”