An agreement to co-produce two different types of anti-tank missiles
for the Army and the Marine Corps at a single manufacturing plant
promises to save the contractor and the U.S. government about $11
The co-production of these two munitions, the Army’s Javelin
and the Marine Corps’ Predator missiles, is expected to open
the door for similar cost-saving manufacturing initiatives in the
In contrast to previous missile-assembly operations, the production
of the Predator will take place on the same manufacturing line as
the Army’s Javelin anti-armor missile. Defense Department
safety regulations have prohibited such operations in the past in
order to prevent the loss of two product lines in the event of an
accident. However, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has
obtained approval to allow the co-production of the two missiles
in the Javelin manufacturing plant in Troy, Ala.
Currently, the Troy plant manufactures the Hellfire, Longbow, Javelin
and AGM-142 missiles in three primary manufacturing facilities located
on its 3,200 acre site. The plant started its manufacturing operations
with the Hellfire missile in 1994 and has produced more than 8,500
Patriot missiles for the Army.
In addition to the upcoming production of Predator, the Troy plant
is preparing to manufacture the joint air-to-surface standoff missile
(JASSM) and the theater high-altitude area defense (THAAD) missile.
Much of the success of the Troy plant can be traced to its multi-skilled
workforce that is organized into manufacturing teams. These teams
use cell manufacturing and a continuous-flow process to achieve
high levels of quality and efficiency in their products, including
a yield rate of about 98 percent for new missiles.
New processes at the Troy plant are implemented in part through
Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency’s (DARPA) affordable multi-missile manufacturing
(AM3) program. AM3 encourages the use of technology and advanced
manufacturing processes in the production of missiles. Lockheed
Martin’s AM3 initiatives include the development of flexible
tooling and the use of virtual manufacturing software that allows
managers to develop and analyze different manufacturing layouts
for their production facilities.
It was through the use of virtual manufacturing that Lockheed Martin
was able to develop a plan to manufacture the Predator using existing
space and capacity in the Javelin production facility.
The co-production agreement stands in contrast to previous U.S.
military missile manufacturing operations and Defense Department
regulation 4145.26M, which prohibits the joining of adjacent operating
lines of one or more programs and has been intended to ensure the
survivability of one or more lines in the case of an accident in
Lockheed Martin officials believe it is time for the Pentagon to
develop a new safety standard that would allow the co-production
of missiles in its plant. They feel strongly that they have developed
a safe and reliable manufacturing process for Javelin and Predator
that will save time and money.
Military officials share the optimism about the co-production effort.
Daren Holderfield, an industrial specialist, at the Army’s
Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., said he
believes that “co-production is going to be a reality in the
future of the defense industry. Sharing facilities and co-production
efforts are already underway at the sub-assembly levels and initiatives
such as the combined guidance system manufacturing at Lockheed Martin’s
plant in Ocala, Fla., are already achieving significant cost savings.
The next step in this effort is to accomplish final missile assembly
in a co-production environment.”
The Javelin and Predator are similar weapons from the family of
small, hand-launched, anti-armor missiles and are a natural fit
for co-production. The Javelin has been produced since 1995 and
more than 5,000 missiles have been delivered to the Army. In addition,
the plant has contracts to produce an additional 11,000 Javelins,
and there is potential for future production of 30,000 more weapons.
The Javelin is shoulder-fired and weighs 22.3 kg. The weapon uses
an advanced infrared seeker and a fire-and-forget guidance system.
It has been sold in small quantities to some U.S. allies.
For the production of Predator for the Marine Corps, Lockheed Martin
is negotiating a contract for 385 missiles, but there is potential
to eventually manufacture up to 50,000 weapons for Marines and allies.
Although the two products have no common parts, they are similar
enough to allow the use of common flexible tooling on the manufacturing
line. Several Javelin test stations will be used as multiple test
stations, capable of testing both missiles. The Predator and Javelin
will use the same missile assembly conveyors and transport carts,
as they move through the manufacturing line, and they will share
the walk-in ovens and racks used to speed the curing process on
There is a common paint station, weigh station and container station
for the packaging of the final missile. The same labor force, already
manufacturing the Javelin, will assemble the Predator.
This co-production process was tested and improved in an actual
demonstration, in which 12 Predator missiles were manufactured in
the Javelin facility in the summer of 2000. The Troy plant had to
modify its production layout to conduct this demonstration, which
was observed by Lockheed Martin and U.S. military officials. During
this demonstration, the Troy plant was not only able to verify the
process for assembling Predator, but also was able to analyze the
potential risks posed by producing two missiles in the same facility.
According to Mike Woodson, Predator project officer at the Marine
Corps Systems Command, the plant “has met the standards of
Marine Corps safety officials and everything is on track for the
co-production of the Predator and Javelin systems.”
Much of the evaluation of the operation has hinged around Lockheed
Martin’s ability to safely achieve high quality standards
for both missiles in the same manufacturing plant. In an evaluation
of the 2000 production demonstration, Lockheed Martin evaluated
risks associated with conducting the wrong test on a component,
curing components at the wrong temperature, interchanging components
between the two weapons and using the wrong paint on a weapon.
They sought ways to mitigate the risks of a mistake. For example,
the plant decided to dedicate curing ovens to each weapon to prevent
curing a weapon at the wrong temperature. In addition, they were
able to identify that the hardware configurations and packaging
configurations of the two missiles were different enough to prevent
installation of a component in the wrong missile.
Lockheed Martin will use color-coding in the storage areas and
on the assembly lines to physically separate the two products as
they flow through the assembly process.
Obtaining approval for the co-production required two steps. First,
the Defense Contracting Management Activity (DCMA) granted a co-production
waiver for the Predator and Javelin programs after stringent review
by safety officials last year. Second, a formal request to change
rule 4145.26M was submitted to the Defense Department Explosive
Safety Board (DDESB) in July. Final approval was expected in early
Changes in the regulation will open the door for more munitions
co-production efforts in the future. In the meantime, the Javelin
and Predator co-production will continue under the waiver.
Lockheed Martin plans to complete facility and production line
changeover to accommodate the two missiles this month. The engineering
manufacturing and development phase for Predator is scheduled for
completion by the end of 2001. Once this milestone is reached, full-scale
co-production would begin in 2002.
The initial quantities of Predator in 2002 will be quite small
compared to the number of Javelins manufactured. But as the number
of Javelin orders under current contracts decreases in future years,
the manufacturing capacity will be used for the growing requirement
for the Predator.
Col. John Weinzettle, project manager for Javelin at Redstone Arsenal,
said, “The co-production effort, in theory, also will reduce
costs for the Javelin program since overhead costs will not inflate
the unit cost of the Javelin as production quantities are decreased
in future years. Instead, overhead costs in the manufacturing facility
will be offset by an increasing number of Predator missiles being
assembled on the same production line.”
The co-production effort is expected to save Lockheed Martin and
the U.S. government $7.1 million in overhead and related costs.
The savings are achieved by reducing overhead expenses—utility
costs by $4.2 million and government oversight by $500,000. Also,
the effort will reduce support costs by $2.1 million, direct tooling
by $100,000 and remote communication equipment by $200,000. In addition
to these direct savings, the company will avoid paying $4.4 million,
which is what it would have cost to build and equip a separate manufacturing
facility for Predator, if co-production had not been approved.