Senior US Air Force leaders are to determine whether longer range versions of the Boeing AGM-86C/D Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile (CALCM) or Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) will fill the pending requirement for an Extended Range Cruise Missile (ERCM), according to USAF officials.

ERCM is an interim solution until the Long Range Cruise Missile (LRCM) is fielded in around 2010. Potential interim candidates include a more capable CALCM, a turbofan-powered JASSM with an estimated 1,850km (1,000nm) range and a variant of the Raytheon Advanced Cruise Missile.

The USAF leadership recently asked the CALCM and JASSM programme management for technical data on the feasibility of fielding extended range variants of the weapons. Boeing would develop a lightweight CALCM Block 3A powered by a refurbished turbofan engine. The current JASSM design would be retained, but the missile would be fitted with the Williams International turbofan. Empty space in JASSM would accommodate an enlarged fuel tank.

"The USAF has yet to decide which weapon will bridge the gap between CALCM and LRCM," say USAF officials. Cost is a central issue and a final determination on the ERCM development is not due before the end of this year. Officials believe an extended range JASSM could be fielded within 30 months of a programme go-ahead.

Source: Flight International