The future selection of a new air-to-surface, guided cruise missile
by the Australian Royal Air Force-expected to be announced during
the next six months to a year-will not involve the big dollars usually
associated with a major defense purchase. But it is being scrutinized
by defense analysts and contractors because of its perceived significance
in the global arms markets.
The use of standoff, precision-guided air-launched cruise missiles
is expected to grow worldwide, as military commanders seek capabilities
to strike enemy targets without putting pilots at risk, experts
The Australian government currently is evaluating proposals for
a so-called follow-on standoff weapon, which will be launched from
F/A-18 Hornets, P-3 Orions and F-111 fighter aircraft. The Royal
Australian Air Force is the only one in the world that still operates
the F-111, which was retired by the U.S. Air Force in 1996.
Australia's geography makes it an especially demanding customer.
Not only does that nation cover an estimated 10 percent of the earth's
surface, but its military leaders want to be able to conduct operations
at long ranges from Australia's coast. Likely targets could be as
far away as 1,000 nautical miles.
The missile competition in Australia is "very closely watched
at the moment," said Doug Richardson, editor of Jane's Missiles
and Rockets, based in the United Kingdom.
The Australian missile buy will be small, said Richardson in an
interview, but it is "expected to be quite a driver in the
market ... A number of countries will be looking at which way the
Australians go." Even though the exact number is classified,
Richardson estimated that Australia will acquire about 150 air-launched
"There is a large potential market for all forms of air-to-surface
weapons," he said. The likely buyers are those nations that
"face the possibility of a crisis that will require air power-a
national crisis, or involvement in peacekeeping operations,"
said Richardson. "Those nations are going to be in the market
for long-range air-to-surface missiles, to reduce the risks for
their air crews."
So far, it appears that, at least, five industry teams will be
in contention for Australia's award.
From the United States, industry giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing
and Raytheon have entered the competition. The other likely rivals
are from Germany and Israel.
Lockheed's system is the joint air-to-surface standoff missile
(JASSM), which the company is developing for the U.S. Air Force.
The U.S. Navy officially is in the program, but has yet to commit
JASSM has a range of more than 200 nautical miles and was designed
to strike air defense sites, bunkers, buildings and bridges, relying
on GPS satellite coordinates for guidance. The company expects to
build at least 1,100 missiles for the Air Force, said Richard Caime,
vice president for strike weapons at Lockheed Martin Missiles and
Fire Control, in Orlando, Fla.
According to Caime, the Australian Air Force probably will select
two or three teams later this year. Each will receive a $3 million
to $5 million study contract to firm up the proposal. After a six-month
to a year-long study phase, Australia could select a winner by the
fall of 2001, or early in 2002.
During a briefing to reporters, last April, Lockheed's manager
of business development, Gregory A. Howard, noted that the Australians
specifically had requested a man-in-the-loop capability so that
a human operator would be able to operate the missile after launch.
The U.S. Air Force JASSM flies autonomously and was not designed
with a man-in-the-loop feature, said Howard. If Australia selected
JASSM, he said, there would be negotiations on how to fund the development
costs of adding that capability. Howard emphasized that, regardless
of what happens with the Australian project, the price of JASSM
for the U.S. Air Force will not be affected.
Cost is a top priority in the JASSM program. The missile is under
strict cost guidelines, in order to meet a price tag of less than
$500,000 per unit. The program was set up in the aftermath of a
failed project for a tri-service cruise missile, which suffered
from skyrocketing costs, and was canceled in the early 1990s, when
it was determined that each missile would end up costing more than
a million and a half dollars. JASSM was designed to fulfill that
requirement, but at a lower cost. Lockeed became the prime contractor
"The $500,000 price is no accident. In fact, it is the most
important requirement we have," said Air Force program manager
Terry Little, who recently retired.
The U.S. government approved JASSM for export to Australia, Canada,
and NATO allies.
For the Australian competition, Lockheed Martin hopes to benefit
from its partial ownership of a local firm, called RLM, which performs
systems integration and engineering work, said Caime. That would
help "satisfy our offset obligations."
