USAF turns back on Lockheed Martin's WCMD-ER, while foreign interest in Longshot wing kit development grows

Two Lockheed Martin weapons development programmes targeted for termination appear to be facing different futures. The US Army has stepped in to review cancelling the Joint Common Missile (JCM), while the US Air Force has signalled no interest in salvaging the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range (WCMD-ER).

Army chief of staff Gen Peter Schoomaker has pledged to lawmakers that the army will revisit the proposal by defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to terminate the $5.2 billion JCM programme, despite testimony in early March by senior defence officials that the programme is a major schedule and cost risk.

Lockheed JCM programme manager Rick Edwards welcomes the army's review, but also is continuing efforts to persuade lawmakers to re-insert as much as possible of the planned $74 million JCM budget for fiscal year 2006.

Edwards also brushed off negative reviews of JCM's development progress in recent testimony, including a remark by joint chiefs of staff chairman Gen Richard Myers, that the programme is performing "badly", and comments by other senior officials that the development costs are expected to grow by 39% and production costs could rise by 20%.

Edwards describes both contentions as inaccurate, and characterises them as one side of a long-running internal feud raging between joint-staff officials and the army over the programme's technical and budget risks.

Edwards reiterates that Lockheed forecasts the initial production missiles will cost $80,000 a unit, and then reduce in cost to $60,000 each.

He adds that the first four prototypes were produced for less than the cost of the 10,000th Hellfire Longbow missile, also produced by Lockheed.

Rethinking Rumsfeld's termination decision on JCM opens the door to the third big-ticket Lockheed programme – to include the C-130J and F/A-22 – that may be spared from budget cuts unveiled publicly less than two months ago. Each would be curtailed under a six-year $55 billion budget restructuring designed to steer $30 billion to army modernisation accounts and $25 billion for paying ongoing operations bills.

No such reprieve has been proposed for the Lockheed WCMD-ER, which the USAF launched in June 2003 after reneging on a deal to buy the anti-tank variant of the Raytheon Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW-B).

The service was required to pay the navy $100 million over five years for backing out of the deal, as well as the estimated $40 million development price tag for WCMD-ER. Ron Pomeroy, Lockheed's WCMD-ER programme director, says development of the Longshot wing kit is continuing, with a foreign customer expected to sign a contract shortly.

Attached to a basic unitary weapon, the Longshot wingkit provides a precision-guided, stand-off capability to non-smart munitions.


Source: Flight International