The US Air Force said Lockheed Martin Corp’s radar-evading JASSM cruise missile successfully completed the latest round of tests deemed critical to the future of the $6 billion (R44 billion) program.
Lockheed’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile succeeded in 15 of 16 tests conducted at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Air Force spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Karen Platt told Reuters.
The company in August said it was investing tens of millions of dollars to ensure that the tests were successful. It said it aimed to ace at least 13 of 16 tests.
Platt said unofficial results showed that all four test shots launched from a B-52 bomber last Sunday were successful, ending the final round of this batch of missile testing.
Over the course of all 16 tests, she said one missile failed to detonate. There was also a missile that had to be retested because of a telemetry drop-out.
JASSM is a long-range, conventional precision missile designed to destroy fixed and moving targets.
Lockheed said the tests resulted in a 94 % success rate for the new stealthy missile, beating the Air Force’s target of 90 % by 2013. “This successful flight test verifies JASSM as a reliable weapons system,” said Lockheed spokeswoman Heather Kelly.
The Air Force in May said it could cancel the program after years of repeated technical problems if the next round of tests did not show a marked improvement in missile reliability.
The weapon was declared combat-ready five years ago and has been deployed despite several testing failures, but it is facing tougher scrutiny now that the Pentagon is re-examining weapons programs with cost overruns and technical problems.
Platt said a recent problem that occurred when the missile was tested on a B-1 bomber was determined to be an “aircraft malfunction independent of the weapon” and standard maintenance procedures had corrected the problem.
Pic: Lockheed Martin JASSM cruise missile