The US General Accounting Office (GAO) says the US Air Force and US Navy should buy fewer Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapons (JSOW) because the missile does not offer significant improvements over other in-service air-launched weapons.

A $5 billion plan calls for the purchase of 11,000 soft-target AGM-154As, 4,200 anti-tank AGM-154Bs and 3,000 AGM-154Cs, with a unitary warhead and an autonomous imaging infrared terminal guidance sensor. A penetrator warhead could be integrated with the unpowered glide weapon.

The GAO says the effectiveness of the AGM-154B and AGM-154C is expected to be "significantly less" than projected because of a limited ability to hit moving targets or targets for which the geographical co-ordinates are unknown in advance. It says costly upgrades to aircraft targeting systems or enhanced third-party targeting would improve the weapons.

"Given its reduced capabilities, existing weapons and weapons being developed might be more cost-effective than the JSOW," the GAO believes.

It recommends that JSOW production be reduced.

The JSOW has been used against Iraqi air defence sites, and the US Department of Defense says pilots consider it "the best weapon available for relocatable targets".

The Pentagon adds: "It would be imprudent for the Department of Defense to defer or reduce procurement or development by any measure, given the recent demonstrated need for stand-off and precision strike capabilities, and the critical shortfall of these types of weapons in the inventory."

Source: Flight International