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Air Force opens up JDAM options amid high demand for weapons

The US Air Force could explore alternative contractors to satisfy its insatiable need for all-weather, smart munitions, even as the service has called its primary joint direct attack munition supplier, Boeing, to produce more of the weapons.

The service is surveying the market to determine whether another source could provide the JDAMs for the US Air Force, Navy and foreign military customers, according to a 5 August sources sought notice for JDAM production lots 23 posted on the US Federal Business Opportunities website.

The survey keeps the USAF’s options open and the service will make the final call on JDAM competition following the market research, US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told Pentagon reporters today.

Earlier this spring, Boeing and the USAF’s programme executive officer weapons examined increasing the weapon’s production using existing JDAM facilities.

“We are working with Boeing actively on that,” James says. “We are working with other industry partners that are involved with ammunition and precision weapons as well, but that’s not to say that more couldn’t also be helpful. So that’s why we’re at least exploring these options.”

Air Force Materiel Command maintains that section of the sources is required by the Competition in Contracting Act, which requires the US government to research the marketplace to determine if two or more offers can satisfy a specific acquisition need, AFMC spokeswoman Sharon Branick tells FlightGlobal. The market research determines whether or not the competition will be sole-sourced, she says.

But while Boeing has long held a lock on the JDAM competition, another competitor could emerge with a new laser guided bomb offering. Recently, Lockheed Martin tested its developmental “Dual Mode Plus” configuration of the Paveway II laser-guided bomb on a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Lockheed could also
present the new weapon as another alternative to the Paveway II. Currently, Lockheed and Raytheon split the share of the US military’s Paveway II production.

While Lockheed employed the weapon against fixed targets during tests at China Lake in California with the US Naval Air Warfare Center’s Weapons Division, the company is working on a parallel effort with the US Air Force’s Seek Eagle Office, which handles safety and weapons integration for all USAF aircraft.

Lockheed is planning on demonstrating Dual Mode Plus on an F-16 by this November, Joe Serra, precision-guided systems director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, told FlightGlobal 9 August.

Lockheed is targeting production for Dual Mode Plus by mid 2017, Serra says. That would position the weapon for the lot 23 order, which the USAF plans to award in February 2019 and could value at $400 million annually. Since Dual Mode Plus would be tied to Lockheed’s standard Paveway II, the company could launch the weapon into full rate production quickly, Serra says.

“So we’ve got a very well established production capability that can easily accommodate additional deliveries for Dual Mode Plus,” he says. “One of the convictions we have about introducing the capability into the market is that the demand is so great right now it cannot be satisfied by single suppliers.”

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