Friday, February 9, 2018

Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Status

Thank goodness for the Pentagon’s DOT&E (Director, Operational Testing & Evaluation) group!  The Navy is pushing ahead, hard, with the AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) which is a replacement for the AGM-88B/C High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).  However, in their zeal to field the missile they are glossing over or ignoring serious performance issues although you wouldn’t know it from the speed with which they’re moving ahead with the program.

DOT&E, on the other hand, has found the AARGM Block 1 to be “not operationally suitable”.  Here’s some specifics, quoted from the DOT&E 2017 Annual Report.

·     The Navy evaluated the current version of Block 1 software for only 24.0 hours of the 234.09 hour test.

·     AARGM Block 1 software demonstrated improved capabilities over the previous Block 0 software version but also demonstrated effectiveness shortfalls in key capabilities of reliability and accuracy.

·     Of the eight live fire events, six were successful engagements and two were unsuccessful because the missiles did not impact anything of tactical significance. The analysis of the two unsuccessful events revealed classified deficiencies.  …  - The Program Office made adjustments to correct the problems but did not verify the effectiveness of the corrections with additional live fire events before fielding Block 1.

·     AARGM Block 1 demonstrated a slight decline in reliability compared to Block 0, which failed to satisfy reliability requirements during IOT&E

·     The Navy attempted to streamline the AARGM Block 1 FOT&E test design by conducting developmental and operational testing simultaneously …  - This is the same concurrency that has plagued every other Navy/Military program.  Why won’t they learn?  How stupid are they?

·     Cybersecurity testing was inadequate to assess AARGM survivability against cyber-attacks.

There’s more but you get the picture.

Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile

Now, here’s the damning statement (as if what you just read wasn’t damning enough!).

“The Navy released Block 1 software in July 2017 without completing operational testing and without adequately addressing performance and software stability problems discovered during Block 1 testing.”

There you have it.  The Navy has put untested software out in the field with known problems.  They just don’t care.  People are going to die using this weapon and the Navy just doesn’t care.


  1. Don't worry. Under Secretary of Defense for AT&L Ellen Lord (former CEO of Textron) is going to push milestone authority for major programs to the military services.

    So since DOT&E isn't in the services chain of command the Services can blow them off and just keep pumping money to the Contractors for failing systems and cushy retirement jobs.

    We are soooooooo screwed!

  2. " This is the same concurrency that has plagued every other Navy/Military program. Why won’t they learn? How stupid are they?"

    At this point, I think the only thing that makes sense is you replace 'Stupid' with 'corrupt'.

    They don't care because A) the contractors are making money, and when they do B) the government folks get money and the people on the staff can C) get sweet post retirement jobs.


    1. You know, if they were doing this only for reasons of money and post-retirement jobs, I think they'd have got worried and started trying to look better by now. I think the problem may be one of the really powerful motivating forces.


      If concurrency is viewed as THE way to get your project through quickly, and everyone else is doing it, it's really hard not to follow suit. Military organisations regard conforming to group norms as pretty important, and tend to move officers between jobs on a fairly short cycle.

      All of this makes it pretty easy for an officer who's spending a couple of years on a weapon development project to find themselves needing to conform to the current way of doing things, unless they want a world of grief, having to cope with lots of technical stuff that they don't understand, and at risk of a bad performance report. You can see how they'd swallow their misgivings and go along with the prevailing culture.

      Political oversight has created these problems, and it will take political initatives to fix them.

    2. "if they were doing this only for reasons of money and post-retirement jobs, I think they'd have got worried and started trying to look better by now. I think the problem may be one of the really powerful motivating forces.


      I agree with you that the simple explanation of post-retirement jobs is too simplistic and is not the root of the problem. I'm sure it's a factor and it looks terrible when it happens but it's not the main problem.

      That said, I don't know what the main problem is. The level of institutional stupidity exhibited by the Navy is unbelievable. If you made a movie or wrote a book about an organization with this degree of institutional stupidity, no one would watch/read it because it would be too believable.

