US Navy OKs $1 billion for missile called flawed by weapons tester

 

WASHINGTON

The U.S. Navy approved an Alliant Techsystems Inc. anti-radar missile for full production valued at as much as $1.1 billion, even though the Pentagon's chief tester says the weapon's performance flaws "largely negate" its "ability to accomplish its mission."

While the missile "has the potential to eventually provide some improved combat capability against enemy air defenses, the weapon as tested has multiple deficiencies," Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's director of operational testing, said in an emailed statement.

Gilmore's position that earlier problems with the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile haven't been remedied wasn't known publicly when the Navy on Aug. 20 approved full-rate production, the most profitable phase for a defense contractor. Arlington, Va.-based Alliant Techsystems may see sales to the Navy and the Italian Air Force of almost 2,000 missiles through 2020.

The criticism raises the question of whether ineffective missiles may be deployed to the Navy's Boeing F/A-18 model aircraft and Italian jets, requiring costly improvement upgrades later. The missiles could be used to attack ground radar used by adversaries fielding sophisticated integrated air defenses, such as those of Syria, China and Iran.

The Navy said 600 hours of testing, including 12 live firings, showed the missile was ready for deployment.

Sean Stackley, the Navy's assistant secretary for research and acquisition, "made the call based on what the tests demonstrated and the fact that this weapon is a significant improvement on what's in the field," Capt. Cate Mueller, a Navy spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

Fixes for the issues that led to Gilmore's assessment are already in the works, with upgrades scheduled for delivery in 2015, Mueller said.

The Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile was designed as an improvement on the HARM missile made by Raytheon Co. The Alliant Techsystems missile is equipped with a more modern homing receiver and navigation system to detect the radar signals of stationary and mobile air-defense systems.

The Navy has budgeted as much as $770 million through 2017 for the missile, with the remaining dollars after 2018.

Testing was halted in 2010 after six software and circuit- card failures in the first 12 trials. A new round of combat testing with upgraded missiles was completed this year.

While the missile's performance "has improved relative to that experience," it "is not operationally effective," Gilmore said. Details of its remaining deficiencies are classified, he said.

Gilmore said he presented his conclusions to the Navy, and its subsequent decision "is up to the discretion of the service."

The test office was established by Congress in 1984 to provide independent oversight of military service testing of weapons systems. Its director is the defense secretary's principal adviser on weapons evaluation issues.

Philip Coyle, who headed the testing office from October 1994 through January 2001, said "it would be astonishing" for the Navy to go ahead with production over Gilmore's objections.

How would a Navy official "justify going into full-rate production on something that was not operationally effective?" Coyle, who serves as a consultant after working in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in an emailed statement. "I would think it would be a career-limiting decision" to "spend the taxpayer's money on something that didn't work."

The Navy's Fleet Forces Command, Marine Corps and Chief of Naval Operations support immediate deployment, Mueller wrote.

Alliant Techsystems spokesman Steve Cortese said in an e- mail the company fully supports the Navy's decision and it stands behind the missile's "readiness for operational use and full-rate production."

Specific testing concerns "have either been remedied or are being addressed as part of a planned block software upgrade we are currently under contract to deliver," Cortese said.

The missile is produced at the company's facilities in Woodland Hills and Ridgecrest, Calif.

The company stands by past projections of $1.1 billion in revenue over a decade from full production, Cortese said, Revenue from the missile may increase to $100 million annually from $30 million in the current development phase, the company said on a March 13 conference call with analysts.

The Pentagon test office doesn't have an official role in deciding whether a weapon proceeds to full production. It can block a weapon from moving to that stage by disapproving of its combat testing plan.

In the case of the Alliant Techsystems missile, Gilmore had approved the test plan and subsequently rendered an assessment required by law for any major production decision as to whether the weapon was "operationally effective" and reliable.

The test office also provides input to the Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board when a weapon is under review to move forward in development or production. The office publishes an annual report and interim assessments for congressional staff that could use the information to mandate a program delay or prompt a hearing.

Ben Freeman, a military analyst with the Project on Government Oversight in Washington said, "It might make sense to push ahead with full production even though testing results weren't stellar if our military desperately needed to field an improved anti-radar missile — but they don't."

"There's no area where this weapon will be immediately put to use," Freeman said. "So it makes little sense to go into full production of a weapon" the test office "says is not operationally effective.

"The numerous performance shortfalls" will cost "far more to fix after the missiles have been manufactured. In this fiscal environment I hoped the Pentagon was becoming more cost- conscious, but this decision suggests otherwise," Freeman said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...

SAP BI CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice