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Thursday, June 9, 2011

JAGM Testing to Continue on Helicopter Platforms

By Andrew Parker, Senior Editor

Lockheed Martin has completed testing of its joint air-to-ground missile (JAGM) again moving sea targets in the Gulf of Mexico near Eglin AFB in Florida. The tests highlighted the abilities of the missile’s tri-mode seeker, which was mounted in the nose section of a modified Sabreliner 60 and used against multiple targets, including a Revenge Advanced Composites (RAC) patrol ship.

While the trials occurred using a fixed-wing aircraft, program officials say that the data gathered applies to helicopter platforms as well. During a press conference on Tuesday, Frank St. John, Lockheed’s vice president of tactical missiles, explained that while helicopters were not employed in the most recent round of testing, the company accumulated “hundreds” of hours on rotorcraft during the technology development (TD) phase. These tests involved a “broad range of targets,” including armored vehicles, urban threats and guided missile launchers. He added that during “countermeasures and dirty battlefield” exercises as part of the TD phase, Lockheed Martin conducted a “tremendous amount of rotary wing testing.”

JAGM, which will replace the Airborne TOW, Maverick and Hellfire missiles for the U.S. military, is being developed for a number of helicopters, including the Army’s Boeing AH-64D Apache and Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, Marine Corps' Bell AH-1Z Cobra and Navy's Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, as well as fixed-wing fighter jets.

The maritime tests are part of the upcoming engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase. As part of the EMD phase, “there will be testing against maritime targets off helicopter platforms,” St. John said, specifically noting the AH-1Z and MH-60. Initial operational capability (IOC) of JAGM on the Apache and Cobra is expected in 2016, with Kiowa Warrior and Seahawk IOC projected in 2017.

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