Alliant Techsystems Missile Glitches Corrected, U.S. Navy Says

Alliant Techsystems Inc. has corrected software and manufacturing glitches that halted combat testing and delayed a potential $1.1 billion Pentagon production decision on a new anti-radar missile, according to the U.S. Navy.

“The anomalies experienced in the first operational test period have been corrected and verified,” Navy program manager Captain Brian Corey said in an e-mail. “The weapon is performing very well and the team has been able to meet the affordability goals.”

“We are confident we will successfully complete” combat testing, which may resume in June if a Pentagon review confirms the corrections in flight tests, he said. The missile will miss its scheduled May date to be declared initially ready for combat, however.

The test results will determine whether the Pentagon will order full production of the missile. Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems has said it may see as much as $1.1 billion in revenue from the missile’s sales over a decade if the Navy decides to go ahead with orders.

The Navy has spent $98.1 million to date on the project. Production may total as many as 1,879 supersonic, medium-range missiles to equip Navy, Marine Corps and Italian Air Force aircraft. The weapon is designed to home in on enemy air-defense radar and weapons.

‘Making Progress’

“There are going to be challenges when you develop a new breakthrough technology,” Bryce Hallowell, a spokesman for Alliant Techsystems, said in an e-mail. “We are confident that the corrective actions will mitigate the known anomalies. We are clearly making progress.”

The Navy on Sept. 3 halted tests of the missile following six software or circuit-card failures in the first 12 trials. It’s “a rare occurrence” to stop combat testing so quickly, the Pentagon’s office of operational testing said last year in an e-mail provided by Cheryl Irwin, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The revised missile has flown more than 160 flight hours on aircraft since February to assess its readiness to resume combat testing.

One hundred flights are planned to evaluate the missile’s effectiveness in destroying radar. Initial flights will assess missile guidance, internal diagnostics and pre-launch communications with the pilot, Navy and Pentagon officials said.

The Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency said the test failures “were caused by both hardware and software issues,” according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s annual weapons report released last month.

‘Poor Parts Quality’

“The hardware failures involved multiple subcontractors and were primarily attributed to poor parts quality,” according to the report.

The Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile is intended as an upgrade to the existing Harm missile made by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. The Alliant Techsystems version is equipped with a more modern homing receiver and navigation systems that let it detect the radar signals of stationary and mobile air defense systems.

The missiles will be equipped with a transmitter that sends operators target images just before impact, for improved reconnaissance and intelligence.

Alliant Techsystems has dropped 13 percent in the last 12 months. Shares yesterday rose 98 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $70.15 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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