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337th TES assures JASSM-ER carriage capability

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Peter Thompson
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron has recently completed a captive carriage exercise with a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range to verify the weapon's ability to maintain functionality after being carried for close to 100 total flight hours over several sorties with one single missile. The JASSM-ER is an autonomous, long-range, air-to-ground, precision missile employed solely by the B-1B Lancer.

"The JASSM-ER is built on the same platform as the baseline JASSM, so most of its capabilities are the same," said Maj. Alicia Datzman, 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. "The extended range it provides gives air crews a larger number of options during a mission. This missile can fly into heavily defended areas so our aircraft don't have to."

Currently, JASSM-ER (AGM-158B) is only compatible with the B-1B Lancer, while the JASSM (AGM-158A) is functional on four additional airframes, including both fighters and bombers. The B-1's ability to fly faster, further and with the largest weapons payload in the Air Force, makes it the ideal aircraft for carrying and employing the extended range missile.

In January 2011, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics approved the JASSM-ER for a low-rate initial production with the program successfully completing operational testing in November 2012. The 337th TES executed the initial operational testing and evaluations.

Later, the Undersecretary of Defense's office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation requested additional testing to demonstrate the 100-hour requirement, assuring the missile's system design is adequate to satisfy the carriage requirements.

"Although captive carriage testing was accomplished to well over 300 hours during initial operational testing and evaluation, it was spread over 21 missiles. No single missile was carried more than 30 hours," said Kenneth Bandy, JASSM Test Director. "The purpose of this captive carry effort therefore, was to complete the captive demonstration, followed by an employment of the missile during a future test mission. This will prove that the missile's system design is adequate to satisfy the operational carriage requirements."

The benefits of this weapon aren't reserved to the B-1 that's carrying it. The potential to release a weapon from the distance the JASSM-ER is capable of not only keeps the aircrew flying the bomber safer, but also other aircraft that would be deployed to support the B-1 during its mission. Pilots and weapons systems officers are afforded additional protection because they can fly further from the enemy's air defenses while employing the weapon.

"While other long range weapons may have the capability of reaching targets within the same range, they are not as survivable as the low observable JASSM-ER," Bandy said. "The stealth design of the missile allows it to survive through high-threat, well-defended enemy airspace. The B-1's effectiveness is increased because high-priority targets deeper into heavily defended areas are now vulnerable."

"Being able to keep our aircraft and aircrews safer is passed on to whoever might be supporting us in the battlespace," Datzman said. "If we don't have to put ourselves at risk by flying into heavily defended areas to reach a target, neither do the fighter aircraft that might be alongside us."