WASHINGTON — Problems discovered in tests of the Army’s future air-to-ground missile — including a cyber vulnerability — have been ironed out ahead of a production decision expected in May, the service’s Joint Attack Munition Systems project manager told Defense News.
The Lockheed Martin-developed Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) is ultimately slated to replace the Hellfire missile — also a Lockheed product — on all platforms that fire them. It features a new dual-mode seeker and guidance system mated to a Hellfire missile.
A recently released Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report found some issues with JAGM.
For one, the report said the guidance section of the missile could be hacked, noting that a cyber analyst successfully gained access to missile guidance software in cyber security testing in April 2017.
The engineering and manufacturing development version of the missile also missed two targets early in testing, one hitting the ground “well outside the burst radius of the warhead” and another hitting “near the bottom of the vehicle track and road wheels,” the report states.
And while 18 missiles were launched from an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter during tests, one of the four launches with a live warhead failed to detonate, according to the report.
The Apache’s targeting site and fire control radar also passed “erroneous target velocities” to the missile, the report stated.
Ironing out the kinks
While the DOT&E reports were released last month, much of the testing evaluated happened much earlier; programs have often rectified problems found during earlier tests by the time the test reports make their public debut. Such is the case with the JAGM program.
For one, the cyber vulnerability identified in April tests has been fixed, according to Col. David Warnick, the Army’s JAMS PM, said in a recent interview.
“We obviously have a cyber requirement and so we had a couple of test events laid into the program to ensure that we are complying with all of the hardening and capabilities that we are supposed to have,” Warnick said.
Prior to the cooperative vulnerability penetration assessment in April, the Army performed its own cyber assessment and had identified a vulnerability, he said. The Army subsequently informed the external evaluators of the issue, which was confirmed during the test.
The program had already been working on a solution by the time the test occurred and it implemented corrective actions following, according to Warnick.
A test that occurred on Jan. 26 verified the Army had “corrected the deficiency and no other vulnerabilities were identified,” Warnick said. “So we are comfortable with the hardware and we’ve successfully addressed that capability requirement.”
Warnick added the problem with the Apache’s systems passing incorrect information to the JAGM missile is also being addressed by the Apache program office, but said “they identified something there that wasn’t exactly right and I think they’ve already identified a fix for that as well.”
And while the Army had two misses out of 20 firings of the JAGM missile early on, the program office is confident in the missile’s ability to hit and destroy targets.
“We have since conducted an additional 19 tests and although the external agency is the scorer, I can say that all of our missiles left the rail, guided correctly to the target and impacted the target and performed nominally how we expected them to and so we are very encouraged by those results,” Warnick said.
The two misses during the EMD phase of the program happened when the Army was checking “the edge of the envelope” in terms of the missile’s capability, he said.
“I think our findings are going to be the missile performed how we want it to, we don’t want to change any of the algorithms,” Warnick said. “What we would do is we would more likely offer to use a different mode for those specific engagements.”
The JAGM has multiple modes that can be selected to go up against a variety of targets. If the missile had used a different mode during the test, it would have had a higher probability of hitting the target, Warnick explained.
When the Army fields the systems, it will provide guidance for the correct mode to use when employing JAGM against certain target sets, he added.
The Army completed its limited user test in January, which included firing JAGM 10 times successfully off the rail of an Apache.
The service will conduct nine more test events in the EMD phase prior to reaching a production decision in May.
Warnick said JAGM will reach an initial operational capability in March 2019, which equates to providing 96 munitions for the stockpile. Then the Army will move to a full-rate production decision in September 2019.
The Army plans to spend a total of $1.6 billion to procure roughly 6,741 JAGM missiles across a five-year period from fiscal 2019 and 2023, according to FY19 Army budget request justification documents.
The Army’s total acquisition objective is to buy 20,303 missiles over the course of the program.
The Army will first field JAGM to Apaches and the Marine Corps’ AH-1 Zulu helicopters.
The service will expand to future platforms to include the Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system from which it has already fired a JAGM in a proof-of-concept test in the summer of 2016.
More integration work on the Gray Eagle will begin in earnest this year, Warnick said.
The Army will continue to upgrade software against emerging threats starting in FY20 running through FY39, the budget request notes.
The program was originally restructured several years ago from integrating a tri-mode seeker into the system to a dual-mode due to affordability challenges.
“As the threat and the requirements change, we will look at that next increment that would bring a tri-mode seeker and figure out the best acquisition strategy for going after that capability,” Warnick said. JAGM has an open architecture system, he added, “so there is growth capability in it and if the requirements and resources are available we will go after it.”
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.