The US Air Force says it will be ready to deploy the extended-range version of its Lockheed Martin-built AGM-158 joint air-to-surface stand-off missile (JASSM) in the second half of 2013.
Using larger fuel tanks and a more efficient Williams International F107-WR-105 turbofan engine, rather than the Teledyne CAE J402-CA-100 turbojet, the JASSM ER (AGM-158B) will have a range of more than 926km (500nm), up from 370km for the original missile.
The AGM-158 entered service in 1999 and has not been used in combat to date. Lockheed in April rolled out the 1,000th JASSM round from its Troy, Alabama factory, one of 1,200 units that have been purchased for use with the Boeing F-15, B-1B and B-52, Lockheed F-16 and Northrop Grumman B-2, and with the US Navy's Boeing F/A-18.
Early problems with the cruise missiles, which caused the air force to put the programme on hold from June 2007 until May 2008 have been addressed. This was evidenced by 15 successful launches in 16 tests of Lot 7 JASSMs in autumn 2009, says Col Stephen Demers, air force JASSM programme manager and 308th Armament Systems Group commander. "These are the best results in the history of the programme," he says.
Lockheed was awarded a Lot 8 production contract for 158 missiles in January. Problems with Lot 5 and 6 missiles, which included fuzes that failed to initiate detonation and electrical problems elsewhere in the missile were fixed at Lockheed's expense and incorporated into Lot 7 examples, says Demers.
The USAF "upped" quality control on all suppliers in the aftermath of the investigations, he adds.
To date, the air force has tested six JASSM-ER missiles launched from a B-1 bomber (below) and has five additional tests due this summer, starting in July.
Demers expects the first production buy for the JASSM ER by January 2011 as part of the weapon's Lot 9 purchase. Air force testing of the JASSM ER, which has 70% hardware commonality and 95% software commonality with the regular version of the cruise missile, will include 21 test launches.
Demers says Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II is "on the list" to receive both missiles, to be carried externally, but that no funding is in place for the work. A systems level readiness review is set for summer, following successful subsystem production readiness reviews conducted between February and April, the air force says.