New missile developments on target
Most people, when thinking about weapon systems on board military helicopters, will automatically recognise the Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire as the system that is dominating the market.
But a number of the world’s militaries are seeking to adopt the latest missile technology and acquire more advanced capabilities.
The US Army is currently looking at a replacement for the AGM-114 with the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), also developed by Lockheed Martin.
Recently JAGM was fired from an Apache AH-64D for the first time targeting a small moving boat.
This demonstrated one of the advantages that JAGM will have over Hellfire. The Hellfire’s laser targeting system limits its ability to see reflective energy from the target in challenging environments, such as maritime. But with JAGM the pilot can lock-on before and after launch in these conditions.
‘The biggest benefit that a JAGM will provide to the warfighter is the mission flexibility that it offers where you have a semi-active laser system in Hellfire and a millimetre-guided system in Longbow – this combines those capabilities into a single missile,’ said Colonel David Warnick, US Army Project Manager for Joint Attack Munition Systems within PEO Missiles and Space.
Warnick is confident that if the programme continues down the path it is currently on the US Army will be able to deliver this capability ‘as soon as possible.’ Though JAGM may provide more capability than Hellfire it is not the only offering out there for customers of the AH-64 Apache.
One alternative comes from MBDA which is testing a solution that could fit onto the UK’s fleet of Apache aircraft. The UK is exploring its options through the Future Attack Helicopter Weapon (FAHW) endeavour.
MBDA has completed a series of physical trials and firings of Brimestone from Apache with the assistance of aviation services company Amber Tiger.
‘Above all else, the missile firings from the AH-64E debunked the myth that integrating Brimstone onto the Apache wasn’t feasible,’ Andy Furness, CEO at Amber Tiger said.
Brimstone, manufactured by MBDA in the UK, could be an attractive option for the British.
‘The nation’s enemies for the next 20-plus years are not yet known, and so having a missile and manufacturer who can easily adapt to meet the requirements in an uncertain future holds a significant appeal,’ said Furness.
With Brimstone already selected for Typhoon and Protector, adapting the missile onto the AH-64E could be a sensible move for the UK.
As these projects continue development we will be covering them at www.shephardmedia.com.
For more on Brimstone vs Hellfire developments and an exclusive update on the JAGM programme see the Jan/Feb issue of Defence Helicopter.
Let us know your thoughts on those battling it out to dominate the missile market in the comments below.