Pentagon report shows design recorded six mission failures in 15 live-launch trials

A new US Air Force assessment shows the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JASSM cruise missile is moving into full-rate production despite a 40% failure rate during a year-long series of tests.

The stealthy missile, which weighs about 1,000kg (2,250lb), recorded six mission failures in 15 live-launch missile tests, plus seven successes and two no-tests.

The assessment, which was disclosed in the fiscal year 2003 annual report released in late January by the US Department of Defense's Office of Test and Evaluation (OTE), appears to dispute Lockheed Martin's claim that the JASSM's testing phase had recorded "the most successful programme in air force missile development history".

The OTE report provides the first official account of fuze, engine and platform integration glitches that marred the test phase and prompted what Lockheed Martin termed "catastrophic" proposed funding cuts by the US Congress. Most were later withdrawn.

Randy Bigum, Lockheed Martin's vice-president for strike weapons, says the test failures required no design changes or modifications.

Two failed tests revealed production and quality control problems for the FMU-156/B fuze. Foreign object damage during the production process was also blamed for a failure of the Teledyne CAE J402 turbojet engine.

Despite the miscues, air force evaluators concluded that the tests proved the missile meets USAF and US Navy performance requirements for range, mission effectiveness and interoperability. In the seven successful tests, JASSM destroyed a medium-hardened bunker, a communications van, a radar and a weapons bunker with one weapon each and destroyed a hardened bunker with two shots.

The USAF declared the system operationally ready last October, and is expected to place a full-rate production contract this year. JASSM's unit cost is capped at $400,000.

Source: Flight International