The Air Force wants to extend the maximum range of its Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile in response to growing threats in Eastern Europe and the western Pacific.
Lockheed Martin received a $37.7 million contract from the Air Force for continued development of a wing design for the extended range JASSM, according to a company news release.
The current design, the AGM-158B JASSM-ER, has a range of roughly 540 nautical miles. Its predecessor, the AGM-158A JASSM, has a range of 200 nautical miles, according to The National Interest.
“We’ve developed a novel design that provides additional standoff range to further increase pilot survivability in an anti-access/area-denial threat environment,” said Jason Denney, program director for Long Range Strike Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Our customers trust our already proven design, and we look forward to enhancing its capabilities for warfighters.”
With significant advancements in air defense systems, such as Russia’s S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air platforms, the capabilities of fourth-generation aircraft are increasingly limited. Proliferation of these advanced platforms, known as anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weapons, has become a growing problem.
While the F-35 Lightning II and the much anticipated Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider should be able to penetrate well-defended air space, the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16C Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will still make up the majority of America’s air power for years to come.
The B-21, which will replace the B-1 Lancer and the B-52 Stratofortress, isn’t expected to enter service until 2025s.
The B-1B Lancer currently carries JASSM and JASSM-ER missiles. More than 2,150 of the stealthy, 2,000-pound missiles have been delivered, according to Lockheed Martin.
While it is not yet known how much of a range increase the new wing design will provide for the new missiles, the JASSM has shown to be quite versatile. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy teamed with Lockheed to develop a version of the JASSM-ER called the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile. The LRASM will become operational on-board Air Force B-1Bs in 2018 and on-board the Navy’s F/A-18E/F fleet in 2019, according to the National Interest.
In addition to the stand-off missile systems, the Air Force is also looking at new sixth-generation fighter jet concepts. In January, the Air Force began an 18-month analysis of alternative concepts for what it calls Penetrating Counter-Air capabilities. This is all part of Air Force’s efforts to maintain air superiority in a post-2030 threat environment.