UPDATE: This story has been updated to included comment from the U.S. Army.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s Hellfire missile replacement — the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile — has been cleared for low-rate initial production, Lockheed Martin announced June 27.

Lockheed will deliver 2,631 missiles under the LRIP contract, Col. David Warnick, the Army’s program manager for Joint Attack Munition Systems (JAMS), said in a June 27 statement to Defense News.

The Lockheed Martin-developed JAGM is ultimately slated to replace the Hellfire missile — also a Lockheed product — on all platforms that fire them. It features a new dual-mode seeker and guidance system mated to a Hellfire missile.

Its seeker combines a semi-active laser with millimeter-wave radar sensors that give it the capability to go up against stationary and moving land and maritime targets in bad weather or obscured conditions.

JAGM has completed 10 limited-user test flights over several months, leading up to the Army’s decision.

The decision comes after a 24-month engineering and manufacturing development phase program where JAGM was tested and qualified on the AH-64E Apache and the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.

JAGM will ultimately be qualified to fire from a wide variety of platforms including unmanned aircraft.

Initial operational capability through the Army is expected in early 2019.

While the JAGM hardware demonstrated more than 95 percent reliability in flight testing, the Army had to work through some challenges surrounding the system, including cyber vulnerability, earlier on.

A Director of Operational Test and Evaluation report released at the beginning of the year found some issues with JAGM, including reports of the missile missing two targets in early testing.

Eighteen missiles were launched for an AH-64E, but four launches with a live warhead failed to detonate.

Issues were rectified from earlier tests, according to the Army.

A full-rate production decision review for the JAGM program will be held between March 2020 and September 2020. Operational testing in support of the full-rate production decision will occur in fiscal 2019, according to Warnick,

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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