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by Kris Osborn

The Navy is arming its entire fleet with a new air-launched, precision-guided missile able to use a two-way data-link to identify and destroy moving targets at sea, service officials said.

Called the AMG-154 Joint Standoff Weapon, or JSOW, the Raytheon-built attack bomb uses GPS technology, inertial measurement unit guidance technology and an imaging infrared seeker in the final phase of flight to find and attack enemy targets.

"The weapon is integrated with a Link 16 network radio, enabling it to engage moving targets at sea. The radio allows the launch aircraft or another designated controller to provide real-time target updates to the weapon in flight or reassign the weapon to another target. It also uses GPS/INS and an infrared seeker for terminal guidance," NAVAIR spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove told Scout Warrior in a statement.

The Joint Stand-Off Weapon C-1 achieved operational status in June of last year and is now deployed with all Navy Air Wings, Cosgrove said.

The new technology gives fighters such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet a vastly increased attack envelope against a wider range of threats such as enemy ships, small boats on-the-move. Moving forward, the JSOW C-1 will be fired from the Navy’s carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C.

While historically used as a land-attack weapon launched from air-platforms such as fighter jets, new technology allows the JSOW weapon to use the LINK 16 data-link to identify and kill moving maritime targets at sea from ranges as far at 70-miles, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The JSOW C-1 Moving Maritime Target capability allows the weapon to fly to an updated cue from its controlling platform, then transition to an image recognition/matching process enabled by an onboard database of ship characteristics stored in the weapon, Navy officials said.

The existing variant, called the JSOW C, has been upgraded to include the new variant called the JSOW C-1.

The new JSOW C-1 combines the proven, precision, standoff land attack capabilities from JSOW C, with the new, state-of-the-art Link 16 data link to also engage moving maritime targets.

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The JSOW C-1 is an upgrade to the JSOW C unitary variant which uses an autonomous imaging infrared seeker with Automatic Target Acquisition for terminal guidance, developers said.

The C-1 uses same legacy JSOW C unitary warhead, a British-designed BROACH tandem lethal package (blast/frag and penetration capability) for use against point targets, service officials explained.

“One of the first Networked Enabled Weapons, the JSOW C-1 has a datalink capability that allows a controlling or targeting platform to provide updated targeting information in flight. These Inflight Target Updates facilitated via Link-16 enable greater weapon accuracy and enhance the probability of mission success,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

The existing JSOW C variant, which can be programmed from the cockpit, is able to fire against a wide range of fixed targets such as enemy buildings, bunkers, air defenses, equipment or troop locations.

“The weapon (JSOW C) has a pre-planned mode where mission planning is used and then also a target of opportunity mode where, if an aircrew needed to change targets in flight, a pilot can select a new target or incorporate third-party target location,” Ron Jenkins, Director of the Precision Standoff Strike Mission Area, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.

Jenkins added that both variants of the weapon are engineered with an anti-jam technology, radio frequency countermeasures and an ability to tailor its trajectory or impact depending upon the disposition of a target. For instance, the weapon can be adjusted to destroy a hardened concrete bunker, he added.

“It does have a very robust GPS anti-jam capability and it also has waypoint navigation, which would enable operators to navigate around a threat. In addition to that, you can select the direction of arrival and the angle. For example, if you were going against a hardened bunker, you would want a steeper dive.”

While much of the details of this are not publicly available for discussion, both JSOW variants are engineered with what’s called advanced “survivability” technology, meaning they are very difficult to shoot down, Jenkins added.

New Navy Strategy

The development of this new JSOW C-1 weapon is entirely consistent with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy which aims to better arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weaponry to better address near-peer threats at sea.