The U.S. Navy has elected NOT to award a contract for a super-sonic target drone and may end the project altogether. The eight year long Navy SSST super-sonic target drone project finally took bids from Allied-Signal and Orbital Sciences in May 1999. The Navy also reportedly took a bid from Boeing that was rejected as invalid because it did not meet the contract specifications.

The move not to issue a contract is seen as a victory for Boeing and the Russian Zvezda-Strela State Scientific-Industrial Centre (GNPTs). The quiet announcement of no contract award and possible cancellation comes buried in a FPR article published by the U.S. Navy Systems Command, Patuxent Maryland.

According to the Navy statement issued June 30, 1999 "As of to date, the amount of funds currently available MAY be insufficient to fully fund this EMD effort. The Navy is attempting to obtain additional funds. All offerors with the Competitive Range, are hereby notified that if, at the conclusion of th FPR evaluation, the Navy lack sufficient funds to fully fund the EMD effort, the Navy MAY CANCEL the solicitation and not award a contract."

Congressional sources were told that the Navy has run out of super-sonic target drones, leaving the Russian Zvezda team as the only source of operational off-the-shelf systems. Boeing engineers were reported to have openly bragged at the recent 1999 Paris air show that they had won the SSST project with the Russian missile using inside contacts at the highest level in the Clinton administration. The Russian contractor is reported to be backed by Cassidy Associates, a powerful lobby firm that has made over 2,500 donations over the past few years to Washington politicians, including Vice President Al Gore.

Russian arms maker Zvezda had teamed with Boeing to propose Kh-31A (NATO: AS-17 Krypton) supersonic missiles be configured to target drones. According to Janes Defense and RADEA, a Russian military journal, Zvezda agreed in 1998 to deliver to Boeing 20-30 missiles a year - over a 10-year period. According to Janes, 28% of any Kh-31 sale is sent directly to the Russian Army.

In October 1998, Softwar broke the Clinton Russian Zvezda-Strela Kh-31 missile story. The Navy Targets Group quietly issued a statement that the Russian Kh-31 would be the Navy's next generation super-sonic target drone without issuing an open contract (RFP). In December 1998, Navy Undersecretary Buchanan denied that that Boeing had won with the MA-31 and announced that a fair contract for the new target drone would be issued by the end of May 1999.

In February 1999, Softwar officially requested to interview Navy Undersecretary Buchanan on the MA-31 project. In response, Secretary Buchanan declined to be interviewed. Softwar has instituted a official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) action with the Navy on the Russian missile project. The Navy Dept. has declared the SOFTWAR MA-31 request to be in "the most difficult" FOIA category.

The Russian missile, renamed the MA-31, does not meet the Navy specifications to simulate a much larger weapon also exported by Russia, the Moskit 3M-80 (NATO: SS-N-22 Sunburn) anti-ship missiles. Sunburn missiles are due to enter service with two Sovremenny-class destroyers sold to the Chinese People's Liberation Navy, by mid-2000.

The news the Navy lacks funding for the project comes as a shock to sources on Capitol hill, who noted that Congress had dedicated funding for the project last year but the Clinton administration diverted the money into operations in Iraq and Kosovo. The funds required for the entire SSST project, some $72 million dollars, is barely more than the amount taken in by the leading Democrat and Republican candidates.


The two U.S. contractors, Allied Signal and Orbital Sciences, have nearly exhausted all their own internal funds after EIGHT years of effort by the Navy to select a new drone. Allied has already forced to lay off employees at their plant in Mishawaka Indiana which produced the previous drone, a remanufactured version of the RIM-8 TALOS missile. Because of the Navy move, Allied may be forced to close the plant in Indiana and lay off additional employees in Alabama, and Tennessee. The Mishawaka plant has manufactured missiles for the Navy since 1949.


Orbital officials, disgusted by the political corruption in the Clinton administration, are re-considering their attempt to display for the U.S. military what was reported to be "Area 51" aerospace technology. Orbital currently has the part of the NASA X-43 hypersonic vehicle project, using a Pegasus winged rocket to boost the X-43 to Mach 10.


In a related move, Raytheon is offering a LAND attack version of the STANDARD SM-2 Block II/III air defense missiles, called LASM or Land Attack Standard Missile. The 2,000 Block II and III versions of STANDARD are considered obsolete. Raytheon is offering the modified Standard surface strike missile with MACH 4 plus speeds at ranges out to 150 miles. Raytheon claims "significant cost savings" by using obsolete missiles that were withdrawn from Navy warships nearly ten years ago.

According to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Joseph Callo, the savings will come from using Standard missiles "that otherwise will have to be disposed of by the Navy at considerable expense."

All this raises even more questions about the under-funded SSST program. If the Navy turns down Raytheon they will dispose of 2,000 missiles that can easily be modified by U.S. contractors to serve in the SSST target drone project. The question is why is the Navy NOT considering such a move instead of funding Russian missile makers.

The Clinton administration is being accused on Capitol hill of funding the Zvezda which provides lethal anti-ship missiles to a variety of nations around the world. However, the MA-31 is not one of them. The titanium Mach 3 Zvezda missile is not selling to anyone despite a fire-sale offer by the bankrupt Russians. The Kh-31 is currently only fielded by the rapidly decaying Russian Air Force. Zvezda offers to foreign buyers have been turned down.

Yet, Zvezda has scored big with India with a different missile. The Russian weapons maker is arming the latest class of Indian warship with a copy of a U.S. built missile. The June 1999 issue of U.S. Naval Proceedings shows that India has declared the first pair of four, 1400 ton, Khurki class Frigates as fully operational.

Each of the new Indian built Frigate is armed with 16 Zvezda Kh-35 Uran (NATO: SS-N-25 Switchblade) missiles in quick reloading tubes. The Switchblade is often called the "Harpoonsky" by western analysts because it is nearly identical to the U.S. Navy AGM/RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

In 1999, the Indian Frigate Kora joined with her sister, the Kulish, on patrol off the coast of Pakistan, after a short visit to the Persian Gulf. The third Khurki class Frigate, the Kirch, is scheduled to be launched later this year.

Each ship is equipped with a 76.2 mm AK-176 gun, two launchers for short range Streala surface to air missiles, and two 30 mm AK-630 gatling guns. Electronically, each Khurki Frigate is equipped with a Russian Pozitiv-E, air search radar, a Garpun missile targeting radar, and MR-123 Vympel radar gun directors.

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