Procurement: December 27, 1999

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The British are outright furious over the US decision to use a US-designed warhead for the AGM-86D Penetrating Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missile. They insist that the rules of the competition were changed, to ensure that the US design won. The British point out that the US is very big on evaluating European weapons but almost never buys them, and claim that this is inherently wrong (and just plain rude) in a alliance such as NATO, and worse in the long-standing US-British alliance. British officials have signed letters of complaint to their opposite numbers in the Pentagon, and the British ambassador has lodged a strong note of protest. The simpler Lockheed Martin AUP (Advanced Unitary Penetrator) warhead is basically a steel dart filled with explosives. It penetrates the target, senses that it is now inside the bunker, then detonates. The more complicated British Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge (BROACH) warhead uses a shaped charge to blast a hole into the enemy bunker, then propels a penetrating charge similar to the Lockheed Martin AUP dart through the hole into the bunker. The British complaint that the rules were changed is denied by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, who note that there were no changes to the requirements after they were published. However, the Pentagon admits that an earlier draft of the requirements (which was never published but which the British saw) was modified to allow the AUP warhead to compete. In effect, the rules were changed to allow the AUP into the game, at which point its lower cost and more mature design won the contract easily. Boeing has a contract to convert 322 nuclear Air Launched Cruise Missiles into conventional missiles; the last 50 will be D-model "penetrating" designs. --Stephen V Cole

 


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