July 3, 2006:
For the last two years, the U.S. Department of Defense has been trying to cancel work on the JCM (Joint Common Missile). But the many companies who would benefit from the development and manufacture of this missile have bought friends in Congress, and each year, the project is kept alive with just enough money ($30-35 million) to keep development barely active.
Originally, JCM was to be a replacement for the Hellfire anti-tank missile. The 108 pound Hellfire , used by helicopters and UAVs, has been in service since 1985, and some 76,000 have been built. But the JCM design was becoming too expensive, and many officers believed that the existing Hellfire II and heavier (670 pound) Maverick and SDB (250 pound Small Diameter smart Bomb) covered all the missions the services need to handle. The case against JCM also reminded everyone of the importance of the guidance systems for missiles, and the ease with which missiles can be upgraded with more effective electronics. The basic design of these older missiles is not likely to change any time soon, and any of the main components (structure, rocket motor, controls, warhead, guidance system) can be gradually upgraded. While the idea of having a common air-to-surface anti-tank missile for all the services was attractive, it simply didn't add up in the end. The navy and air force fighters can use the larger Maverick missile, and the Hellfire has gotten a new lease on life via use on small UAVs. JCM, while nice in theory, didn't pan out in practice. That argument would convince a majority of those in Congress, but if you want to keep an unneeded project alive, you don't need a majority. All you need is the attention of a few keep Congresscritters, and their staffers. That can usually be obtained with some generous campaign contributions. The rest, as they say, is business-as-usual.