Five years after making a strategic move into the precision-guided weapons business, ATK's first successful programme - the AGM-88E advanced anti-radiation guided missile (AARGM) - has been cleared by the US Navy to enter low-rate initial production. The service and export buyer the Italian military plan to start fielding the weapon after 2010.

The AARGM design corrects a known weakness of the Raytheon AGM-88 HARM with a multi-sensor system, including millimetre-wave radar and satellite-aided navigation unit, to lock on to a target even after an air defence radar stops emitting. ATK is also promoting the supersonic missile as a multi-role asset, capable of striking any time-sensitive target. Raytheon has proposed a similar multi-sensor upgrade for the AGM-88 called the HARM destruction of enemy air defences attack module.

The USN decision establishes ATK's presence in the precision-guided weapons market, joining Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon in the USA alone. The Minneapolis-based company has already moved to capture an emerging market for advanced anti-ship missiles. In August, the navy selected ATK for a two-year, $93 million contract to develop a multi-stage supersonic target, which is aimed at simulating the Russian Novator 34M-54E Klub anti-ship cruise missile. The success represents ATK's first contract to develop an all-new missile system.

ATK also earlier this year teamed with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to design a possible successor to Raytheon's AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile.

Source: Flight International