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First firing for JAGM from Apache

12th January 2017 - 16:47 by Beth Maundrill in London

First firing for JAGM from Apache

The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) has been fired from an AH-64D Apache for the first time, it has been confirmed by the US Army's Program Executive Office (PEO) Missiles and Space.

The firing took place on 7 December 2016 at the Eglin Air Force Base Maritime Range, Florida. The Lockheed Martin developed missile was used against a remotely piloted, fast moving small boat at a range of 4km.

This is the tenth successful flight test carried out by JAGM, with the primary objective being to demonstrate the missile's capability to carry out target handover from the laser sensor to the radar sensor.

'We provide the missile with targeting information by putting a laser on or near it. And on purpose the experimental pilot ceases lasing about a few seconds into flight - about 10% into the missile flight - and then the radar exclusively, without any help from the laser, guided the missile to the centre of the target and destroyed it,' Lt Col Phil Rottenborn, product manager for JAGM, told Shephard.

'A missile that has a radar sensor will perform very well against moving targets, especially when you consider the difficulty to maintain a laser spot on a moving target,' he added.

Col David Warnick, project manager for Joint Attack Munition Systems at PEO Missiles and Space, told Shephard that with JAGM set to replace the incumbent AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a number of improvements would be introduced.

'The limitations of the Hellfire are essentially the capabilities in the laser and the ability to see reflected energy from the target and given the different environments it will not get a return off of water,' Warniock said.

'So keeping a laser on a boat or using a laser guided system in a cloudy, smoky, dusty environment where a good laser return is not possible or difficult or reduced in its signature is why the radar capability is essential to being able to prosecute these types of target.'

The missile combines an onboard radar with a semi-active laser sensor to enhance capability against stationary and moving targets for precision point or fire-and-forget targeting.

At least 50 more test shots are planned with some being carried out through simulation.

'We are very encouraged by what we have seen, everything seems to be tracking very nicely. I don't want to jinx my programme but we will continue with the way things that have been going and we will be able to deliver the capability as soon as possible,' he said.

JAGM is currently in the EMD phase of the programme following an awarded for a fixed-price contract with low-rate production options to Lockheed Martin in 2015. Full rate production will occur over the next couple of years, according to Warnick.

'The programme was restructured as we went into the EMD phase and the number of threshold platforms was changed,' explained Warnick.

The path forward now consists of utilising the AGM-114R Romeo Hellfire II's motor and warhead and adapting it to JAGM.

'By doing that we retained the capabilities that we knew excising in the Hellfire in terms of the warhead capabilities in the missile and the motor capabilities and reduced the risk of the programme going forward and enabled us to do it rather than a developmental programme and at a lot lower cost,' Warnick added.

JAGM will be used on the US AH-64 Apache and US Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper as well as other unmanned platforms.

For more on JAGM see the Jan/Feb issue of Defence Helicopter.

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