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USAF launches JASSM New Variant missile

An F-15E Strike Eagle drops a JASSM-ER during trials. The US Air Force has launched an effort to develop an improved version of the missile, dubbed the JASSM New Variant. (US DoD)

The US Air Force (USAF) has launched an effort to develop a new version of the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM), posting a sole source notification of a contract award to Lockheed Martin on 20 October.

Announced on the US government procurement website, the JASSM New Variant is a classified version of the air-launched weapon that will feature “added capabilities” over the currently fielded AGM-158A JASSM and the AGM-158B JASSM Extended Range (ER).

No further details were disclosed, with the accompanying attachment for the notification being restricted by the Department of Defense (DoD).

The baseline JASSM is a stealthy next-generation stand-off weapon that features a low-wing design (swept back for carriage) with a rounded rectangular body and a single vertical tail (folded for carriage).

The missile's mid-course guidance uses the inertial navigation system/ Global Positioning System (GPS) unit developed for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) guided bombs, with either a high-level or low-level (down to about 1,600 ft) cruise altitude. The terminal phase sees the JASSM fly a steep dive onto the target using an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker before the WDU-42/B (J-1000) penetration and blast fragmentation warhead detonates.

The range of the JASSM is listed as an estimated 370 km, while the JASSM-ER increases this to nearly 1,000 km through the addition of a new turbofan engine and additional fuel.

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