JASSM proves deadly accurate in first development test flight

by Jim Swinson
Air Armament Center Public Affairs

01/31/01 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) - Test teams successfully put the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile imaging infrared target seeker system through its paces recently, clearing another major hurdle toward it entering the nation's precision-guided munitions arsenal.

During a flight test, held at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Maj. Wayne Opella, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 46th Test Wing here, launched the JASSM about 15,000 feet up, cruising at about 500 mph. The weapon separated cleanly from the aircraft, deployed its wings and tail section, and ignited its engine at the proper altitude to begin a 70-mile dash toward the target array on the desert floor.

The JASSM is a 2,250-pound cruise missile which carries a 1,000-pound-class duel-purpose warhead. The warhead is capable of destroying soft and distributed surface targets or deeply buried, hardened structures.

It can fly in adverse weather, day or night, from standoff ranges well beyond enemy air defenses. The range is classified, but officials said it is beyond 200 nautical miles. Its stealth characteristics and on-board anti-jam countermeasure components make it virtually impossible to defend against, officials said.

During the recent flight, the cruise missile's GPS navigation system functioned flawlessly, recognizing three navigation way-points and completed necessary maneuvers to keep it on the pre-programmed mission attack plan, said Dale Bridges, JASSM systems program office technical director.

As the JASSM approached its target, it performed a pitch-over maneuver and dived on the target at a 70-degree impact angle. The state-of-the-art infrared imaging seeker recognized the target scene and guided the weapon to a hit, according to Bridges.

The missile was not carrying a live warhead during this flight, but will in future flight tests.

Successfully completing this first JASSM development test establishes the viability of the seeker and mission planning software, and demonstrates JASSM's ability to fly to and hit the target, according to Terry Little, JASSM program director.

"Achieving these critical markers brings the program closer to a low-rate initial production decision and more importantly closer to having the missile in the user's inventory," Little said.

The Air Force originally planned to buy 2,400 JASSMs, but there are ongoing efforts to greatly increase that number. Current plans call for the missile to be carried on the F-16, B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and B-52 Stratofortress.

The Navy is participating in the JASSM development program and requires the missile be capable of being launched from the F/A-18 Hornet, but the Navy has not yet committed to buy JASSMs. Several allied nations have also expressed interest in purchasing the missile.

If the future tests are successful, a decision to enter JASSM into low-rate initial production is expected in late summer or early fall. Full-rate production is expected to begin in early 2003. (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)