Douglas Barrie/London

The US Navy is expected to decide on whether to continue with the Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-Off Missile (JASSM) by mid-1998, according to senior programme officials.

The JASSM is being pursued as a US Air Force/Navy programme, with Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas (MDC) developing rival designs under contract to the US Department of Defense (DoD). Contract award of one of the rival weapons is expected by mid-1998. The USAF plans to order 2,400 missiles, but the USN order has yet to be determined.

There is a lobby within the USN which favours dropping the JASSM, preferring further developments of the MDC AGM-84H Stand-off Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER). Elements of the JASSM requirement, however, have to some extent been determined by the needs of carrier operations.

Terry Little, USAF JASSM programme director, said at the SMI precision-guided munition symposium that the DoD already has a cost and performance study under way, looking at the JASSM and alternatives.

Little remains convinced that the USN will eventually pick the JASSM, rather than opting for further variants of the SLAM-ER.

MDC is remanufacturing the USN's SLAM missiles to SLAM-ER standard. The SLAM-ER modification fits the basic SLAM airframe, with planar wings, doubling the missile's range to beyond 280km (150nm), as well as providing upgraded avionics.

Automatic target acquisition will also be included in the upgrade, beginning in 1999. Full-rate-production deliveries of the SLAM-ER to the USN would begin in 2000. The JASSM may enter service around 2002.

The USN, however, is also beginning to consider advanced strike weapons which could enter service by 2007. The SLAM-ER, and its developments, might be considered sufficient until then.

Source: Flight International