May 20th, 2006 04:28 EST
New Extended Range Cruise Missile Takes First Flight Test
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- When the Air Force successfully launched its newest cruise missile for the first time on May 18, it marked a significant step toward making the job of the pilots who deliver the weapon a lot less risky.
A B-1B Lancer released the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile -- Extended Range over the White Sands Missile Range in the New Mexico desert. The missile successfully cruised more than 400 nautical miles to its static target of cargo containers.
The system is remarkable, " said Col. John Griggs, 308th Armament Systems Group commander, whose unit at Eglin works with the contractor to develop the system. It was a low-risk, low-cost upgrade.
We already know the JASSM is stealthy and lethal, " he said. But with the new upgrade, it can travel more than 500 nautical miles (compared to the old system`s range of about 200 nautical miles). "
This greater range translates to huge benefits to the aircrews that launch these missiles.
There are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters out there who put themselves in harm`s way to deliver these systems, " Colonel Griggs said. The extended range allows them to deliver that punch at a safer distance. This is important when you consider that the enemy is constantly improving their ability to shoot down our aircraft at a longer distance. "
The stealthy cruise missile is an autonomous, conventional munition designed to defeat heavily defended, high-priority enemy targets deep behind enemy lines. Although it looks the same and provides all the capabilities of the baseline missile, it has a new engine and larger fuel load capability. This allows it to extend its range.
And it is still deadly accurate to within three meters, the colonel said.
Still in the development test phase, testing will go from a crawl, to a walk, to a run state, Colonel Griggs.
Yesterday`s launch was a crawl, " he said. But it was a hell of a crawl. "
Although the launch didn`t test the new missile`s maximum range, the 51-minute flight puts it well on the way to making the battlefield a safer place for aircrews to work.
This was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people within the JASSM "ER team, " said Lt. Col. Stephen Davis, JASSM Block 2 Squadron commander. Everything went as planned, and the launch was a total success. "
Adding to the success is the economical way improvements were made.
These low risk modifications were made without disturbing the missile`s outer shape and size, thus reducing the cost and development time for the effort, " said Mike VandenBoom, the missile`s chief engineer.
Like the original JASSM, the new missile uses its inertial navigation and global positioning systems to find its intended target and then its infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact.
Aircraft can release the missile in virtually any weather and with its extended range will provide combatant commanders another tool once it reaches the Air Force inventory. It should arrive in fiscal 2009.
The B-1B is the missile`s threshold aircraft. But plans are in the works to integrate it onto other systems.
Like the baseline version (B-1B), JASSM "ER will be capable of employment from the B-2, B-52, F-15 and F-16, " JASSM-ER test engineer Buff Tibbetts said.
The launch was the first in a series of flight tests scheduled to run through December 2008.