      I think you touched on one aspect of the real problem and that is short assignment cycles. There undoubtedly is great pressure to get in, make some apparent progress whether it's good progress or not, and then move on with a star in your fitness evaluation.

      There is zero accountability in Navy acquisition programs and that has to be a major factor.

  3. At least EMALs they tried it enough know it fails every 440 times. You know, because planes falling off carriers is bad optics. Missiles missing, who cares? we only test a dozen and who can tell if they work in a semi real scenario. The Navy just a got another pot of money, it should only be used for testing.

  4. CNO,

    Given the multitude of negative news out there on so many aspects of the USN, I was wondering if you could, when you have time, do an an entry on things the USN is doing right, or at least things which seem to be be heading in the right direction. eg current hardware, policies, progress of future weapons in a timely matter etc.

    This is simply to see if anything IS going right in the USN.


    1. This is the danger in reading this blog. It's easy to get the impression that there is absolutely nothing right about the Navy. Unfortunately, that impression is more true than false. The Navy is a hot mess right now.

      What's right? Not a lot, sadly. Here's a few things that are less bad than others.

      -the LRASM looks to be a decent (though not great) missile

      -the Navy has put a bit more emphasis on surface warfare training of late although they've gone about it poorly

      -the Aegis/Standard system is the class of the world although, to be fair, it's never been tested so who really knows?

      -the submarine force has problems but is still the most powerful sub force in the world

      -though saddled with a short range, mediocre air wing, our carriers still offer a lot of combat power in a mobile, survivable package

      -the prosecution of the McCain and Fitzgerald COs is a step in the right direction for accountability along with a couple of the Admirals who got canned.

      What do you think are some Navy success stories?

    2. I don't know about success stories, but there are perhaps some solid decisions.

      - The Virginia class submarine seems to be scandal free. No issues with tech, planning, cost overruns.

      - Argueably the decision to cut the Zumwalt to 3 units, and continue the Arleigh Burke Flight IIa and now III build. Unlike the concurrency madness, the AB has continued to evolve. This is not to say the AB is the best ship available. For example the Zumwalt has electric engines which can divert power to any system, whereas the Ab uses gas turbine which can only use power to drive the propellors. And of course they do not produce the large amounts of power the Zumwalt's do.

      - I'd argue the quad packed ESSM's are a good weapon. VLS compatible, lots more defensive missiles, argueably more useful than the SM2/6's as it's difficult to detect long range missiles at long range, and many engagements are likely to be within visual range.

      That's it for me. I don't have the same depth of knowledge you do CNO, so I can't think of much more at this time. ( Will probably think of some the moment I press publish though ;) )

      I think the only way the USN will get it's mindset back into a war setting, is with a real war.



  5. For info. My understanding In January Navy announced the awarded contract to OrbitalATK, now NG, for the updated AGM-88 ER Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range, IOC 2022/23 said to give extra 20 to 50% range, will be repackaged with new body so as to fit within the F-35C’s internal weapons bay, the AGM-88E is too long and its fins make it too wide. AGM-88 ER will change the existing control surfaces and mid-body wings to a new tail for flight control and strakes along the side for stability and enhanced range.

    Interesting to note how many fighter/attack aircraft lost recently, Houthis shot down a Saudi F-15S January 7 in Yemen, Russian lost a Su-25 last week in Syria and yesterday an Israeli F-16 shot down in northern Israel from Syrian AA fire.

    1. "Interesting to note how many fighter/attack aircraft lost recently"

      Nick, you comment reflects one of my overarching themes which is that we've forgotten what war is. While there have been a few losses recently, consider the loss rate. During that same time and during the extended time prior, there must have been thousands of sorties by all the various actors in the region. Out of those thousands of sorties there have been three or four losses. That's a loss rate of well under 1% - actually, near zero percent. We're talking commercial air travel loss rates! Compare this to WWII where loss rates were often as much as 10% per strike mission!

