The AGM-158 missile, also known as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), is a cutting-edge stealth cruise missile renowned for its precision strike capability and stealth penetration features. Developed by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Navy and Air Force, this advanced weapon system has a remarkable extended-range strike capability, with a maximum range of 925 kilometers. Let’s delve into the performance and significance of this extraordinary missile.
Introduction to the AGM-158 Missile
The AGM-158 missile was initially developed by Lockheed Martin in 1994 as a new-generation air-to-ground missile. Its primary purpose is to accurately strike heavily fortified high-value targets located outside enemy air zones. This general-purpose missile is designed to target critical infrastructure such as command and control centers, communication facilities, and headquarters.
One of the standout features of the AGM-158 missile is its ability to function autonomously in highly confrontational battlefield environments. The U.S. military envisions deploying this missile as a door-kick weapon to eliminate crucial enemy nodes. Following the initial strike, combat aircraft can carry out further attacks using the AGM-158 missile to maximize the impact.
Taiwan’s Interest in the AGM-158 Missile
Recognizing the superior range and autonomous strike capability of the AGM-158 missile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense has expressed interest in acquiring this stealth weapon to enhance its anti-ship missile capabilities. If Taiwan procures the AGM-158 missile, it would significantly bolster its defense posture. The AGM-158 missiles are categorized into four types: A, B, C, and D.
Development History of the AGM-158 Missile
The AGM-158 missile’s development traces back to 1995, when the United States terminated the technical research and development of the AGM-137 missile due to poor program management and cost overruns. At that time, Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas presented their missile design concepts, with Lockheed Martin’s proposal, the original AGM-158A type, ultimately selected by the military.
After several setbacks, the improved AGM-158A missile demonstrated its efficacy during the evaluation tests in 2009. Out of the 16 missiles used in the test, an impressive 15 hit their targets, surpassing the previously assessed hit rate of 75%. Consequently, the missile was officially commissioned in 2009.
Key Specifications and Capabilities
The AGM-158A missile weighs 1023 kg and measures 4.26 meters in length, with a width of 0.5 meters and a height of 0.45 meters. It can attain subsonic speeds during flight, enabling it to engage targets within enemy air defense areas beyond their range.
The AGM-158A possesses stealth flight capabilities, precision strike capabilities, and versatility in engaging various types of targets. It employs an inertial navigation system aided by the global positioning system, which ensures accurate target destruction while exhibiting robust anti-jamming capabilities.
The AGM-158 missile serves as a formidable weapon across multiple platforms within the U.S. military. During the U.S. airstrike on Syria in April 2018, AGM-158 missiles were unleashed, effectively neutralizing a chemical weapons laboratory. The success of this operation showcased the AGM-158’s effectiveness on the battlefield.
The AGM-158ER: Enhanced Range Version
To address the perceived limitation of its 320-kilometer range, Lockheed Martin developed an extended-range version of the AGM-158 missile known as the AGM-158ER. This variant features a Williams International turbofan engine, replacing the original turbojet engine, and incorporates an enlarged internal fuel tank. As a result, the AGM-158ER achieves a remarkable range exceeding 926 kilometers.
The AGM-158ER missile exhibits a distinctive design, with an olive-shaped front, a ship-shaped midsection, and a retracted tail, resulting in a rhomboid cylindrical shape. The missile’s engine is situated in its abdomen, flush with the missile body.
Additionally, the AGM-158ER is equipped with a weapon data link that establishes secure over-the-horizon communication with the joint air operations center. This data link enables target position updates via uplink and provides real-time reporting of the missile’s position and status via downlink, enhancing operational flexibility.
The AGM-158C: Autonomous Target Selection
The AGM-158C missile represents a significant advancement in the AGM-158 series. It stands out as the world’s first anti-ship missile capable of independent threat classification and target selection. This remarkable capability allows the missile to automatically eliminate infrared decoys employed for interference and directly engage enemy ships. Moreover, when multiple AGM-158C missiles are fired at the same target, they can engage in cooperative operations and conduct saturation attacks.
Powered by the F-107 turbofan engine, the AGM-158C missile possesses a range nearing 1,000 kilometers. It incorporates diverse electronic reconnaissance functions and an efficient navigation computer, enabling the missile to operate without emitting electromagnetic signals. This characteristic significantly reduces the risk of detection by enemy reconnaissance units.
The AGM-158C missile can be launched from various platforms, including bombers and fighters, making it adaptable for different combat operations. Mass production of this missile commenced in 2017.
In September 2021, Australia announced its intent to acquire the JASSM-ER, the AGM-158ER variant, for its RAAF’s F/A-18F Super Hornet and F-35A fighters. Lockheed Martin plans to enhance further the AGM-158 missile’s capabilities, including independent GPS and stealth penetration.
The AGM-158 missile, with its exceptional performance and wide range of variants, truly lives up to its reputation as one of the deadliest stealth missiles in the world. Its extended range, autonomous strike capability, and precision guidance make it a formidable weapon system.
Whether used for precision strikes against high-value targets or as an anti-ship missile, the AGM-158 series provides unmatched capabilities. As advancements continue, the AGM-158 missile will likely maintain its position as a ship killer, solidifying its importance in modern warfare.