Pentagon 'green-lights' munitions modification

by Jake Swinson
Air Armament Center Public Affairs

04/10/01 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) - The Department of Defense has given the "green light" to begin full-rate production of the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser here.

The WCMD is a tail kit that can be installed on existing "dumb" cluster munitions to transform them into "smart," accurate, adverse weather weapons.

This is a major milestone because the program achieved the clearance to proceed ahead of schedule and below budget, and exceeded Air Combat Command's accuracy and performance requirements, WCMD officials said.

The tail kits will be used on the CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition, the CBU-89 Gator Mine System and the CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon.

The Air Force eventually plans to buy 40,000 tail kits with 30,000 slated for the CBU-87 and 5,000 each for the CBU-89 and 97. These weapons will be integrated on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-117 Nighthawk, B-52 Stratofortress, Joint Strike Fighter and perhaps the F-22 Raptor.

"The WCMD gives our combat crews a significant new capability," said Lt. Col. Jeff Severs, WCMD development system manager. "With existing 'dumb' cluster weapons to be effective, aircrews needed to deliver the munitions from low altitudes, making the aircrews extremely vulnerable to enemy air defenses.

"In Desert Storm, when aircrews tried launching these cluster weapons from mid to high altitudes, (the munitions) were blown off course by winds or wandered off course due to launch alignment or ballistic errors," he said. "Using an inertial guidance unit, WCMD solves the problem by allowing very high altitude delivery...demonstrated up to 45,000 feet, in any weather."

The program was started in 1994 as one of four selected Air Force "lead" programs - pilot programs established to demonstrate potential benefits from acquisition streamlining initiatives.

In setting the program's initial direction, Clark Fiester, Air Force service acquisition executive, designated WCMD as "the model for Air Force streamlining," giving program office personnel wide latitude to recommend methods for streamlining that would foster a better, faster and cheaper acquisition.

At program inception, the projected procurement cost for the program was $1.3 billion, based on a program office estimated unit price of $25,000 per unit.

However, through acquisition reform measures, commercial business practices and an innovative "fly-off" test program, the WCMD prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, and the WCMD Systems Program Office delivered an average unit price in 1994 of about $9,000. Between 1994 and present, this tremendous reduction allowed the program office to return more than $600 million of budgeted, approved WCMD procurement funding for use on other programs.

"We are absolutely ecstatic about the recent ... decision," Severs said. "A normal acquisition program of this kind takes 10 to 15 years to reach full-rate production. WCMD did it in five and exceeded the warfighters' requirements. In fact, we have already delivered (enough) units to achieve 'required assets available' at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and Barksdale AFB, La., - establishing the Air Force's first operational WCMD bomber and fighter capabilities.

"They are combat ready," he said. "When we got the approval to go into full-rate (production), we signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for $83 million for just under 6,000 tail kits under the first full-rate lot."

The tail units are expected to be delivered Air Force-wide by the summer of 2002.