Boeing and Lockheed Martin are to submit best and final offers for the US Department of Defense's $3 billion joint air to surface standoff missile (JASSM) by mid-March. Selection is expected in April.

The Boeing JASSM design has an airframe originally developed for the classified Have Slick programme. Just released photographs show the weapon with a low aspect ratio folding wing. Lockheed Martin's design has a high aspect ratio wing.

James Gates, JASSM programme manager at Boeing Phantom Works, says that the wing design gives benefits of lower weight, cost and risk while offering greater manouvreability.

The US Navy will decide by early April whether to continue to participate in the programme alongside the USAir Force, which plans to acquire 2,400 units. The USN prefers the Boeing AGM-84 SLAM ER Plus, with a new seeker.

Gates says that the Boeing design uses subsystems from other weapons developed by the company, including the imaging infra-red seeker from the AGM-130 and an improved version of the penetrator warhead designed by Northrop Grumman for the defunct Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile. The Boeing and Lockheed Martin designs both use the Teledyne CAE J402 engine.

Richard Caime, Lockheed Martin JASSM programme vice-president, says that the company can achieve the unit cost goal of less than $400,000 per missile. Gates says Boeing is still "working the numbers".

A 38-month development effort is set to begin in November, with a low-rate initial production decision due in early 2000.

Source: Flight International