Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The legendary terrorist killer, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, is lethal but is now long in the tooth and still short on range. That’s why it’ll soon be replaced by the Lockheed Martin “Joint Air-to-Ground Missile” (JAGM) as the U.S. military’s premier air-to-surface missile.
JAGM will also replace air-launched BGM-71 TOW and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. The U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps plan to buy thousands of JAGMs, which can be launched from attack helicopters and armed aerial drones such as the AH-64 Apache; MQ-1C Gray Eagle; MH-60R/S Seahawk; the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter and OH-58F Kiowa.
Main battle tanks such as Russia’s T-90 will be its main diet. U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters can mount 16 JAGMs. The Pentagon said JAGM has now entered production and will be ready for deployment before the end of the decade.
A fire-and-forget missile, JAGM will go into joint service with the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps since it’s a single missile configuration suitable for launch on many platforms.
JAGM can engage several different stationary and moving targets in bad weather, smoke and dust. Laser and radar guided engagement modes enable JAGM to strike accurately and reduce collateral damage.
JAGM’s targets include moving and stationary armored combat vehicles; air defense units; patrol craft; artillery; missile launchers; radar sites; command-and-control nodes; bunkers; and other structures in urban and complex terrain. One of the drawbacks of Hellfire is its inability to destroy moving targets.
Aircraft armed with JAGMs can launch a missile using its laser designator and allow the missile’s millimetric wave sensor to guide itself to target the rest of the way. This increases the survivability of the attacking helicopter.
The JAGM warhead “provides lethal effects against a range of target types, from armored vehicles, thin-skinned vehicles and maritime patrol craft to urban structures and field fortifications,” said the Navy. It also has a programmable, delayed detonation feature that allows it to penetrate bunkers and then explode inside.
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