Tag Archives: AGM-158 JASSM

Polish Parliamentary National Defense Committee Discusses the Future of the F-16s and Prospects of Acquiring 5th Gen. Jets

Polish Parliamentary Committee on National Defense analyzed the current state of the Polish Air Force’s F-16 fighter fleet, its future, as well as plans related to the M-346 AJTs and JASSM / JASSM-ER missiles.

According to the report issued by Tomasz Dmitruk of the Polish “Dziennik Zbrojny” outlet, on Mar. 22, during the meeting of the Polish Parliamentary Committee on National Defense, Division General Pilot Jan Śliwka, who is also acting as the Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, presented the Polish Parliament the history and capabilities possessed by the F-16 multi-role jet aircraft, along with an overview of their technical status, maintenance requirements, armament and pilot’s training program. The General has also talked about the missions assigned to the backbone of the Polish Air Force.

The information presented during the event also provided a unique insight into the operations of the aircraft.

7-8 out of 48 jets are currently undergoing maintenance or overhauls – this constitutes 14-17% of the fleet, still leaving around 85% of the aircraft combat-ready. A single F-16 jet can spend 8,000 hours in the air, which means that total lifetime is equal to 384,000 hours (48 aircraft, 8000 hours each).  Based on the report issued by Dmitruk, all of the Jastrząb (Polish Air Force’s name ascribed to the F-16) jets have spent 53,000 hours in the air so far, which amounts up to 14% of the total lifetime.

This means that, should the operational activity of the jets be maintained at the current level, there is still an option to operate the aircraft for the next 30 years.

Last year we have seen the initial steps related to MLU (Mid-Life Update) of the Polish F-16 fighter fleet, as the Tape M6.5 upgrade has been implemented, following the decision to acquire the new AGM-158A JASSM and AGM-158B JASSM-ER cruise missiles, along with new variants of the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles).

The Polish Air Force is also looking forward to the acquisition of more Mk 82 bombs and JDAM and Paveway conversion kits.

Nonetheless, during the Committee Meeting, Śliwka informed that the Ministry is also analyzing the potential prospects of acquisition of more armament for the fighter jets which could expand their capabilities in specific domains. Notably, throughout the last two years we have witnessed an intensification of operations undertaken by the Polish F-16s with Warsaw’s Vipers deploying to Kuwait to join the air war against ISIS and plans to take part in the NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.

One of the priorities for the Polish Air Force is to acquire anti-radiation missiles. Orbital ATK’s AARGM missile has been quite intensively marketed in Poland throughout the past two years, so it may be safely stated that this weapon is a serious contender to becoming the primary SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) armament for the Polish jets. Furthermore, the MoD is also scrutinizing the prospects of acquiring new PGM (Precision Guided Munition) ordnance (including submunition pods to act against tanks and armored assets, as well as penetrating bombs which could be used to neutralize fortifications underground); lastly, the Air Force would also like to integrate the jet with an anti-ship missile.

Prospective procurement of new multi-role jets for the Polish Air Force was the second issue covered during the meeting.

This matter is somewhat urgent, since the Su-22 and MiG-29 aircraft are gradually becoming obsolete, with a prospect of being withdrawn starting from 2024-2025.

Their successor, as Dmitruk reports, shall be selected well ahead of the retirement of the two post-Soviet era jets.

According to General Śliwka, quoted by Dziennik Zbrojny, the requirements for the new multi-role combat aircraft have already been defined by the command, while the Armament Inspectorate (Polish MoD’s procurement body) is dealing with an analysis that is going to be included in a Strategic Defense Review, similar to its recent British counterpart.

The options currently weighted and considered, span from the acquisition of second-hand F-16A/B or C/D aircraft with subsequent upgrade, through procurement of brand new F-16s, to the eventual purchase of 5th Gen. F-35 aircraft.

The early conclusions indicate that procurement and upgrade of the Alpha/Bravo Falcons would lack a proper degree of cost-effectiveness.

After further analysis, and with the context taken into account at the MoD, General Staff and the Armament Inspectorate, Bartosz Kownacki, Polish Deputy Minister of Defence stated that the workload and expenditure entailed would be too high, in relation to potential benefits.

