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Posted: 5/6/2004 1:08:49 PM EST
Issue Date: May 10, 2004

Fielding of new artillery round faces delays

By Jason Sherman
Times staff writer

Three months after flight-test failures prompted the Navy to scale back work on its Extended Range Guided Munition, the program is ready to resume.
However, the planned 2006 fielding of the new rocket-assisted artillery round will likely be delayed and the entire effort could be restructured.

The Navy has identified necessary fixes, and the next step is another flight test that could begin by October, said Capt. Mick Outten, who directs surface weapons and launchers at Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington.

The XM-71 ERGM, made by Raytheon, is designed to be fired from 5-inch naval guns to shell troops and soft targets more than 60 miles away — more than four times the reach of today’s rounds. Once in the air, the ERGM is guided by satellites for precision accuracy.

During a February test at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, intended in part to correct problems identified during flight tests last summer, a tail fin failed to deploy and the rocket motor did not work. Days later the Navy issued a “limited” stop-work order and directed Raytheon to focus on this specific problem.

Since the early 1990s, the Navy has considered rocket boosters for its 5-inch rounds. But only after launching the ERGM program in 1996 did service officials begin to fully appreciate how tough the electronic components of the guidance system had to be to survive being blasted from a gun. It also proved hard to apply just the right amount of thrust when launching a 60-mile shot.

“It proved to be more technically challenging than we started out thinking several years ago,” Outten said.

After the engineering review, Outten said, “I think we’ve got those problems under wrap. We’ve got them under control. It’s just a matter of getting back out on the range and getting the flight test complete.”

Identifying the problems will cost $3.5 million intended for other development in ERGM’s $28 million budget for this year.

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