The US Air Force is trying to reverse a Congressional budget cut for the extended-range variant of the AGM-156B JASSM stand-off missile. A separate effort may add a sophisticated datalink.

Funding for the JASSM-ER in fiscal year 2004 falls short of the air force target by about $3 million, but service officials are seeking to divert funds from other programmes, says Randy Bigum, vice-president of strike weapons at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

The JASSM-ER contract award will be managed in two phases, with production expected to begin in November 2006 as part of the baseline JASSM award for lot six production.

Bigum says the ER version may be among the first weapons to incorporate the Weapons Data Link Architecture, a miniature datalink now under development by Rockwell Collins, which allows in-flight retargeting and more accurate battle damage assessment.

Meanwhile, the baseline JASSM system has been declared operational on air force Boeing B-52 units after delivery of 42 of the 910kg (2,000lb)-class missiles was completed in late September. The satellite-guided stealth weapon can strike targets beyond 925km (500nm) with a blast fragmentation and penetrator warhead.

Source: Flight International