By Eddie C. Riley
The first-production Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) rolled out at the right price, on time and exceeding expectations as a result of the Navy's way of doing business known as "acquisition reform."
During a July 8 ceremony at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Navy and Air Force officials from the Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft Programs (PEO (T)), the Pentagon and the fleet accepted the advanced missile from Larry Schmidt, vice president of Strike Weapon Systems Division, Raytheon Defense System, the program's industry partner. Rear Adm. Jeff Cook, PEO (T), signed the Defense Department Form 250 formally accepting the first Air-to-Ground Missile (AGM)-154A, which is compatible with eight aircraft in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force inventory. The "standoff" capability of the weapon allows these aircraft to remain outside the enemy threat area, up to more than 40 miles, and deliver the weapon accurately on a target.
Representing the program's two threshold aircraft, a Navy F/A-18 Hornet and an Air Force F-16 flanked the official party and 300-plus JSOW program team members and other distinguished guests present at the ceremony.
"It should come as no surprise to any of us that the JSOW Program is unfolded on cost, on schedule and meeting or exceeding all performance requirements," Cook said. "In fact, these efficiencies have allowed JSOW to be the first weapon any of us can ever remember to be deployed nine months before arrival of production configuration weapons, and without technical support of any kind, I might add." The operator-friendly test models were deployed aboard the USS Nimitz last year and are now deployed on the USS Eisenhower.
"JSOW's modular design with the ability to easily integrate new payloads into the common truck design will allow the weapon to grow and respond to evolving requirements far into the future," Cook added. "With the inherent reliability built into the weapon, and backed up by a 20-year, 'bumper-to-bumper' warranty, JSOW will be around to positively influence the outcome of conflicts for many, many years to come." The JSOW is designed to replace Vietnam-era glide bombs, and other weapons that have been in inventory for at least 25 years. The goal is to get rid of multiple, aging weapons and go to a single weapon capable of multiple functions that comes from a single logistics management pipeline.
Cook asked members of the JSOW team to stand and help him symbolically turn over the first production unit to the customer, Rear Adm. "Carlos" Johnson, head of Aviation Plans and Requirements for the Navy at the Pentagon.
"On behalf of the Chief of Naval Operations ... We accept this weapon clearly as a reminder to our potential foes that we are moving into the new millennium right now, and we can put people at risk with greater lethality than we ever have before. This is a real revolution in warfare," Johnson said.
"We don't want to put any of our young men and women at risk any more than we have to. These type weapons give us increased standoff and lethality. The asymmetrical world of today means that you don't know where that next threat wants to come from and you, as Teddy Roosevelt, want to have the biggest sticks on the block, and, these are the biggest sticks on the block," Johnson added.
Johnson urged the media to spread the word to potential adversaries to "think twice about (aggression) because we can get to you before you can get to us," he said. "The growth potential is there and only the enemy will determine where and what we will do with this weapon in the future."
Vice Adm. John Mazach, Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, accepted the JSOW on behalf of the fleet. "My remarks will not be long because, quite frankly, I have the most work to do. Those who've (spoken) before me have been working on this (program) for a long time and for that I'm grateful. For those of the folks who work in the fleet, who I have anything to do with, we have only begun our work ... Training rounds are being put to good use. We have deployed JSOW already, and there are youngsters who are as talented as I have ever seen and been around working on how to indeed employ this weapon," he said.
Mazach continued to talk about some of the other benefits JSOW allows, calling it "truly a multipurpose weapon." He mentioned value added such as enhancing the precision strike capability, easing the requirement for support aircraft on sorties and the ability to pursue multiple targets off of one platform. The F/A-18 and F-16 can carry four of the 15-foot-long vehicles per sortie with different payloads locked on different targets. The performance of JSOW in the fleet will allow American aviation forces to "expose fewer of those good-guy airplanes and those good guys who fly those airplanes to bad-guy threats," Mazach said.
His ending remarks centered on the "jointness" and interoperability of JSOW. "We know that it (the commonality) increases the affordability of this weapon and we know that it allows us (in the Navy and Marine Corps) to sing from the same sheet of music as our brothers in the United States Air Force. That fact is not lost to those of us who will use the weapon, for it is the weapon that makes us deadly.
"As a gracious recipient of JSOW, as a representative of the fleet (along with others at the ceremony), I say thanks to Raytheon and congratulations to all of you on the industry/government/ military team who made this happen. I can assure you that the revolution in strike warfare is here," Mazach said.
PMA-201, the JSOW Program Office, has overall responsibility for coordination of JSOW development, test and evaluation and production as deemed required by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. This requirement was validated in 1986 as a Navy-only program, but was designated a joint-service program, under Navy leadership, following Desert Storm in 1992 when the Air Force saw a need for the stand-off, counter-armor capability.
During an interview after the ceremony, Capt. John Scheffler, the JSOW Program deputy program manager, addressed some of the overall aspects of program and elaborated on some of the admirals' praises.
First, Scheffler outlined the variants as follows:
-- The baseline variant (AGM-154A) the one just delivered, is designed to go against soft and area-type targets, for example, things like vehicles, air defense sites, aircraft, trucks and troops in the open - those types of targets.
-- The BLU-108 variant (AGM-154B) adds effectiveness against a vehicular column, which would be mixed vehicles including things up to heavy tanks, armored personnel carriers and trucks.
-- The Unitary variant (AGM-154C), the Navy-only variant, is designed with a 500-pound warhead to go against buildings, bridges, ships, those types of targets that require a large concentrated blast and fragmentation as opposed to a dispersed cluster payload from the baseline or BLU-108 variant.
Following up on Mazach's talk of the work he and those under his command have to do regarding training, Scheffler said, "One of the key benefits of the weapon is the ability to reduce the amount of time required to train aircrews on how to use the weapon. We've had aircrews that could literally sit down after 30 minutes of instruction, plan a mission, take that mission to the aircraft, fly the mission and achieve success. It's that simple. It's designed with the operator in mind. It's very simple to operate, and yet gives you a very robust capability of terms of target effectiveness."
The captain also talked about the affordability Mazach mention with the following comments on the budgetary value of JSOW. The program office plans to procure, through 2014, 23,800 weapons at a projected average unit cost of about $160,000 a piece.
"Compared to some of the other weapons existing today, if you had to buy them in today's dollars, it would probably be similar cost. But JSOW gives you the added benefit of the increased survivability of the delivery aircraft. If you consider losing one aircraft that cost $35 or $40 million, it's well worth the investment to buy several weapons at $160,000 a piece," Scheffler said.
"The fleet aviators are absolutely ecstatic about the capabilities that it brings and the increases in survivability and flexibility that it gives, and therefore, I think it has great acceptance in the fleet even though it hasn't really even hit the fleet yet," Scheffler added.
In a JSOW Program news release, comments from Air Force and Navy pilots coincide with the admiral's comments about exposure to enemy fire.
"We're going to be able to stand off from the target, launch this thing and then leave before we enter into harm's way, and let the weapon do the work for a change and hit a target spot on. This capability is going to be a tremendous boost for our combat fleet," said Air Force Maj. Paul Krause, 39th Test Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Last updated: 7.23.98