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Marine Corp AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters are shooting the new Joint Air Ground Missile (JAGM) Hellfire replacement at land targets in preparation for delivering the weapon to war, a move which will bring new dimensions of lethality to helicopter air attack.
The Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron fired eight shots destroying armored and light armored vehicles to demonstrate strike operations and Close Air Support, a Marine Corps statement said.
“Ultimately, the data collected is analyzed to determine overall system effectiveness and refine the tactics, techniques and procedures of employing this weapon in expeditionary advanced base operations, such as strike operations and close air support,” the Corps report explained.
Joint Air Ground Missile (JAGM)
In development for many years, the JAGM Hellfire replacement weapon is built with an advanced, high-tech seeker technology enabling multiple targeting methods on a single weapon, to include semi-active laser targeting, RF guidance and all-weather millimeter wave sensors.
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The concept behind JAGM is to employ an air-launched attack weapon capable of destroying enemy tanks and other armored vehicles on the move through laser painting or “spotting” of moving targets or destroy them despite poor visibility due to bad weather with millimeter wave targeting. This versatility can give helicopter crews an opportunity to strike targets in a wide range of operational scenarios while being able to remain “on-station” and track targets.
A single weapon capable of drawing upon multiple targeting and guidance systems reduces redundancy and enables helicopter crews to multiply attack options with fewer missiles. This increases efficiency, lowers the logistical footprint and offers new tactics for attack helicopters needing to strike ocean, land air air targets with tailorable kinds of guidance systems depending upon what a given mission might require.
This land-target assessment comes just after the Corps test-fired the JAGM on maritime targets in November 2021 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
It would make sense that the Corps would see JAGM as a versatile, multi-domain weapon, given the many uses and adaptations of the Hellfire missile. The Hellfire attacks air-to-air targets, air-to-surface targets over the ocean and air-to-ground targets both stationary and on the move. Beyond this, the Hellfire missile has been fired by the Army from the ground at enemy helicopters from mobile launchers and even arms Army Stryker vehicles to provide short-range-air-defense against enemy drones, helicopters and fixed wing targets.
Extending beyond the land domain, the Hellfire missile is now also fired from the deck of the Littoral Combat ship to improve surface lethality. All of this suggests that, just as the multi-domain testing indicates, the Corps intends for its new JAGM to operate within a wide range of operational combat frameworks.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. 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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.