After multiple attempts to field a single replacement for the Hellfire, TOW and Maverick missiles, the U.S. Army may once again find itself without support for the project.

The U.S. Army has been slated to select a contractor to build the so-called Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) by year’s end. Raytheon and Boeing are pitted against Lockheed Martin for the work.

“It is a program that is in trouble right now and needs a lot of support,” says Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, U.S. Marine Corps commandant for aviation. He underscored that the capability is needed by his service at a Sept. 29 breakfast hosted by the Navy League.

Robling noted that JAGM was potentially endangered, owing to Pentagon efforts to substantially curb spending in light of debt reduction talks.

JAGM would incorporate a cutting-edge tri-mode seeker capable of using semi-active laser, millimeter-wave radar and imaging infrared to hit moving targets. Much of the development’s complexity involves mating the missile with high-end fixed wing aircraft, such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and slower, low-altitude rotorcraft.

The weapon eventually would be used by all of the U.S. services and potentially sold to international partners.

Lockheed Martin won the precursor program, called the Joint Common Missile (JCM). But that effort was shelved owing to lack of support and problems with requirements. Because JAGM’s development has yet to begin and major funding has not yet been obligated, the program is more vulnerable to termination than efforts already under way. However, industry officials note that more than $900 million has been spent to date pursuing this capability through the JCM program, as well as on risk-reduction work leading up to JAGM.