NAVAIR Public Affairs
Naval Aviation Systems TEAM News

JSOW and JDAM Revolutionize Strike Warfare
NAVAIR Public Affairs

As Iraqi air defenses engaged in daily duels with American and Allied aircraft patrolling the no fly zones, the fleet wanted new weaponry on hand to prevent being "SAM-bushed" as they flew enforcement patrols over Iraq. In early January, the Conventional Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA-201) at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, MD, received a request for the AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW).

JSOW is a glide weapon that can be carried by U.S. Navy and Air Force strike aircraft. Using global positioning system (GPS) satellite information for guidance, it finds its way to the target. In less than 10 days, JSOWs were transported from CONUS to the Persian Gulf. On January 25, three JSOWs were successfully launched against Iraqi targets. The lethal effectiveness of these weapons was reconfirmed only days after the Navy declared JSOW operational, ushering in a new era of air combat effectiveness dubbed The Revolution in Strike Warfare.

Getting JSOW to the fleet required a concerted effort from the entire government and contractor JSOW team. The two biggest challenges facing the JSOW team were to ensure the JSOW software was compatible with the Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) aircraft operating in the Persian Gulf, and the logistics of moving the missiles half way around the world.

When CVW-11 deployed in November 1998, the wing's F/A-18 Hornet squadrons (VFA-22 and VFA-94) did not have the mission computer hardware and software upgrades to allow them to use the recently produced JSOWs. To overcome this, a fully tested, but unreleased version, of the JSOW software was rapidly tested and proven to work. Modified software was developed through close cooperation between engineers at the JSOW project office and the F/A-18 advanced weapons laboratory, both located at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) in China Lake, CA, and the Raytheon Systems Company in Lewisville, TX. Following successful testing, a rapid response team loaded this tailored software into the JSOWs and readied the weapons for shipment.

The JSOWs were delivered to the Persian Gulf on a C-17 cargo aircraft. Within days of arrival in theater, the weapons were aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-71). The NAWCWD JSOW team designed an in-flight pilot reference card and briefing, which were carried to the ship by the JSOW project pilot and logistics representative. Since CVW-11 aircrews had trained with a previous version of the JSOW software prior to deployment, minimal refresher training was needed to ensure proper handling, loading, and employment techniques.

Following two days of training, CVW-11 aircrews employed their newly acquired JSOWs against Iraqi air defenses. The missiles launched against the site provided results that would have previously required a dedicated strike package of 25-30 aircraft. Rear Adm. Alfred G. Harms Jr., commander of the USS Carl Vinson Battle Group, described JSOW as an "awesome new capability," giving the weapon high marks for its ease of mission planning, expanded tactical response, and incredible effectiveness against targets which were previously considered formidable defenses. Harms stated that JSOW will "revolutionize the way we prosecute targets."

The AGM-154A JSOWs used by CVW-11 are the first of three variants of the missile to enter service with a wide variety of U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft over the next few years. The low-cost, air-to-ground weapons are designed for employment during day or night in all weather conditions. All JSOW variants incorporate global positioning system/inertial navigation system (GPS/INS) guidance and an aerodynamically efficient airframe to allow delivery aircraft to remain outside the lethal reach of enemy medium range surface to air missiles (SAMs). The AGM-154A missiles used in Iraq each dispensed 145 BLU-97 bomblets over an area roughly the size of a football field, allowing lethal attacks of targets such as air defense sites, parked aircraft, refineries, port facilities, and airfields. The development of the AGM-154B which dispenses BLU-108 anti-armor submunitions, and the AGM-154C which contains a 500-pound unitary blast/fragmentation warhead and an infrared seeker will further refine JSOWs accuracy against point targets.

In a similar effort to supply the latest weapons capabilities to deployed combat forces, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) will achieve early operational capability this spring. JDAM also uses GPS/INS guidance through kits installed on bombs in the existing inventory. With a shorter standoff range than JSOW, JDAM can be employed against targets with lesser defenses, or in follow up attacks after defenses have been suppressed or destroyed by JSOW or High-Speed Anti Radiation Missiles (HARM). Although JDAM's accuracy is slightly less than that achievable with current laser guided bombs (LGBs), they can attack point targets in bad weather, well within the accuracy required to achieve lethal damage. JDAM also allows the delivery aircraft to maneuver at will and depart the target area immediately after the weapon is launched. Like JSOW, JDAM is being integrated with a wide variety of U.S. strike aircraft.

The first combat use of JSOW and early operational capability of JDAM lend credence to the remarks of Rear Adm. J. M. "Carlos" Johnson during the July 8, 1998, acceptance ceremony of the first JSOW produced. Johnson urged the media to spread the word to potential adversaries that they should "Think twice about [aggression] because we can get to you before you can get to us only the enemy will determine where and what we will do with this weapon system in the future."

Reporters interested in obtaining interviews, please call Sandy Miller, NAVAIR Public Affairs, (301) 757-1487 X21.