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This article was Originally Published on Jun 25, 2004 in Volume: 3  Issue: 2

Common Missile Power

The Joint Common Missile program will create a massive stockpile of munitions for a wide range of platforms and missions.

By Mickey McCarter

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Over the years, the Army has developed an impressive array of helicopters, among them the AH-64A/D Apache, AH-1 Cobra and MH-60R Strikehawk. To carry out their various missions, these helicopters currently depend on Hellfire or Longbow missiles.

Outfitting these platforms with a common missile that could be used regardless of mission would greatly simplify combat operations and logistics, enabling warfighters to obtain missiles from the same stockpile and load them into their helicopters.

That’s exactly what the Army aims to do with its May announcement that Lockheed Martin would execute a contract potentially worth $5 billion to streamline these missiles with a new Joint Common Missile. Lockheed Martin beat competitors Raytheon and a Boeing/Northrop Grumman alliance.

The Navy is a partner in the JCM program, with plans to use the missiles to replace the Maverick missiles on its F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter.

“We were able to leverage technology that we have learned from building Hellfire, Longbow and Javelin missiles, and we took a lot of those lessons learned from those and put them into our design,” said Rick Edwards, director of Tactical Missiles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

The initial contract has a value of $53 million for the program’s system design and development (SDD). The Army, Navy and Marine Corps have stated that they jointly plan to purchase as many as 54,000 missiles. The services could eventually adapt the JCM for use on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and F/A-22 Raptor. The British Ministry of Defence has expressed interest in becoming a partner in the development of the missile.

“We believe this missile has the potential to become the weapon of choice for these platforms,” Edwards said. “It will be integrated on the MH-60. Certainly, as the U.K. involvement on this program increases, Coronado and Merlin links are potentially there, also UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] applications. We would love to begin discussions with the Air Force about the viability of putting this on JSF and also look at opportunities for how a missile of this capability can be employed on some of the [other] platforms as well.”

The SDD contract extends through up to 14 months of risk reduction and 36 months of testing and integration.

“This is a technology that Lockheed Martin has been working on for several years,” Edwards said. “We have had extensive internal trials with the technology per all aspects of this.”

“Between the time we submitted the proposal and as late as two weeks ago, we have continued to run tests to mitigate the risks for common missile, understanding that hitting the ground running and being successful through the risk reduction phase in the first 12 to 14 months was critical,” said Edwards.

In advance, Lockheed ran a gamut of tests, including warhead, rocket motor and fuse tests, and is performing design and development of the JCM at its Missiles and Fire Control center in Orlando, FL. The company will manufacture them in Troy, AL, where it currently builds Hellfire, Javelin and Longbow missiles. Edwards anticipates that Hellfire line of missiles will continue for some time.

Launch Countdown

The Army and Navy jointly released the JCM draft request for proposal (RFP) in May 2003. After receiving feedback on their requirements, the services released the final request in September. The proposal due date was in November, but the services asked the competitors for a final offer due in February.

The SDD, the first part of the JCM program, runs for 48 months, starting this year. The second piece, another 48-month portion of the schedule, begins in fiscal 2008. JCM must pass 30 tests to exit the first phase, Edwards said. The tests include demonstrating performance in various subcomponents, including warhead, rocket motor and tri-mode seeker performances.

“This 14-month phase one has some requirements for control test vehicles,” Edward said. “There are some safe separation activities and some launcher activities, but when we get into the full SDD at month 14, there will then be live fires off a fixed wing.”

Lockheed Martin has conducted most of the required tests for the first phase internally in the past four or five months, Edwards said. He reports that the JCM already meets most of the requirements, according to the internal tests.

The missile must achieve its first unit equipped (FUE) date in fiscal 2009 for the Apache and AH-1Z in fiscal 2009 and for the F/A-18 and Comanche in fiscal 2010. The schedule calls for adding the JCM to the MH-60 in fiscal 2011. In 2010, Lockheed begins a four-year development program, followed by two low-rate initial production programs. Full-rate production deliveries begin in 2011.

“The integration on the Apache, the Cobra and the F/A-18 all run in parallel,” Edwards said. “The initial operational dates for all three platforms are pretty much on top of each other in 2009.”

JCM has a tri-mode seeker that uses a semi-active laser to zero in on its targets and minimize collateral damage. The tri-mode seeker also includes infrared imaging for passive “fire and forget” capability and millimeter-wave radar for active fire-and-forget in day, night and adverse weather operations. The missile has the capability to lock onto a target after it is launched, using its tri-mode seeker.

