Ran in The Rocketeer on 3 September 1998

JSOW successful in first joint exercise

JSOW--view of Nellis Air Force Base airfield in the morning
China Lake, CA-Another milestone in strike warfare was reached earlier this month, as the AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) made its first-ever appearance in joint training operations. The Black Knights of VMFA-314, a Marine Corps F/A-18C squadron based at Miramar, Calif., took the lead in integrating this weapon into the two-week exercise Red Flag 98-3, July 27 through August 7, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Using a production-representative inert weapon, and with support from NAWCWPNS China Lake JSOW team members LCdr. Mike Murphy, Eric Burkhardt, John Lane, Clyde Swasey, Linda Whitham, Ron Reed, and Clark Bartlett (CTA) and Charlie Roberts (Raytheon Systems Company), the squadron planned and executed daily simulated JSOW strike missions against various target aimpoints. The weapon contributed significantly to the elimination of key enemy targets during this large-scale, international exercise.

In addition to using JSOW to augment the routine strike packages of short-range weapons, the Black Knights investigated innovative targeting tactics, including real-time targeting from ground forces. In one scenario, Navy SEALS from the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Fallon, Nev., identified a high-value target from their nearby reconnaissance position.

With exact coordinates of the aimpoint determined using laser range-finding and other devices, the targeting data was passed over tactical networks to a JSOW-carrying Hornet at a prebriefed control point. After assigning this target to his weapon, Lt.Col. Mike Albo, commanding officer of the squadron, simulated launch of the weapon from an over-the-horizon release point. He then flew a flight path which simulated the weapon's flight profile; successful targeting of the designated aimpoint, within the time-on-target window assigned by the SEALS, was confirmed by airborne and ground instrumentation.

The introduction of JSOW and other medium- to long-range standoff weapons has the potential to alter dramatically the conduct of war. With a range of over 40 miles and precise, autonomous navigation available through Global Positioning Satellite and onboard inertial measurement systems, the unpowered JSOW can glide accurately to its previously-designated target with no further support from the launch aircraft. This provides the fleet with a capability to "fire and forget" a lethal weapon from well outside the range of enemy point defense weapons, minimizing risk to the aircrew and reducing escort and support requirements.

"This represents a tremendous advance in strike capability for the carrier air wing," said Maj. Tom "Gordo" Belleville, VMFA-314 operations officer. "The standoff capability and great precision provided by JSOW give us great flexibility."

Future variants of JSOW are planned to provide a variety of payloads for different target types and a terminal guidance system for use against point targets where even greater precision is required.

Production deliveries of JSOW for the Navy and for the Air Force began in May. Current plans call for several thousand of the initial variant to be purchased, with an initial operational capability next year on Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 aircraft. Other aircraft scheduled for integration with JSOW in the near future include the F-16, B-1 and B-2.