State clears UK’s planned $1 billion purchase of joint air-to-surface missiles

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has approved a potential $957.4 million sale of joint air-to-surface missiles to the United Kingdom, according to a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The UK intends to buy 3,000 Lockheed Martin-developed JAGMs — or AGM-197A missiles — the announcement said. He notes that Congress must now approve the sale.

The US Army and Marine Corps in August 2022 declared the JAGM ready for full-scale production. The agencies had delayed launching the missile for more than a year after the weapon previously failed to achieve the desired lethal effects on a maritime target.

The JAGM will replace the Lockheed-made Hellfire missiles on US aircraft and will first be fitted to the Marine Corps’ AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and AH-1Z Viper helicopters.

While the Army and Marine Corps are early adopters of the capability, the UK in 2021 signed up to buy JAGM. In the last year, Poland and the Netherlands have both announced plans to buy JAGM.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin is working on upgrading the JAGM. The company announced in December 2022 that it had conducted a flight test of a version with twice the range, traveling 10 miles to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.

The company also incorporated a tri-mode seeker that combines a low-cost imaging sensor with the seeker’s semi-active laser and millimeter wave sensors. The US military originally required the JAGM weapon to have a tri-mode seeker, but reverted to a dual function search requirement when the value was too high. Since then, tri-mode search technology has become more accessible.

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Lockheed also said in the summer of 2022 that it was evaluating how the JAGM could be configured for short-range mobile air defense launched from ground platforms.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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