The uncertainty of the U.S. Navy's role in JASSM, interestingly
enough, is attributed to the service's full-scale commitment to
another missile, the standoff land attack missile-expanded response
(SLAM-ER), which is made by The Boeing Company's missile division,
in St. Louis.
SLAM-ER also happens to be a contender for the Australian award.
David Sanders, a representative from the naval program office,
told reporters that the Navy "continues to look for ways to
accelerate SLAM-ER, and then transition to JASSM." So it is
unlikely, he said, that the Navy will buy JASSM for at least five
years. Its goal is to procure 700 SLAM-ERs.
"The SLAM-ER is participating in the Australian program,"
said Bob Algarotti, spokesman for Boeing Aircraft and Missiles.
The company recently received clearance from the U.S. Navy to move
into full-scale production. It currently is under contract to produce
Algarotti said that, for the Australian project, Boeing will work
with its subsidiary, Boeing Australia Ltd.
The GPS-guided SLAM-ER is an upgraded version of the SLAM missile,
which was used extensively in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It was
designed to strike high-value, fixed-land targets and ships at sea
or in port, at standoff ranges greater than 150 nautical miles.
SLAM-ER was first deployed in Navy carrier groups in mid-1999, and
launched from the F/A-18C/D Hornet.
Meanwhile, The Raytheon Company's missile division, in Tucson,
Ariz., is proposing the joint standoff weapon (JSOW) for the Australian
competition. Raytheon spokeswoman Colleen M. Niccum said the company's
bid is based on a powered version of JSOW, along with the high-speed
anti-radar missile (HARM) for the anti-radar portion of the requirement.
JSOW is a family of GPS-guided air-to-ground weapons designed for
both the U.S. Navy and the Air Force. It is a modular system that
can accommodate various submunitions and unitary warheads, non-lethal
payloads, terminal sensors and different modes of propulsion.
The glide, launch-and-leave weapon, Navy officials said, satisfies
the standoff requirement for attacking targets from outside enemy
"There is a lot of interest from allies [in the JSOW program]
... We are hoping to get sales from allies overseas, said Capt.
Robert Wirt, Navy program manager for joint weapons. During a briefing
to industry representatives last April, Wirt said that 66 JSOW weapons
had been employed since January 1999, on F/A-18 Hornets and F-16
Falcons. The weapon also is being adapted for the B-2 stealth bomber,
The German missile that will compete in Australia is called MAW
Taurus. It is now in development for the German Air Force by Taurus
Systems GmbH, a Sweden-based joint venture of the German conglomerate
DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG (two-thirds), and the Swedish firm
Bofors Missiles AB (one-third).
Mats Fagerberg, a marketing executive with Taurus Systems GmbH,
told a conference of the Precision Strike Association in April that
the program is on track to deliver missiles to the German Air Force
Taurus has a range of nearly 200 nautical miles, said Fagerberg.
It flies autonomously in a fire-and-forget mode, he explained. There
are plans, he said, to develop a future Taurus 2000, which will
have a range of more than 1,100 miles.
Fagerberg would not disclose the value of his company's contract
with the German Air Force. But he said that "cost is within
the upper tier of JASSM." One U.S. missile expert estimated
that the Taurus will be in the $700,000 range. A development contract
awarded in 1998 involved full-scale development and production of
28 test missiles for Germany.
The GPS-guided Taurus can be launched from the Eurofighter, the
Tornado, the F/A-18, the JAS 39 Gripen, the F-16 (when equipped
with the autonomous free flight dispenser system) and the F-111,
said Fagerberg. The system, he added, possesses a modular avionics
system, an infrared seeker and a turbo-fan engine that enables speeds
greater than 0.8 Mach.
DaimlerChrysler officials have been trying to sell the Taurus missile
to several western states. But one of the most promising candidates,
Italy, abandoned the procurement of Taurus in favor of the Storm-Shadow
Anglo-French missile, which won a highly-contested competition for
a conventionally armed standoff missile, or CASOM.
