AGM-179 joint air-to-surface missile cleared for full-rate production

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A Joint Air-to-Surface Missile (JAGM) is loaded onto an Apache AH64E attack helicopter during JAGM’s Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) in 2019. (Photo Credit: US Army)

The new JAGM missile is expected to replace the AGM-114 Hellfire, BGM-71 TOW and AGM-65 Maverick.

After a long and troubled development, the US Army and US Marine Corps finally approved the AGM-179 Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) for full-rate production on Aug. 30, 2022. The decision, originally expected last year, was delayed after the weapon failed to achieve desired lethal effects in testing, causing the Army and Marine Corps to delay fielding the missile to solve the problem.

This milestone also marks the successful completion of JAGM’s operational testing of the Army’s AH-64E Apache and Marines’ AH-1Z Viper helicopters. JAGM replaces the old AGM-114 Hellfire missile used in all services, but it was designed to also replace the BGM-71 TOW and AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

JAGM already entered initial low-rate production in June 2018. Lockheed Martin produced JAGM in limited quantities to establish a production base and support operational testing and evaluation of the new weapon. The company delivered the 1,000th JAGM to the military in February 2022.

JAGM combines a dual-mode seeker and guidance system with the combat-proven AGM-114R Hellfire missile bus to take precision engagement to the next level. The missile was designed to be backwards compatible with the M299 launcher and, with appropriate integration upgrades, with all platforms (air, land and sea) currently capable of using Hellfire missiles.

Dual-mode sensor provides enhanced battlefield performance, combining Semi-Active Laser (SAL) and Millimeter Wave (MMW) radar sensors and providing precision strike and shoot-and-forget capability against targets land and sea and even fixed and mobile airborne. . This seeker allows JAGM users to hit multiple targets, almost simultaneously, with greater accuracy in poor weather and obscured battlefield conditions, increasing user survivability and effectiveness.

Interestingly, the transparent seeker dome has been blurred out in all photos released by the Army and Marines so far. In some cases, the markings on the missile were also blurred. Either way, JAGM and Hellfire look almost indistinguishable in the photos, given that JAGM shares the same engine and warhead as the AGM-114R and the main difference is the search and guidance section on the inside. ‘before.

The Army experienced several failures in live-fire testing of an early engineering development and manufacturing version of an AH-64E Apache before 2018, including two missiles missing their target. The report said one hit the ground “well outside the burst radius of the warhead” and another struck “near the bottom of the vehicle track and road wheels”. In a major test event in which 18 missiles were launched from an Apache AH-64E attack helicopter, one of the four launches with an actual warhead also failed to explode. The military said it was able to resolve these issues during subsequent testing and evaluation.

Promotional image of the AGM-179 JAGM with the first platforms planned to use it, the AH-64E Apache Guardian, AH-1Z Viper and MQ-9 Reaper. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Marines also struggled with JAGM on the AH-1Z Viper during an initial operational test and evaluation at Fort Hood, Texas, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in mid -2019. Two missiles were fired, which did not hit boat targets in the center of the ship, but rather towards the rear. Again, the issues were resolved in subsequent rounds of testing.

In March 2019, JAGM achieved Initial Operating Capability for the US Army’s AH-64E Apache helicopters. Immediately following the IOC, operational pilots fired missiles in all JAGM engagement modes against stationary and moving, sea and land targets under daytime conditions during initial operational tests and evaluations at Fort Hood, Texas, and at Eglin AFB, Florida. Some of the armored targets were masked or covered by countermeasures such as smoke, radar reflectors and/or camouflage netting, with JAGM demonstrating high lethality even in the presence of the countermeasures.

The live-fire tests included firing against an armored T-72, a BMP infantry fighting vehicle, personnel in the open and behind bricks on blocks and adobe walls, according to the director’s operational test and evaluation report. The missile demonstrated improved lethality against these targets using a new delayed fusion capability, delaying warhead detonation until after missile penetration for maximum damage.

JAGM has not yet been tested in an active electronic warfare environment or against threats equipped with active protection systems, but the Army intends to evaluate it in future tests to see if these emerging threat capabilities may limit the performance of JAGM. DOT&E also recommends the military conduct flight tests of missiles in the Arctic to assess performance in extremely cold temperatures.

In March 2022, JAGM also obtained the IOC on the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopterfollowing the latest test campaign in which AH-1Z pilots employed JAGM off the coast of Florida in November 2021 and conducted ground trials in Arizona in December 2021. The Marines conducted several Live test missions against realistic operational threats at sea, successfully shooting moving target boats with a range of 7 km and demonstrating the helicopter’s maritime targeting capability.

The plan is to eventually integrate JAGM on helicopters and unmanned aircraft, like the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, as well as air defense systems like the Mobile Short Range Air Defense System, or M-SHORAD, that the army quickly put into service. training in Europe last year. In fact, Rita Flaherty, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for strategy and business operations within its Missiles and Fire Control business, spoken for the first time about this M-SHORAD concept to journalists at Eurosatory 2022 in Paris.

The Hellfire missile is already available for the system based on M-SHORAD Stryker that the US military has developed. The service generated the requirement to build the system in February 2018 and, in just 19 months, the first prototypes were delivered for testing. Given the compatibility of the JAGM with the AGM-114 launchers, it is expected that the new missile can be quickly integrated on the M-SHORAD.

Lockheed Martin is also investing in future upgrades to the JAGM, including a JAGM-Medium Range variant with an increased range from 8 km to 16 km with no impact on the length or diameter of the missile. The company also continues to work with the US Air Force on a fixed-wing launch capability. replacing the AGM-65 MaverickFlaherty said.

Originally known as the JAGM-F or JAGM Increment 3, the fixed-wing compatible missile is expected to have a range of 16 km (which is less than the Maverick’s range of over 22 km) alongside other redesigns to transportation and launching from fast jets. . Candidate platforms to receive the JAGM would include the AV-8B Harrier and the F-35B Lightning II, while transport tests have been carried out on the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Integration on the F-35 was expected after the Block 4 upgrade and would also include the ability to launch the missile from the weapons bays. A possible configuration shown a few years ago involved a four-gun rack similar to the BRU-61 used for the GBU-39 small diameter bomb or the rack used for the British SPEAR 3 (Selective Precision Effects at Range Capability 3) air- to-surface missile (which can be similarly launched from weapon bays).

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in industrial engineering, he is also studying for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Electronic warfare, vagrant ammunition and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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