Hellfire missile replacement JAGM fired by drone for 1st time

Workers prepare an MQ-1C Gray Eagle ©
The air-to-surface missile intended to replace the time-tested Hellfire has been shot from a drone for the first time.

The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) was fired on May 25 from a Gray Eagle UAV, a variant of the US Predator platform, and hit a moving pickup truck at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.

The JAGM flew just over 8km before hitting its target, which was traveling at a speed of about 20mph (32km/h), the US Army’s Joint Attack Munition Systems project manager, Col. James Romero, said.

“This missile has several modes and the missile successfully engaged the target without having to track and perfectly aimed the platform at that target,” Romero said, as cited by Defense News. “So this missile is really flexible in that it allows the pilot to sometimes be engaged or track the target the entire time or to leave the engagement and let the missile finish its engagement on its own.”

In contrast to the JAGM, a Hellfire missile hit on a moving target from a drone “is highly dependent on the skill of the operator and the maneuverability of that moving target, and the latency of the Predator platform itself,” the manager added, according to FlightGlobal.

The test was conducted on a clear day with no atmospheric distortions or countermeasures used, Romero said, adding that the seeker missile performed “perfectly.”

The missile was previously tested six times on Apache attack helicopters and Marine Corps Cobra helicopters. The Gray Eagle drone used in the test is still years from full integration with the new missile.

The Pentagon awarded the $66 million JAGM missile engineering and manufacturing development to Lockheed Martin in August 2015 in an uncontested tender. Defense contractor Raytheon had declined to offer a competing missile.