From Israel, the missile likely to compete in Australia will be
developed by Rafael Armament Development Authority, and it will
be a variant of the AGM-142 Popeye missile, according to U.S. sources.
Rafael USA representative Eli Yitzhaki confirmed that the existing
version of Popeye is not in the Australian competition, but he could
not provide further details. Rafael officials in Israel were not
available for comment.
The AGM-142 air-to-ground standoff electro-optical missile relies
on inertial navigation and has been in service with the Israeli
and the U.S. air forces.
Steve Zaloga, a missile analyst with the Teal Group, in Stamford,
Conn., said the Israelis have developed an extended-range version
of Popeye, dubbed the "Popeye Turbo."
Rafael had offered that system for the Anglo-French CASOM competition
in 1997, but lost, so the Popeye Turbo disappeared from the scene,
said Zaloga. "It was never advertised. But it is possible that
it now is being resurrected for the Australian competition."
Even though it is called "Popeye Turbo," this missile
is drastically different from the AGM-142, said Zaloga. It is "substantially
larger," he added, and has a turbojet, rather than a rocket
engine. The AGM-142 most likely is not adequate for the Australian
competition, Zaloga suggested, because it does not have the standoff
The winner of the CASOM competition, the Storm Shadow, is not competing
in Australia, said Sheldon Hind, a spokesman for BAE Systems, in
the United Kingdom. Storm Shadow is made by a consortium called
Matra BAE Dynamics. France's version of Storm Shadow is called SCALP
EG. Italy also is buying the system. Matra BAE received a contract
valued at $1.6 billion for the production of 2,000 missiles for
the three nations.
Zaloga speculated that the reason that Storm Shadow is not participating
in Australia has to do with its price, which probably is much higher
than JASSM. He cited studies that put the cost of Storm Shadow at
more than $1 million per missile.
Deliveries to the British and French governments will begin in
2002, said Nigel Slade, senior technical advisor for Matra BAE Dynamics.
Asked about the price of Storm Shadow, Slade said "It's not
as cheap as JASSM, but we see it as being O.K."
The Storm Shadow Scalp EG adopted the basic airframe design from
the French Apache air-to-air missile, and it has the same turbojet
propulsion and flight control system. The Storm Shadow will be used
by the U.K. Royal Air Force in the Eurofighter, the Tornado and
the Harrier aircraft. France will use the Scalp EG in the Mirage
2000 and the Rafale fighter jets.
Slade noted that the United Kingdom is looking for a new carrier-borne
fighter aircraft, which could end up being the U.S. Joint Strike
Fighter. For that reason, the Storm Shadow program is planning to
deliver missiles for external carriage by the Joint Strike Fighter
in about 2012.
Zaloga agreed with other experts that the Australian award probably
will be for a small quantity of missiles. "But the competition
is being closely watched because it could spark the interest of
other Pacific Rim nations in purchasing air-to-ground missiles,"
he observed. Many of those nations typically have not been interested
in the long-range strike mission, said Zaloga, and have purchased
mostly fighter planes and air-to-air missiles. "An Australian
buy could change that."
In a document that was published in Australia's government web
site, Air Force Wing Commander Paul Hislop articulated some of the
potential foreign policy implications for Australia if it went ahead
with a long-range missile buy. Australia is a member of the Missile
Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an international treaty that aims
to prevent the proliferation of advanced missile technology. The
regime comprises a set of self-imposed controls on the export of
advanced missile technology, specifically those systems capable
of delivering a 300-pound or greater payload to a range of at least
Hislop worried about how an Australian missile purchase would be
perceived in the region. "As long as cruise missiles remain
outside the region, the excuses of being a 'good international citizen'
and 'protecting the region from proliferation of destabilizing weapons'
could be used by Australia," he said, to justify being a member
of MTCR. But if Australia acquires long-range cruise missiles, Hislop
wrote, "regional nations could, with some justification, level
charges of hypocrisy, with concomitant impact on Australia's political
standing within the region."