Kownacki noted that even though the price of second-hand aircraft would be at the level of 50% of the price of a new aircraft, the operational lifetime would also be 50% shorter. General Śliwka also mentioned the fact that the case of Romanian F-16 procurement was also looked at, and it turned out that the cost was higher, in comparison with potential acquisition of new aircraft. Hence the MoD might be inclined to go on, and join the F-35 users club, even though this is a longterm prospect plan

Meanwhile, the rumors (which circulated last year) that Poland would be considering selling its jets to Romania, have been once again denied.

During the meeting, the opposition also had a chance to ask questions to the Ministry.

First of the covered issues, raised by the former Deputy Minister of Defence Czesław Mroczek, dealt with the procurement of the M-346 jet-trainers and their compliance with the Polish specifications. Col. Waldemar Bogusławski, Deputy Head at the Armament Inspectorate, answered that the manufacturer confirmed its readiness to deliver the AJT [Advanced Jet Trainer] in a configuration compliant with the Polish expectations as late as in July this year.

Second question referred to the JASSM missiles.

General Jan Śliwka announced that one of the Polish Vipers is currently staying in the United States, and the tape M6.5 upgrade has been already introduced in its case. Following a test firing of the missile, the jet is to return back to Poland in April. The remaining aircraft are going to receive the software upgrades domestically, in Poland. Delivery of the first four JASSM missiles is to be finalized by the end of April (the photos published in the social media by the press officer of the Krzesiny 31st Airbase suggest that two missiles have already been delivered).

The 2014 procurement contract assumes that the missiles would be delivered in full between 2018 and 2019, with the AGM-158B JASSM-ER ordnance to follow, and subsequent deliveries scheduled in this case before 2020. The -ER missiles were contracted in December, last year.

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski / Foto Poork, W. Mazurkiewicz

Polish F-16s have received the first AGM-158 JASSM low observable standoff air-launched cruise missiles

Polish Air Force Receives the First Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles.

Based on the photographs taken by Cpt. Krzysztof Nanuś of the 31st Airbase in Krzesny, and subsequent publication of the aforesaid imagery by Bartosz Kownacki, Polish Deputy Minister of Defense, Poland has already received the first AGM-158 JASSM missiles.

Just recently, in December, a contract concerning the acquisition of the extended range AGM-158B variant has been signed.

As Dziennik Zbrojny notes, the blue stripes visible on the missiles depicted by the photographs suggest that the ordnance presented is inert. More importantly, the release probably refers to deliveries related to the contract signed by the former government, back in 2014.

There was no mention of the modernization of the F-16 jets in the release though. The MLU program in question assumes that the Polish F-16 software suite would be upgraded from the 4.3 up to the M6.5 variant. The upgrade integrates new armament, Link 16 net-centric suite, IFF system and updates and modifies the AIDEWS defensive suite.

Moreover, the new software also implements simulation capabilities and, finally, allows the jets to use the modified SniperXR targeting pods, as Mariusz Cielma of Polish media outlet Dziennik Zbrojny reports.

AGM-158A missiles are expected to achieve initial operational readiness, within the Polish Air Force, in March this year.

Poland currently operates 48 Vipers in the Block 52+ variant. The JASSMs will significantly increase the their strike capabilities:  the large, stealthy long-range weapon is able to destroy targets at distances of 370 km (ca. 220 miles). This allows the Viper to destroy the target outside of the SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) envelope, which is a major step in comparison to the current Polish A2G armament which has a maximum range of 70km.

The AGM-158 has been used by the Americans since 2003 and it is one of the most modern missiles in the world. The new missile uses its inertial navigation and GPS (global positioning systems) to find its target, and an infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact.

Image Credit: Cpt Krzysztof Nanuś via Bartosz Kownacki’s TT account

 

U.S. Air Force has approved mass production of the stealthy JASSM air-launched cruise missiles

According to Lockheed Martin the U.S. Air Force granted a consent to start mass production of the extended range variant of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, also known as AGM-158B.

The JASSM-ER has successfully completed the USAF program of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation. Out of 21 launches, 20 were successful. USAF plans to acquire 100 ER variant missiles within Lot 11 and 12, specified by the contract signed in Dec. 2013.

According to Lockheed Martin, more than 1500 examples have been produced so far. Target quantity to be delivered to the USAF is 4,900 missiles.

Lockheed Martin stated that the decision undertaken by the U.S. Air Force means that the flying branch is confident the new missiles can provide an effective first-strike capability in dense air defense environments.

