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Joint Air-to-Ground Missile Fired From Drone, a First

June 2, 2016 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Sean Brady/US Army)

WASHINGTON — The missile intended to ultimately replace the Hellfire was fired from a Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system and hit a moving truck target at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, according to the US Army’s Joint Attack Munition Systems project manager.

Col. James Romero, who works out of the Missiles and Space Program Executive Office, which also manages Hellfire and Hydra 2.75 inch rockets, said the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) flew at a range of “slightly longer” than 8 kilometers at a “nominal altitude” as Predator unmanned aerial vehicles operate. The missile, intended to be fired from a variety of aircraft, engaged a moving truck on the ground traveling about 20 mph.

The May 25 test marks the first time the JAGM missile was tested on an unmanned aircraft system.

“This missile has several modes and the missile successfully engaged the target without having to track and perfectly aimed the platform at that target,” Romero said. “So this missile is really flexible in that it allows the pilot to sometimes be engaged or track the target the entire time or to leave the engagement and let the missile finish its engagement on its own.”

The Gray Eagle test was the seventh flight test for the JAGM missile. The missile was previously tested on Apache attack helicopters and Marine Corps Cobra helicopters.

The $66 million JAGM missile engineering and manufacturing development contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin last summer. The contract could ultimately be worth up to $186 million, as it includes two additional options for low-rate initial production valued at about $60 million each, the Army has said.

The missile is designed to hit stationary and moving targets, and is intended to reach initial operational fielding in 2018, according to Romero.

At the end of 2017, the Army will conduct a limited user test with pilots firing JAGM missiles from Apaches in what is believed to be typical operational scenarios, Romero noted.

Starting in August, the Army plans to take production quality missiles through the paces, testing JAGM for safety and lethality in all environments. An important part of the EMD phase, Romero said, will be to get JAGM air worthiness releases to be deployed on Apaches and Cobras.

The JAGM missile’s threshold requirements are to fly on the Apache and Cobra, Romero said, but the Army is considering what other platforms on which to test JAGM’s capability — defined as “objective” requirements. Gray Eagle is an obvious candidate considering it carries Hellfire and also will be teamed with Apaches in reconnaissance missions. 

Email: jjudson@defensenews.com

Twitter: @JenJudson

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