The 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron is scheduled to complete the final-phase of operational testing for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile - Extended Range in late August, marking a significant step toward operational employment.
JASSM-ER is an autonomous, air-to-ground, precision-guided standoff missile designed to meet the needs of U.S. warfighters. It shares the same powerful capabilities and stealthy characteristics of the baseline JASSM, but with more than two-and-a-half times the range.
"Although it looks the same and provides all the capabilities of the baseline missile, it has a new engine and larger fuel load capability," said Capt. Philip Atkinson, who works with the 337th TES. "This allows it to extend its range to more than 500 nautical miles, compared to the old system's range of 200 nautical miles."
This additional reach allows aircraft to deploy JASSM-ER against high-value, well-fortified, fixed and relocateable targets, while remaining clear of highly defended airspace and long-range surface-to-air missiles.
Like the original JASSM, the new missile uses its inertial navigation and global positioning systems to find its intended target, then its infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact.
Furthermore, the cruise missile is able to operate in heavily degraded GPS environments.
"One of the emphasis items is to be able to operate in contested and degraded environments," Atkinson said. "One of the things the military relies heavily on is GPS, and we have demonstrated the ability to operate with intense GPS jamming. Even without GPS, the JASSM can find its target due to its internal sensor."
The 337th TES is scheduled to complete the final live JASSM-ER flight test Aug. 30 with the B-1 Lancer, the missiles' threshold aircraft and premier platform for JASSM employment.
"The B-1 is the very first aircraft to get it, so we will be the only JASSM-ER platform for years to come," Atkinson said. "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."
Like the baseline version, JASSM-ER will be capable of employment on the B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. However, the B-1 is able to carry 24 of the long-range missiles; that is twice as many as the B-52.
"The B-1 is the premier aircraft to employ this new weapon due to the quantity we can carry, flexibility in terms of mission sets we take care of and targeting flexibility," Atkinson said. "Also, JASSM shots can be either mission planned against fixed targets or can be retargeted dynamically in flight with waypoints, a feature unique to the B-1."
The JASSM-ER will be officially fielded late next year, when B-1s can be called upon for operational use.