AGM-158 image USAF
The USAF is set to carry out a final series of trials involving an upgraded cruise missile design prior to fielding it for real during 2013.
Lockheed Martin's extended-range version of the AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) has well over twice the range of the original design and boasts a 450 kilogram blast fragmentation warhead.
With the last set of flight tests due to take place imminently, the JASSM-ER (Extended Range) should reach initial operational capability (IOC) status within months. The last JASSM-ER missile launch test is scheduled to be carried out by the United States Air Force's 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron on 30 August 2012.
AGM-158 Cruise Missile
The Lockheed Martin AGM-158 cruise missile entered service in 2009 and presently equips the United States Air Force, the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, to name but three. It can be fitted to a number of modern military aircraft designs including the Rockwell B-1B Lancer, the Northrop B-2 Spirit, the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress and F-15E Strike Eagle and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II JSF (Joint Strike Fighter).
Fourteen feet long, the AGM-158 cruise missile's top speed lies within the subsonic range and each example has a price tag of $700,000. It has a range of over 370 kilometres but the upgraded AGM-158 JASSM-ER's range exceeds 926 kilometres.
Extended Range AGM-158
The extended range AGM-158 missile also cruises at below Mach 1 but features a Williams International F107-WR-105 turbofan in place of the original Teledyne CAE J402-CA-100 turbofan powerplant.
Based at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron forms part of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group and is equipped with B-1B Lancer intercontinental strategic bomber. Originally established in 1942, it has existed in its current format since 2004 and is tasked exclusively with trialling B-1B bomber upgrades and retrofits.
"The B-1 is the very first aircraft to get it, so we will be the only JASSM-ER platform for years to come", the squadron's Captain Philip Atkinson explained in a statement. "As we shift our emphasis from the Middle East to the Pacific, as heavily defended as that region is, the JASSM combined with the B-1 presents a top choice for combatant commanders."