Australia has added the acquisition of Lockheed Martin's AGM-158 JASSM missile for its Boeing F/A-18 A/B fleet to its Projects of Concern list.

Australia's Department of Defence says the project is behind schedule and "risks to capability remain". In 2006, Australia selected the joint air-to-surface stand-off missile over Boeing's SLAM-ER cruise missile for its F/A-18 A/Bs.

"The government has not been kept properly and fully informed as to the progress with respect to this major project," says defence minister Stephen Smith.

The next milestone in the project is a live firing from a Royal Australian Air Force Hornet in the USA in late 2010 or early 2011. After the test, the defence department will report on results to the government, which will then decide "the way forward".

"Defence will ensure that this project now receives additional scrutiny and senior officer oversight in the lead-up to the test firing and in the development of subsequent advice to government," says Smith.

According to Lockheed Martin, the JASSM is an autonomous, long-range, conventional, air-to-ground, precision stand-off missile. It is designed to destroy high-value, well-defended, fixed and relocatable targets.

"The missile's mission effectiveness approaches single-missile target kill capability," says Lockheed Martin.

Established in 2008, the Projects of Concern list is intended to help focus the attention of Australia's Department of Defence and the defence industry on resolving listed projects. Other notable Projects of concern are the Boeing 737-based Wedgetail airborne warning and control aircraft, a BAE Systems programme to upgrade Australia's AP-3C Orions, and the Airbus A-330 based KC-30A multi-role tanker transport.

In late October, Australia tested for the first time the ability of its new Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets to use Raytheon's AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapon. Air force Super Hornets released two JSOWs at the Woomera test range in South Australia against separate hardened concrete bunkers, destroying both.

The work represented its first live firings performed outside the USA with the two-seat strike aircraft.

Source: Flight International