“The missile is tri-mode: semi-active laser based on our Hellfire technology; millimeter wave, which is really the next generation of the Longbow at greatly reduced costs and simplicity; and imaging infrared from our Javelin front end,” Edwards said.

Lockheed allocated space in its design for upgrades that could include things like a data link, Edwards added, allowing the company to add to the missile without redesigning it. That could eventually add to the savings over the combined costs of the Hellfire, Javelin and Longbow missiles.

“We are really taking the best attributes of those three missiles and putting them into a single missile,” Edwards said. “What that enables you to do is fight in any condition you can find, whereas the Hellfire with a semi-active laser gives you precision.”

The Javelin’s imaging infrared gives a pilot a lock-on before launch capability and aim point selection. The millimeter-wave radar of the Longbow, on the other hand, enables a pilot to target in adverse weather and against moving targets.

JCM contains a warhead that can penetrate “the most advanced armored threats” and can fragment during a blast for maximum damage against soft targets like ships and bunkers, according to Lockheed Martin. The JCM penetrates such soft targets with a precursor warhead, and then explodes its main warhead on a time delay for fragmentation. The pilot can decide the length of time before the warhead triggers. Lockheed modified the fuse from the Javelin missile.

“We have a missile that can defeat multiple targets,” Edwards said. “The pilot does not have to preselect a weapon, not knowing what he is going to run into in the battlefield.”

JCM’s single rocket motor meets turndown ratio requirements in the extreme temperatures faced by Army rotary-wing and Navy fixed-wing platforms. The JCM specifications require it to fly 16 km for rotary-wing aircraft and 28 km for fixed-wing aircraft.

Edwards’ team has begun to examine how to load the JCM on the F/A-18, he added. Lockheed and a subcontracting partner, EDO Corp., built a launcher and integrated it with the Hornet at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA.

Seek Second Source?

The contract includes an option for a second source seeker that the Army has not yet exercised.

“We provided an option, a contract line item in the proposal for the Army to exercise,” Edwards said. “The option exercise date for that is 12 months after contract award.”

As part of the proposal submittal, Lockheed and its competitors were required to provide a fully written RFP for the second source seeker. Lockheed provided a performance specification and an interface control document on how the seeker would integrate with the JCM. The Army and the Navy stipulated that the second source seeker option, if activated, must be qualified at the end of the SDD program as well.

“The intent was, and the reason that all of the competitors were required to provide an RFP as part of their proposal submittal, would be so that the project office could issue those,” Edwards explained. “However, if they choose to exercise that option, Lockheed Martin would run the competition.”

Lockheed Martin would issue the RFP on a competitive basis, but Edwards said the program office has yet to decide how it would run the competition. It may only be open to Raytheon and the Boeing/Northrop Grumman teams that ran against Lockheed in the original competition, or Lockheed could open it up to a wider number of companies.

In explaining the Raytheon proposal a few weeks before the award announcement, Thomas P. Moody, Raytheon JCM business development manager, had argued that his company’s extensive experience in missile technology made it the logical choice to build the missiles for the Army and Navy.

“Producing missiles is a way of life, just like Chevrolet produces cars and Sony produces televisions,” Moody said. “You are going to put one missile on a bunch of platforms out there. In that case, if you are going to interface it with different platforms, different mission equipment and different launchers, we have the capability.

The Raytheon missile design drew upon technology from the company’s portfolio of missiles, including the Tube-launched Optically-controlled Wireless-guided (TOW) Fire and Forget, AIM-9X, Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), Paveway and Javelin. The Lockheed missile will not replace TOW, as the JCM is only replacing air-to-ground missiles. Lockheed believes that it could eventually adapt the missile for ground-to-ground missions.

Raytheon based its missile’s ability to integrate with multiple airframes on the Hellfire interface. It can launch from the Rotary Wing M299 Launcher, the Brimstone and Navy launchers.

The Raytheon JCM would have weighed less than 108 pounds; it was 7 inches in diameter, the same size as the Hellfire missile, and 70 inches in length. Raytheon capitalized on existing missile technology to reduce overall lifecycle costs, Moody said, speeding development and further ensuring the success of the missile. Each missile has an estimated shelf life of up to 15 years.

The missile would have had a range of 10 to 19 miles, conditions permitting. It could have launched against line-of-sight, non-line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight targets. This range represents twice that of the Hellfire missile, according to Raytheon’s press materials on the JCM. The missile would have offered precision point targeting, fire-and-forget capability and resistance to countermeasures. It would have been more flexible than other missiles, capable of striking against a wide set of targets under adverse weather and terrain conditions, according to Raytheon.

Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems unit teamed with Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems to offer a third contestant in the JCM race.

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