NAVAIR’s newest advanced weapon for destruction of enemy air defenses, AGM-88E, was recently approved to go into low rate production, and the NAWCWD Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM) Technical Project Office (TPO) played a major role in achieving that milestone.
On Sept. 30, NAVAIR’s Direct and Time Sensitive Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA-242) received Navy approval for its AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) to enter low rate initial production (LRIP).
“The work and knowledge at China Lake was vital to the success of reaching this milestone,” said Stephen Farmer, ARM TPO lead. “We’ve worked closely with PMA-242 and the contractor providing hands-on development and test execution of this weapon system.”
China Lake has been involved with AARGM since it began as a Small Business Innovative Research program in the mid-90s. ARRGM was approved to enter System Development and Demonstration in 2003. VX-9, with assistance from the ARM TPO, conducted two successful AARGM firings in August at China Lake as part of the Operational Assessment, which was a major contributor to the production decision.
The LRIP decision, known as Milestone C, initiated production of a highly lethal “destruction of enemy air defenses” capability for naval aviation forces. The AARGM missile, produced by Alliant Techsystems (ATK), is an upgrade to the High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), AGM-88B, currently in the fleet.
“This missile provides a game-changing capability that allows first strike forces to transform from a suppression role to a role of direct destruction of enemy air defenses,” said Cmdr. Pat Smith, deputy program manager of the ARM IPT in PMA-242. “We are not just temporarily silencing the enemy; we are removing them from the fight.”
AARGM is a stand-off, air-to-ground weapon upgrading the existing HARM weapon system with a new guidance section, and a modified control section that enhances overland and maritime strike capability for targeting enemy air defenses while minimizing collateral damage. This advancement in capability is the result of a team effort between the U.S. Navy, ATK and the Italian Air Force, which will integrate AARGM onto the Tornado aircraft.
“So many people have supported this program over the years,” Farmer said. “I applaud the hard work of all those who helped keep this program on schedule and on budget. Besides the long hours put in by folks inside the ARM TPO, we couldn’t have done it without the help from a wide range of China Lake activities like the intel folks, mission planning, the north range, ECHO Range, the Advanced Weapons Lab, VX-31 and VX-9, just to name a few.”
The next big step for AARGM is Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) scheduled to start next year. Four more firings will be conducted at China Lake prior to an Operational Test Readiness Review that will decide if the weapon system is ready to be handed over to VX-9 for OPEVAL. Eleven firings and numerous captive carry tests are tentatively scheduled for OPEVAL that will determine if AARGM is operationally effective and suitable. Following successful OPEVAL and a favorable full rate production decision, AARGM is expected to be out in the fleet in 2010.
“I’m really anxious for the warfighter to get this weapon because I think it’s the system that’s truly needed in the fleet,” Farmer said. “We’re putting metal on metal, and it’s exciting to be part of that.”