Cruise missile initial operational capability due on B-52 and F-16 next year. B-2 will follow soon after

Initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) is to start around 20 June, with the first IOT&E launch from a Lockheed Martin F-16.

The cruise missile, in development for the US Air Force and Navy, has been through a series of test drops but requires a final phase of IOT&E tests before a decision on full-rate production in October next year. The tests encompass flight and control test vehicles as well as seven JASSM drops against targets at the White Sands test range in New Mexico.

The series includes the first operational test firing from a Boeing B-52, set for August. The JASSM is due to achieve initial operational capability on the F-16 and B-52 in September next year, with follow-on clearance for the Northrop Grumman B-2.

"We have essentially already completed B-2 integration, probably earlier than we'd typically do for an objective aircraft," says George Mayer, navy deputy director of the JASSM office at the Air Armament Center, Eglin AFB, Florida.

"The [Rockwell] B-1 will be the next aircraft for JASSM, and we are in discussions with Lockheed Martin and the B-1 system programme office about ramping that up. It could happen maybe this year or in fiscal year 2003, depending on the B-1 budget allocation," he adds. Other aircraft due to receive JASSM include the Boeing F/A-18E/F beginning in October, the Boeing F-15E, and Lockheed Martin F-117 and P-3C Orion.

Mayer is confident IOT&E will lead to full-rate production clearance. Lot 1 and 2 low-rate production covers 195 JASSMs. The third lot, the first full-rate production deal, is expected to cover250 missiles.

Source: Flight International