Australia has ordered 110 American AGM-88 HARMs (High speed Anti-Radiation Missile) for $138 million. This includes spare parts, maintenance equipment, training and tech support. These missiles are for the twelve EA-18G electronic warfare aircraft Australia bought recently. These aircraft will enter service with Australia forces during 2018.
The AGM-88 comes in various models, giving users lots of options. Australis is buying 70 of the older AGM-88Bs and 40 of the more recent AGM-88Es, which were designed for use on the EA-18G. Not only is the E model an improved version of the 88B it also includes modifications that enable it to hit moving ships. This makes the AGM-88E an effective anti-ship weapon as well. Meanwhile another upgrade of the AGM-88. The AGM-88F completed testing in 2014 and has now entered production. This version will also have the anti-ship capability. All these upgrades contributed to the missile getting a new name. It’s now an AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile) instead of a HARM. The older AGM-88s can easily be upgraded by simply replacing older sensors and guidance system components with new ones.
The AGM-88F has a GPS guidance added (with less accurate but jam-proof INS as a backup) added. The older AGM-88D also used GPS so that the missile, which normally homes in on radar transmissions, could be used to attack targets by location alone. The F model expands on basic GPS capabilities and also includes other features that assist in defeating enemy electronic defenses. What the GPS/INS provides is for a way for HARM to act on previous intelligence (about where an enemy radar is) while also using its radar signal homing capability and new anti-decoy features. Many countries now use a decoy emitter that send out a fake radar signal to lure the HARM away from the real radar. The 88F model uses GPS and more sensors and new software to get around all known deceptions (and some that haven’t been invented yet).
The first 88E production models were delivered in 2010. This included testing for use on the EA-18G, which entered service in 2011. AGM-88E testing ran into many problems in the three years before it entered service and there were more hardware failures than expected. The manufacturer admits that it is still working on some of these issues but that, in its current state, the AGM-88E is good to go.
The AGM-88 moves at high speed (2,200 kilometers an hour or 36 kilometers a minute). Over 24,000 AGM-88s, of all types, have been produced since the 1980s. AARGM weighs 361 kg (794 pounds) and can detect and attack targets more than 150 kilometers away while travelling at a speed of 2,450 kilometers per hour.
The AGM-88E can transmit a picture of the target, just before it is hit, so the user can be certain of what was taken out. The AARGM was developed jointly by U.S. and Italian firms. The original 1960s anti-radiation missile (ARM) quickly evolved into the HARM. Currently, there are orders for over 2,000 AGM-88E/Fs from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Italy, and Germany.
The AGM-88B HARM entered service in 1983 and used passive radar seeker which home on enemy fire-control radars emissions in order to destroy it and thus render Surface-to-air missile (SAM) system useless (well at least those which use radars for target tracking). In 1999 (Kosovo War) HARM was found to be vulnerable. The Serbian forces limited their radar usage to minimum and used quick radar shutdown techniques and “pack and leave” tactic for their SAM units. Because of these HARM had problems with acquiring targets because the missile has precision guidance only when enemy radar is working during all the time (in “offline mode” missile uses INS/GPS only). As a result NATO forces failed to silence Serbian SAMs during the campaign.