Last month, bidders submitted proposals for the U.S. joint air-to-ground missile (JAGM) and they now await a contract award for a 27-month risk-reduction phase. That announcement is expected in August or September, with two teams being selected to demonstrate their technologies, including live-firing. The down-select from this competition is expected in late 2010 or early 2011, kicking off a development phase leading to service entry in 2016.
Led by the U.S. Army, the JAGM is a single weapon solution to replace air-launched TOW, Hellfire and Maverick missiles across the Army, Marine Corps and Navy. The JAGM will initially be carried by the following rotary- and fixed-wing platforms:
Boeing’s AH-64 Apache Longbow, Bell’s ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, Sikorsky’s MH-60R Seahawk, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Bell AH-1Z SuperCobra and the General Atomics MQ-1C Warrior unmanned aerial vehicle.
The JAGM is a follow-on to the joint common missile program, a Lockheed Martin project that was terminated, although the requirement for a beyond line-of-sight/extended range (BLOS/ER) missile has remained. In June 2007, a draft request for JAGM proposals was issued to industry.
Among those awaiting contract news is a Raytheon/Boeing team. Both companies have extensive missile and seeker expertise, and wide experience in weapon/aircraft integration. Since the aircraft is being integrated with a wide range of platforms, the JAGM will have to perform in a wide variety of environments, from the heavy vibration, dust and heat of helicopter operations in the desert, to the extreme cold and aerodynamic loads associated with fast jets. Boeing’s experience with integrating the Brimstone onto the Tornado will be of particular significance.
Raytheon and Boeing are proposing a low-risk approach to the JAGM by leveraging technology from existing weapons programs such as the small diameter bomb, precision attack missile and the Brimstone. The team is proposing a missile with a launch weight of 115 to 120 pounds, body diameter of seven inches and length of about 70 inches.
Compatibility with existing launchers such as the M299 system is an important factor. When fired from a helicopter, range is on the order of 10 miles, rising to 17.5 miles when launched from a fast jet.
Raytheon/Boeing’s JAGM proposal has a tri-band (laser, imaging infrared and millimeter-wave radar) seeker providing multiple engagement modes in all conditions. It can be used in direct line-of-sight engagements, or can provide great precision from standoff ranges with its lock-on after launch functions.
Its design is modular, allowing rapid and cost-effective technology insertion in the future, whether for upgraded warheads, motors, seekers or expanded functionality. Overall, the JAGM program value could reach more than $5 billion, and offer a huge export potential.