WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have declared the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile ready for full-rate production, manufacturer Lockheed Martin said in a statement on Sept. 8.
The decision, dated Aug. 30, was delayed after the weapon previously failed to achieve desired lethal effects on a maritime target, resulting in the Army and Marine Corps delaying the missile’s fielding by over a year.
“The milestone also marks the successful completion of operational testing of JAGM on the US Army’s AH-64E Apache and the Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Viper helicopters,” Lockheed said in its statement.
JAGM replaces the legacy Lockheed Martin-made Hellfire missile used across the services. However, the new weapon encountered problems during testing when it was fired from the Army’s AH-64E Apache and the Marine Corps’ AH-1Z Viper helicopters.
The new munition features a dual-mode seeker and guidance system mated to a Hellfire missile.
Prior to 2018, the Army experienced several failures during live-fire testing from an AH-64E Apache, including seeing the missile miss two targets. And during a major test event, one of the four launches with a live warhead failed to detonate. The Apache’s targeting site and fire control radar also passed “erroneous target velocities” to the missile, according to test reports.
The Army was able to resolve those problems in subsequent testing and evaluation.
But the Marine Corps struggled with JAGM on Viper during an initial operational test and evaluation at Fort Hood, Texas, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in mid-2019.
The Marines fired two shots, both of which did not hit boat targets at the center of the vessel, but rather striking more toward the back.
The plan was to make a full-rate production decision about a year ago, but the Marine Corps needed more time to complete the platform integration with the missile. During that time, the Army has made no modifications to the missile since it completed its integration with the Apache.
The delay has not affected the program overall, then-Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space Maj. Gen. Robert Rasch, said last fall. He has since pinned on his third star and now serves as the director of the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
The Army is still producing JAGMs at the minimum sustainment rate, he said.
Lockheed rolled its 1,000th JAGM off the production line in February.
The plan is to ultimately integrate JAGM onto helicopters and unmanned aircraft, like Gray Eagle, as well as on air defense systems like the Mobile Short-Range Air Defense System, or M-SHORAD, that the Army rapidly fielded to its formations in European last year, Lockheed noted in its statement.
Lockheed is now working on extending JAGM’s range to 16 kilometers through the pursuit of a medium-range variant. This would double the missile’s current range without changing its length or diameter, the company said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.