Six months ago, the Department of Defense was on the verge of cancelling
the $6 billion JASSM cruise missile program. Lobbying, pleading and a possible
large order from South Korea, have given the program one more chance, even
though nearly fifty percent of flight tests have been failures.
the third family of GPS guided smart bombs to be developed. The original JDAM
bomb kit (added to 500, 1,000 and 2,000 pound bombs), cost $26,000 each. The
longer range JSOW (JDAM with wings and more powerful guidance system), cost
$460,000 each. The even longer range JASSM cost $500,000 (the 400 kilometers
version) to $930,000 (the 900 kilometer JASSM ER) each. Then there is the SDB
(Small Diameter Bomb), a 250 pound JDAM that can also punch through concrete
bunkers and other structures. These cost $75,000 each.
The AGM-158 JASSM missiles are 2,300 pound
weapons that are basically 1,000 pound JDAMS (GPS guided bombs) with a motor and
GPS guidance kit added. JASSM was designed to go after enemy air defense
systems, or targets deep in heavily defended (against air attack) enemy
territory. The air force and navy planed to buy over 5,000 JASSM, but there has
been opposition in the military and in Congress. The missiles are ten times more
expensive than a JADM bomb of the same weight. But the aviators make the
argument that many aircraft and pilots would be lost if the air defenses of a
nation like, perhaps China, were attacked without using JASSM.
Air Force ordered the AGM-158 JASSM into full production in early 2004. But
only a few have been produced, because of test failures. Air force purchasing
plans have been cut way back because of reliability problems, and this has
delayed shipment of the missiles to combat units until sometime this year.
JASSM is stealthy and uses GPS and terminal
(infrared) guidance to zero in on heavily defended targets (like air defense
sites.) The terminal guidance enables the missile to land within ten feet of
the aiming point. If there were a war with North Korea, for example, JASSM
would be essential to taking out enemy air defenses, or any other targets that
have to be hit early in a war (before air defenses can be shut down.) This
capability is apparently what attracted the South Koreans, who now have F-15K
aircraft that can carry JASSM.
designed to handle the most modern Russian surface to air missiles, which are
being sold to China. North Korea has older stuff, and can't afford the newer
Russian SAMs. But even these older air defenses can be dangerous, and are best
addressed with long range missiles.