AGM-158B JASSM-ER missile is capable of striking targets at ranges of at least 925 kilometers (ca. 500 miles), and it is armed with a dual-mode penetrator equipped with a blast-fragmentation warhead.

The missile itself has been designed, similarly as the A variant, with stealth features. Missile uses two-mode GPS/Infra-Red guidance system, which contributes to its precision strike capabilities.

So far, solely the B-1B bombers possess a capability of using the ER variant of the missile. The basic version, the AGM-158A, can be dropped by B-2s, B-52s, F-16s and F-15Es. However, back in April this year press releases by USAF suggested that JASSM-ER is to be also integrated with F-15E, F-16 and B-52H fleets.

Whilst Australia and Finland use the A-variant of the missile with their F/A-18 Hornets, the baseline JASSM is also to be procured soon by the Polish Air Force for the F-16 Block 52+ planes.

As explained earlier this year, the Polish deal, a bit expensive at the first sight (with 40 missiles worth about $250 million), should also include a modernization bundle for the Polish Air Force F-16 fighters.

The Polish Vipers are to be upgraded up to the M6.5 standard, in order to facilitate use of the new weapons system. The upgrade includes modification in the avionics to improve Link-16 data exchange system and IFF capabilities, the update of the AIDEWS defensive suite, as well as modernization of the Sniper targeting pods. Nevertheless, a larger Mid-Life Update program should be undertaken by the fleet in the next few years, according to the Polish media outlet Dziennik Zbrojny.

According to the official information released by the Polish Ministry of Defense, Minister Tomasz Siemoniak expressed the Poland’s will to procure the ER variant as well even though it is yet unclear whether the M6.5 upgrade would provide the Polish Vipers with the -ER capability in advance.

Poland has signed Letter of Acceptance, regarding procurement of the first 40 missiles on Dec. 11. 2014 at Krzesiny AB, near Poznan.

The agreement falls within the US Foreign Military Sales program and the first deliveries are to take place in the second half of 2016. One additional missile is to be delivered for test firing purposes. Initial Operational Capability is planned to be achieved by 2017, as the F-16 modernization program is to be started in the 2nd half of 2016, at a pace of 2 fighters per month.

The JASSM-ER can be considered to be a strategic weapon, so it will most probably boost Poland and NATO’s deterrence capabilities in eastern Europe: will it be an effective deterrent? Hard to say. For sure, the air-launched cruise missiles are not the only measure the Polish Armed Forces are acquiring at the moment to face the Russian threat. There are additional programs, including the procurement of NSM (Naval Strike Missile) systems.

Secondly, as one of The Aviationist readers pointed out, the M6.5 upgrade for the F-16 fighters may mean that they would be capable of using the AIM-120D air-to-air missiles that have been reserved exclusively for the USAF so far.

These missiles may provide a significant boost of the Polish Viper’s air-to-air capabilities, which would be implemented in the shadow of JASSM deal, but this claim has not been officially confirmed. The Air Force has already stated that it analyses potential implementation of new armament that may be used by the Viper thanks to the envisaged upgrades.

Lastly, as Polish MoD Secretary of State said the use of the JASSM missiles will not be externally limited by the US Authorities. This means that Poland will be free to use the missiles at its own will, if needed.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

US, Poland accelerate F-16’s Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles deal amid Russia tensions

In August last year we analyzed the reasons for the possible Polish purchase of the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles (JASSM). Now, in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, a contextual change has occurred and the deal seems to be closed-up soon.Nevertheless, there are still some unaswered questions.

The latest development about the Polish air-launched cruise missiles deal started with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) and the US State Department giving consent for the Polish procurement of the JASSMs in their AGM-158A variant, along with a modernization bundle for the Polish Air Force’s F-16C/D Block 52+ jet fighters. The Congress received the information on the potential transaction on Sep. 17 .

The contract assumes that Poland will obtain 40 AGM-158A JASSM missiles manufactured by Lockheed Martin with 2 additional combat-ready AGM-158A that will be used for testing, along with the testing instrumentation and self-destruction system, 2 training missiles with the same instrumentation, and 2 missiles for certification purposes.

