A Lockheed Martin Paragon laser-guided bomb is shown mounted on an F/A-18 Super Hornet weapon pylon. Lockheed Martin photo.
Lockheed Martin’s Paveway redesigned dual-mode laser/GPS-guided weapon—rebranded as “Paragon”—is slated to complete flight tests this year, with the aim of competing with laser-guided JDAM and other precision-guided munitions as early as next year.
Alan Jackson, company director of strike systems, told Air Force Magazine the Paragon will offer the same capability as laser JDAM, but it will be “at least 30 percent cheaper” thanks to new, less costly microprocessors and engineering for all the guidance electronics into the nose of the weapon.
The redesign of what had been called the Paveway Dual-Mode Plus began about three years ago, and has been in flight tests with the Navy off F/A-18s since last year. Tests off Air Force F-16s are expected to wrap up late in 2017.
The “outer mold line” of the bomb is identical to the previous Paveway, so the company sees no impediment to flight tests success, and the weapon offers an increase in range and accuracy against moving targets versus the previous iteration.
Lockheed refitted 7,000 for the Navy as dual-mode weapons able to work in all weather and against moving targets. The company sees the Air Force’s current shortage of PGMs as a propitious time to offer the new weapon, developed with Lockheed’s own funds. Jackson said the goal is to get the Air Force to hold “performance-based” competitions of PGMs the way the Navy competes Paveway buys between Lockheed and Raytheon, which makes a weapon also called Paveway.
There was a legal battle over the name, which Jackson said was settled by mutual agreement to “get along.” Without a name change, Jackson said, Lockheed would have to “contend with” confusion over whether the weapon is the same as the dual-mode Paveway, “and the answer is ‘no.’”
Jackson said production of the Paveway dual-mode was increased over the past eight months from 28 guidance kits a day to “over 120” to meet domestic and international demand.
The first customer for Paragon might be an overseas customer, he said. Some US coalition partners have at least temporarily been denied permission to buy certain PGMs because USAF must rebuild its stockpiles first.
“Coalition partners are demanding more capability in larger and larger quantities of precision strike weapons,” Jackson said.
Though testing is taking place on the FA/-18 and F-16, “there’s nothing to prevent” its integration on other platforms, Jackson said. He acknowledged that the Air Force is not currently planning a PGM competition, however, senior USAF acquisition officials have said they will consider other domestic sources of comparable weapons to meet the demand.