JAGM to Follow JCM in Obama’s Latest Budget
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The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) program is an Army run one to develop a replacement for the air launched Hellfire and Maverick missiles. The Hellfire is fired from helicopters and started life as a laser guided anti-tank missile. It now has a variety of warhead options and has seen heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan from AH-64 and AH-1W attack helicopters. The Maverick is fired from fixed wing aircraft primarily by the U.S. Air Force and too was initially an anti-tank system.
Several years ago there was a similar program in development called the Joint Common Missile (JCM). This was cancelled around 2005. The JAGM program began a few years later. Originally it was planned to have two teams compete for designs and then take one into production. Raytheon (RTN) and Boeing (BA) formed a team and Lockheed Martin (LMT), who had been the prime contractor for the JCM, also competed. One of the requirements for JAGM is the use of a 3 mode seeker utilizing radar, infrared and laser guidance.
In 2012 the Army rather then continuing the contest decided to delay final development and production of the system. Rather the two teams would be given contracts to continue their work and this could then support a later production decision if it was decided to finish out the program. Both contenders were given about $60 million contracts for this work.
Now in the latest budget submitted by the Obama administration last week it looks like a final decision has been made to cancel JAGM. Only the costs of the current development plan are considered which would save a little over $200 million in the 5 years the budget plan covers. It is of course up to Congress to decide whether to remove the funding and end this program.
The Hellfire has a successful history but the JAGM, and JCM, would have offered improvements in size, range and guidance capability. If sequestration continues then the U.S. military will be faced with more choices of deferring new development, using existing equipment or investing in new capabilities for them. The current budget without considering those mandatory cuts already is starting to make those kind of decisions.