Additionally, the mission computers of the Polish F-16s will be modernized, up to the Tape M6.5 standard, in order to integrate both the AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles and some other new weaponry, including the AIM-120D AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II air-to-air missiles and the SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

As we can see, JASSM is just the tip of the iceberg.

M6.5 software was designed in order to meet the needs of the European users of the F-16 jets, dubbed EPAF (European Participating Air Forces). There are some rumours that the Polish Viper jet fighters will also get new Electronic Warfare suites.

Defence24.com claims that additionally GPS navigation system of the Polish Vipers will be jam-proofed, and the Link 16 communications suite improved. The deal will also include logistics bundle, along with transportation and storage cases for the missiles, spare parts, equipment and technical documentation. The media outlet also gained access to some unconfirmed information, according to which the modernization of the Polish Vipers is planned to start in 2015.

The value of the potential contract is yet to be unveiled, but rumors are that it is going to be approximately 500 million USD.

There are some doubts that still need to be addressed though.

The Polish MoD states that potential signing of the contract for the procurement of the JASSM will happen in October or November, while the deliveries are a matter of 2 years. According to the statements made by Tomasz Siemoniak, the Polish Minister of Defense, the US is willing to conduct the deal swiftly. The negotiations regarding the JASSM deal took place last April, when Chuck Hagel visited Poland.

Another issue is of a different nature.

There are two versions of the missile, one with a range of 370 km, and another, with a range of almost 1,000 km, which is called JASSM-ER.

In the last days, some rumours surfaced that Poland is going to get the ER version as well – it was all published by General Bogusław Pacek, who is one of the advisors in the Polish MoD, via his twitter account, but the news was denied shortly later. Other media outlets, such as Dziennik Zbrojny seem to suggest that Poland will get the missile with a shorter range. The justification is simple – integrating the ER version with the Polish F-16 may be expensive since in the U.S. these missiles are used solely by the B-1B bombers.

Moreover, the deal will probably not be executed too quickly, since Lockheed Martin has a capability of manufacturing no more than 20 AGM-158As per month whilst JASSM-ER missiles are produced simultaneously, and the US plans to acquire 360 pieces per year, starting from FY 2017.

The Polish order thus seems to be beneficial for Lockheed: once the U.S. forces resign from acquiring the basic version, the production may continue to equip the Polish Air Force. JASSM-ER is to enter the full-scale production from 2015. Dziennik Zbrojny claims that due to the higher production cost (caused by the lack of other foreign sales) the Poles may pay as much for the A version, as the Americans would pay for the ER variant. Polish procurement of the ER has been unfortunately postponed, and it would surely be a solution to the issue. Another way to walk around the problem would be choice of an alternative weapon, such as the Turkish Roketsan SOM.

JASSM will significantly enhance the deterrence capabilities of Poland. JASSM-ER would be even a better choice in that respect. Poland currently executes Polish Tusks modernization program, which will enhance the capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces.

The program also includes NSM missiles and Homar long range unguided missile launchers.

Taking into account the fact that the Russian threat has become more realistic, procuring the new weapon system may be a logic step towards increasing the Polish security.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: Wikimedia

 

 

Photo from the cockpit: B-52 bomber drops a live stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile

A live Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile was dropped by a B-52H during Combat Hammer exercise.

The image in this post was taken on May 5, from the cockpit of a B-52H flying a sortie of an Air Combat Command exercise dubbed “Combat Hammer” which involved the use of live cruise missiles and PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions).

Among the weapons used during the exercise there was the JASSM stealthy Air-Launched Cruise Missile, one of the Air Force’s most effective weapons.

The radar-evading AGM-158 JASSM is able to destroy targets at distances of 370 km, well outside the reach of enemy Surface to Air Missile batteries. The new missile uses its inertial navigation and GPS (global positioning systems) to find its target, and an infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact. The weapon is jamming resistant and able to operate in “contested and degraded environments”.

The JASSM is one of the newest weapons to be integrated onto the B-52.

Several Air Force Global Strike Command B-52H Stratofortresses and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers (along with other three aircraft types, including Remotely Piloted Vehicles out of Creech AFB) took part in the evaluation, which allowed ACC to validate the accuracy and capability of its conventional weapons during multiple sorties flown over the Utah Test and Training Range.

Precision guided munitions dropped during Combat Hammer included Paveway II LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and multiple variants of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), two types of weapons that have been extensively used in conflicts across the world.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force