The 2,000 pound AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) is intended to be a stealthy, inexpensive GPS/IIR (Global Positioning system/ Imaging InfraRed) guided cruise missile that lets American aircraft attack well-defended targets – without putting them in the crosshairs of new long-range surface to air missile systems. JASSM has experienced a rocky development history, due to long-standing reliability issues. In 2005 it was threatened with cancellation following a series of poor test results. The program went through 2007 on an ongoing roller coaster of ups and downs, and by May 2009 it appeared the program was facing cancellation once again.
A production hiatus did take place between Lot 7 and FY 2010’s Lot 8, but test results have allowed the USAF to move forward. FY 2012’s milestones include the Lot 10 order, certification on 2 new platforms, JASSM-ER certification, and another export request.
The JASSM Missile Family
As noted above, JASSM family missiles are guided by a combination of GPS/INS positioning and Imaging Infrared for final targeting. They carry a dual-mode penetrator and blast fragmentation warhead at subsonic speed, in a body shape designed to have a very low radar profile.
Customers include the USA, Australia and the Netherlands; and Lockheed Martin also has a 2012-2017 support contract underway for this weapon family. The US military intends to buy a total of 4,900 missiles in this family: 2,400 JASSMs, and 2,500 JASSM-ERs. AGM-158 JASSM production looks set to end around FY 2021, but planned AGM-158B JASSM-ER orders would keep the production line going into the late 2020s, and possibly beyond.
The AGM-158 JASSM is currently integrated on B-2A Spirit stealth bombers, and on B-1B Lancer and B-52H Stratofortress bombers. On the fighter front, its platforms include the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Falcon (Block 50), and the Royal Australian Air Force’s upgraded F/A-18 Hornets. The US military intends to add the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet family to this list, and to extend F-16 compatibility to earlier Block 40 models. JASSM will also be carried by the F-35, eventually, but it’s no longer on the list of weapons for certification by the end of the development program. If and when it’s certified for the F-35 family after 2018, it will have to be carried externally, because it’s too large for the internal weapon bays.
Unit cost for the baseline AGM-158 JASSM is currently around $1 million per missile, but the USAF hopes to bring that down to around $800,000 eventually.
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The AGM-158B JASSM-ER maintains the same mold line and size, but substitutes a Williams International tubofan for the baseline JASSM’s Teledyne turbojet, and adds extra fuel within the missile body, without dropping payload or electronics capabilities. The result is an extension of the missile’s range from “over 200 nm” to “over 500 nm”. JASSM-ER has also been certified for use in environments where GPS is heavily jammed, or not available.
Unit cost is eventually expected to be around $1.25 million per missile, but current costs are running around $1.75 million.
The USAF says that AGM-158B JASSM-ER will eventually be integrated with as very similar plane set: B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Falcon (Block 25+), F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and F-35A-C Lightning II. Under current USAF plans, however, the B-1 Lancer will be the only plane certified with the new missile for a few years. The B-1’s 24-missile payload capacity is double the B-52’s, and the new missile will make the USAF’s Lancer fleet its key strike force in the Pacific theater.
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The JASSM family has several international competitors, with MBDA’s Storm Shadow leading the pack. MBDA & Saab’s Taurus KEPD 350, Raytheon’s powered JSOW-ER, and Boeing’s AGM-84K SLAM-ER also represent sub-sonic cruise missiles with some level of stealth, and similar range to the base AGM-158. Norway’s NSM/JSM is about to add itself to that mix, and may fit inside the F-35. The JASSM family can’t match that stealthy internal carriage, which may open a significant global niche for Kongsberg.
Russian strike missile designs, and derivatives like the Russo-Indian PJ-10 BrahMos, emphasize speed over stealth, and aren’t really competitors in the same niche.
FY 2012 Contracts & Key Events
Dec 3/12: Finland. Lockheed Martin announces a $5.1 million initial contract to support integration of the AGM-158 JASSM onto Finnish Air Force (FiAF) F-18C/D Hornets. It’s the 1st phase of a 6-year software development and aircraft integration support program, with additional contract awards expected for the remaining phases of integration support, missile procurement and post-production support. For convenience and economies of scale, the award aligns with the FY 2012 JASSM Production Lot 10 procurement contract.
Finland becomes the 2nd international customer for JASSM, whose integration will coincide with the FiAF’s F/A-18 Mid-Life Two upgrades. The U.S. Navy will lead the integration effort in coordination with the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and the FiAF. Integration activities will take place at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, CA.
Aug 9/12: The USAF says that the The 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron is scheduled to complete JASSM-ER’s final phase of operational testing with its “threshold” B-1B platform on Aug 30/12. USAF Capt. Philip Atkinson adds that:
“One of the emphasis items is to be able to operate in contested and degraded environments… 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.”
July 26/12: F-15E integration. Lockheed Martin announces that its AGM-158 JASSM has completed F-15E platform integration, following a successful all-up round (AUR) launch test at White Sands Missile Range, NM. This marked the 1st time that any missile, has been integrated onto a platform using the new Universal Armament Interface (UAI).
June 28/12: JASSM Lot 10. Lockheed Martin announces a $241.6 million contract for Lot 10 production of 221 AGM-158 JASSM family missiles. It includes 190 AGM-158 JASSM missiles, plus 30 missiles in the 2nd year of low-rate initial production for the AGM-158-B Extended Range JASSM-ER variant. The contract also buys Test Instrumentation Kits and systems engineering support.
The missiles are produced at the company’s Shingo award-winning manufacturing facility in Troy, AL. to date, Lockheed Martin says they’ve has assembled more than 1,100 JASSMs for testing and operational use, toward a total objective of 4,900 JASSM and JASSM-ER missiles.
The release adds an update re: “January  certification of JASSM on the Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 and successful integration on the U.S. Air Force F-15E.”
Lot 10 contract
March 30/12: SAR. The Pentagon releases its report, and JASSM-ER is highlighted for a good news reason:
“Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) – Program costs decreased $637.0 million (-14.5%) from $4,387.5 million to $3,750.5 million, due primarily to an acceleration of the procurement buy profile that shortened the program by five years from FY 2028 to FY 2023 (-$726.0 million), offset by the application of revised escalation indices (+$85.0 million).”
JASSM-ER cost drop
Dec 13/11: Australia. Australia’s DoD removes JASSM from their notorious “Projects of Concern” list, and explains the rocky procurement history to date:
“This project was approved in December 2005 to acquire JASSM for deployment on Classic Hornets. The project was listed as a Project of Concern in November 2010… The JASSM project has been used as a case study for improvements in the management of major Defence projects. Lessons from the project informed the Government’s response to the “Review of the Defence Accountability Framework” (the Black Review), which Minister Smith released in August .
In July this year, the missile was successfully tested at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia. In November  the Chief of Air Force provided service release, certifying the JASSM for use on Australia’s F/A-18 A/Bs.
The Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Defence Materiel Organisation has recommended the project be removed from the Projects of Concern list.
The Government has accepted this recommendation.”
Read: “Australia Chooses JASSM Missiles on F-18s for Long-Range Strike” for full coverage.
Off the “Projects of Concern” list
Oct 31/11: Finland request. The US DSCA finally allows Finland’s official request [PDF] for AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles to go forward. Finland would receive 70 AGM-158 cruise missiles, 2 test vehicles, plus support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor support. The estimated cost is up to $255 million. Read “Finland to Buy Cruise Missiles for its Hornets” for full coverage.