Air Weapons: JAGM Plays Catch-Up


May 27, 2011: Encouraged by Israeli and British success with similar weapons, the U.S. is moving ahead developing its new JAGM (Joint Air-To-Ground Missile) weapon. JAGM is basically a replacement for the current Hellfire missile (and several larger missiles). JAGM weighs the same as Hellfire, but has twice the range and a more powerful guidance system. Oh, and it can also be fired from jets, as well as helicopters and UAVs.

Meanwhile, two years ago, a new version of the Israeli Spike missile, with a range of 25 kilometers, showed up. This version weighs 70 kilograms (155 pounds), twice what the current largest version of Spike (a series of anti-tank, or whatever, missiles with ranges from 200-8,000 meters). The 25 kilometer version is called Spike NLOS (Non Line-Of-Sight), meaning that can be fired at a target the operator cannot see (but someone else, with a laser designator, can see). This new Spike was embarrassing for American missile developers.

That's because JAGM is the second U.S. attempt to develop a missile like the existing Spike. The first American attempt was JCM (Joint Common Missile), an effort that failed and was cancelled six years ago. The new effort, JAGM, is similar to Spike NLOS, and will replace the current U.S. BGM-71 TOW, AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. To that end, JAGM will have twice the range of Hellfire (16 kilometers) and a seeker using three different technologies (radar, heat sensing and laser). The explosives in the 9 kg (20 pound) warhead will be less sensitive (and less subject to accidental detonation). JAGM is now expected to enter service in five years. That's faster than earlier planned, but only because it has done well in development so far.

Spike is not the only foreign design to show the American JAGM developers how it's done. A decade ago, Britain took the Hellfire design and modified it so it could be fired from jets. This Brimstone missile weighs the same as Hellfire (48.5 kg/107 pounds), but has a range of 12 kilometers. JAGM is to weigh 50 kg (110 pounds) and have a range of 28 kilometers when fired from jets. The biggest development problems are using so many common components in the helicopter and jet aircraft launched versions.





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