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Related File Video Above: Navy Fires Off Hellfire From LCS - How Will it Change Combat?

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

The Marine Corps is firing the new Joint Air Ground Missile (JAGM) tank killing HELLFIRE replacement from its AH-1Z Viper helicopter.

Joint Air Ground Missile (JAGM)

In a recent test firing at Eglin Air Force Base, the Corps fired off a JAGM from its signature attack helicopter to assess the ability of the weapon to attack coastal targets and emerging enemies in littoral waters. 

Establishing and advancing “sea control” is the aim of the assessments as the Corps looks to increase lethality against maritime, coastal and land-based enemy targets.

Marine Corps aviation maintenance personnel assigned to Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) work on the blade cuff and drivetrain of an AH-1Z Viper to ensure the aircraft remains ready during the operational test and evaluation of the joint air-to-ground missile (JAGM), Nov. 4, 2021. VMX-1 fired and evaluated the JAGM to determine its suitability and effectiveness to support expeditionary advanced base operations and distributed operations, such as conducting sea denial operations within the littorals and supporting sea control operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Jay Hernandez)

Marine Corps aviation maintenance personnel assigned to Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) work on the blade cuff and drivetrain of an AH-1Z Viper to ensure the aircraft remains ready during the operational test and evaluation of the joint air-to-ground missile (JAGM), Nov. 4, 2021. VMX-1 fired and evaluated the JAGM to determine its suitability and effectiveness to support expeditionary advanced base operations and distributed operations, such as conducting sea denial operations within the littorals and supporting sea control operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Jay Hernandez)

Built to advance upon and improve the combat-tested technology of the Hellfire Missile, JAGM is equipped with two sensor technologies to optimize missile performance on maritime targets. 

The intent of the test, according to a Corps press statement, was to refine attack tactics, techniques and procedures to employ the new weapon in a range of anticipated future combat scenarios.

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Tank-killing kinds of firepower able to track and destroy maritime targets on the move certainly brings a substantial lethality dimension to amphibious warfare. The helicopter could of course support an amphibious assault by attacking enemy small boats, larger surface ships and even submarines when they surface to communicate. 

Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM)

Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) being fired from Apache - shephardmedia.com

A JAGM-armed attack helicopter such as the AH-1Z Viper could also help stop an enemy amphibious operation by destroying armored vehicles in transit, attacking landing craft and even firing directly upon surface ships. While the exact range of JAGM is not known, a HELLFIRE operates within roughly an 8km range.

HELLFIRE

How will the JAGM advance upon HELLFIRE technology, as the Army has greatly upgraded a number of HELLFIRE missile enhancements such as blast-frag warheads, anti-tank weapons and additional metal sleeves to maximize fragmentation for an anti-personnel effect. 

Perhaps a JAGM will attack a deck crew of an enemy ship and wish to impact or degrade an enemies operational capability by disabling advanced maritime sensors, drones and land-based command and control structures.

Hellfire

An MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11, fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile during exercise Savage Ice. The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile will ultimately replace the Hellfire missile used across the services. (MC3 Trey Hutcheson/U.S. Navy)

The Corps is now analyzing collected data and results from the test with a mind to better developing an idea for how best to prepare the force for a new generation of air-sea-land threats. 

Lethality will need to not only need to extend over long ranges, but also integrate precision with an ability to destroy maritime targets on the move. If operating from the flight deck of a U.S. destroyer, a JAGM-armed Viper attack helicopter can greatly expand its attack options and hold what the Corps statement described as “expeditionary advanced base operations.”

Kris Osborn is a defense writer for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President