Lockheed Martin Corp. this month received a new $449 million Air Force contract for radar-evading cruise missiles while initial deliveries of some of the same missiles are at least nine months behind schedule.
Lockheed was to have delivered 30 extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles by last August 31. Because of flaws in the missile’s motor, the service now expects the deliveries to be completed by April 30, according to an e-mailed statement from Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick. The 30 are the first of 2,947 new precision-guided missiles that have a range of 575 miles (925 kilometers), compared with the original version’s 230 miles.
The longer range is possible because of a “stepper motor” inside a control unit that regulates the flow of fuel to the main engine, which is made by closely held Williams International Corp., based in Commerce Township, Michigan.
Gulick said a manufacturing process change was made to an epoxy bond in the motors that “caused the government to question the strength of the bond over” the missiles’ 15-year required life.
The 30 missiles are in storage at Lockheed’s production facility in Troy, Alabama, awaiting verification of a fix to the bond, which the company called an “isolated anomaly” from a subcontractor to Lockheed.
Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor, has given the Air Force a final report that contains “validation of corrective actions,” Jason Denney, the company’s director for the program, said in a e-mailed statement.
Lockheed spokesman Craig Vanbebber said in an e-mail that the company won’t identify the subcontractor responsible for the stepper motor.
Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed on Jan. 9 received the $449 million contract for 340 of the original shorter-range missiles that don’t have the motor flaw and 100 of the new extended-range version, according to Air Force data. The missile can be launched from at least five Air Force and Navy aircraft, including the supersonic B-1B bomber. The $7.31 billion program calls for 4,900 missiles.
The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile is designed to evade radar and to use inertial navigation and global positioning satellites to hit heavily defended targets, such as those in North Korea or Iran, with pinpoint accuracy.
The Air Force and Lockheed are conducting final “confidence tests” before accepting the first extended-range weapons, Gulick said. The steps included flight tests of the reworked motor.
Asked why the Air Force issued the new contract despite the delivery delay, Gulick said it was awarded “based on the successful completion of the engine testing.”
“Manufacturing process improvement efforts are currently being evaluated, and initial testing shows that the root cause has been fixed,” he said.
Lockheed Martin has been paid $51.4 million of $57.1 million for the still-undelivered missiles, according to service data.