      I'm not singling out your comment - just using it as an example to keep pounding on the "forgotten what war is" theme.

      Rather than noting how many aircraft have been shot down recently, I would note how few have been shot down in contested air space since all this started. It's remarkable, really.

    2. My thoughts are that it appears to show how vulnerable fighter/attack aircraft are to AA fire, the Houthis, Syrian insurgents and Syrian Army have very limited AA assets and yet were able to shoot down three state of the art fighters in the last month.

      If fighters were attacking against a peer enemy losses could be very high.

    3. "1% - actually, near zero percent." = Complacency among pilots + bad luck

    4. Nick, this is reminiscent of the 1999 shoot down of the F-117 stealth aircraft in the Kosovo conflict. Everyone got all excited and bothered by it but, in the end, we lost 2 aircraft out of 32,000 sorties, if I remember correctly. If that's a loss rate we can't live with, then we shouldn't be there to begin with.

      If you shoot enough missiles and bullets, sooner or later you'll hit something. It's just statistics and law of averages. How many attempts were made to get the three kills you mention? Of course, no one knows but I suspect hundreds of attempts, probably thousands.

      It doesn't take a state of the art defensive system to shoot down a state of the art aircraft. Just like a guy with a Revolutionary War musket can kill a modern soldier, so too can older missiles and guns shoot down a modern aircraft with enough tries and if the aircraft makes a mistake.

      Finally, this is not a peer scenario, as you note. If it were, the defenders would have more modern anti-aircraft systems. On the other hand, the attackers would be using electronic warfare aircraft (Growler types) and anti-aircraft suppression, neither of which seems to be in use. So, it cuts both ways.

      Just as the F-117 was shot down in part because it was stupid (flying the same route repeatedly which allowed the AA missiles and radar to set up for it), so too will the aircraft over Syria eventually suffer losses from repeatedly flying low (which is what every video and description I see shows) and allowing every person with an old fashioned gun or Stinger type weapon to take a shot.

      Again, if 3 losses out of thousands (maybe tens of thousands?) of sorties seems to demonstrate vulnerability to you then you need to examine historical air-to-ground combat loss rates and rethink your idea of vulnerable.

  6. My view is colored by reading Pierre Clostermann's book the Big Show, Free French fighter pilot with Brits, relying on memory as many years since reading it. Nearing the end of WWII Allies had nothing to touch the German Me 262s as too fast and were a major irritant, Luftwaffe was in state of near collapse by then with few experianced pilots and limited fuel but made it a priority to install AA defense of airfield to protect the Me 262s . As Me 262 were nearly untouchable in sky Pierre Clostermann was part of eight a/c attack to catch the Me 262s on the ground at airfield, flying a Tempest 400+mph fighter, one of the most powerful Allied fighters at that time, with its four 200rpm 20mm Hispano cannon for firepower, they went in on the deck at max. speed all guns blazing, he was only one of two pilots to come out the other side. An isolated example and not typical but shows what peer AA fire is capable of.

    1. There are no end of examples of aircraft flying into the teeth of enemy defenses and getting shot down! Of course, one has to question the wisdom in doing so! The now-ancient and ubiquitous ZSU is still one of the most lethal anti-aircraft weapons ever built - it just needs aircraft willing to fly into its range.

      A better example to "color" your view is, perhaps, the U.S. Desert Storm experience where F-117s overflew one of the most extensive anti-aircraft defense systems ever devised and did so with near impunity.

      You might also check out the actual loss rates of U.S. aircraft over North Vietnam. The SAM success rate was on the order of 1%.

      Historically, SAM success rates across all nations, all weapons, and all generations is very, very poor.

  7. Finally a worth controversy to carry on the legacy of the Mark 14 Torpedo. If the weapon does not work it's because the pilots fired them wrong.


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