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The US Army and Marine Corps have declared the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) ready for full-rate production, manufacturer Lockheed Martin said in a statement on September 8.
“The milestone also marks the successful completion of operational testing of JAGM on the US Army’s AH-64E Apache and the Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Viper helicopters,” Lockheed Martin said in its statement.
JAGM shall replace the legacy Lockheed Martin-made Hellfire missile used by Apache and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. However, according to sources, the decision for full-rate production was delayed after the new weapon encountered problems during testing when it was fired from the Army’s AH-64E Apache and the Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Viper helicopters.
Indeed, prior to 2018, the Army experienced several failures during live-fire testing from an AH-64E Apache, including seeing the missile miss two targets, while during a major test event, one of the four launches with a live warhead failed to detonate, according to DefenseNews. Also, the Apache’s targeting site and fire control radar also passed “erroneous target velocities” to the missile, according to test reports.
In addition to this, the Marine Corps struggled with JAGM on Viper during an initial operational test and evaluation, when the Marines fired two shots, both of which did not hit boat targets at the center of the vessel, but rather struck more toward the back.
The Army was able to resolve those problems in subsequent testing and evaluation. Until now, the Army has been producing JAGMs at the minimum sustainment rate. Indicatively, Lockheed rolled its 1,000th JAGM off the production line in February.
JAGM utilizes a multi-mode seeker to provide precision point and fire-and-forget targeting day or night in adverse weather and against a variety of countermeasures against a range of target types such as combat vehicles, air defence units, and buildings.
Its technical characteristics include:
- Length: 1,8 meters
- Weight: 52,2 kg
- Propulsion: Solid rocket motor
- Warhead: Multi-purpose warhead consisting of a shaped-charge packaged within a fragmenting case
- Diameter: 17,78 cm
- Maximum operational range: 5-8 km
The modular and low-risk JAGM design includes the Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missile body and the new multi-mode seeker. The JAGM guidance section blends semi-active laser guidance and millimeter wave radar to guide the missile to its target.
According to the company, future improvements may include an uncooled infrared sensor in a new tri-mode seeker.
Except for that, the plan is to ultimately integrate JAGM onto helicopters and unmanned aircraft, such as the Gray Eagle, as well as on air defence systems (like the Mobile Short-Range Air Defence System / M-SHORAD), Lockheed Martin noted in its statement.
Further, Lockheed is now working on extending JAGM’s range to 16 kilometers through the pursuit of a medium-range variant. This would double the missile’s current range without changing its length or diameter.
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