One competitor for an advanced missile contract is prepared to submit a bid later today, but remains unsure how the US Army will evaluate a key aspect of the proposal.
The ambiguity over the criteria for winning the highly contested joint air-to-ground missile (JAGM) contract could prove critical after the award is declared, as both competitors reserve the right to formally launch a protest about the result.
Lockheed Martin and a Raytheon/Boeing team are competing for the contract to replace thousands of AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-65 Maverick missiles with the JAGM, which has a tri-mode seeker to introduce the capability of striking moving targets in any weather.
The army invested $250 million in a three-year technology demonstration phase that ended with three live-fire missile shots by each competitor late last year. Hardware glitches caused two of Lockheed's missiles to miss the target, but a third shot was successful. Raytheon/Boeing's missiles hit the target in all three tests.
The army's evaluation process does not specifically account for the results of the technology demonstration phase, said Raytheon. The results of the three test shots may be evaluated as part of a broader evaluation of past performance, but the army has not quantified the weighting the technology demonstration will receive in the final selection process, Raytheon said.
Because the JAGM programme is expected to spend more than $2.19 billion in fiscal year 2000 constant dollars, it is classified as an acquisition category 1D item. That means it is among a handful of programmes that require the army's acquisition strategy to be approved by US undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics Ashton Carter.
The Raytheon/Boeing team has stopped short of officially complaining or expressing concern about the army's evaluation process, but it is clear the companies wants it to make the results of the technology demonstration phase a major factor in the criteria for winning the contract.
"The US taxpayer has invested $250 million on the technology demonstration phase for the purpose of reducing risk and proving out the technology key to the JAGM programme," the Raytheon/Boeing team said. "Raytheon is confident the Raytheon/Boeing JAGM team's unmatched success will be carefully assessed."