AGM-88E Setback

The US Department of Defense’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) determined the US Navy’s Raytheon AGM- 88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) was neither operationally suitable nor effective after Block 1 operational testing (OT) was prematurely terminated by DOT&E in 2016. This information was published in the DOT&E Annual Report released in January.

The AARGM is a follow-on to the AGM-88B/C High-Speed Anti‑Radiation Missile, designed to hit switched-off radars, using digital antiradiation homing, a GPS, millimetre wave guidance and a weapon impact assessment transmitter. The AGM-88E AARGM is employed by Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft.

Following the decision to halt OT in 2016, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) reviewed the programme and directed that developmental testing continue. NAVAIR will release the Block 1 Upgrade software to the fleet in 2017 without completing OT and according to the DOT&E Annual Report, “without adequately addressing the numerous performance reliability, and software stability problems discovered during Block 1 Upgrade testing”. The DOT&E also noted in its report, the upcoming AARGM Extended Range version, “is currently based on the Block 1 Upgrade weapon and will require extensive work to correct the accuracy, reliability and software deficiencies discovered during Block 1 testing.”

Disputes between the DOT&E and service programme offices responsible for developing aircraft and weapon systems have been commonplace. From the language in the annual report, this one seems to have been particularly heated. Whether the AARGM Block 1 will prove operationally effective in fleet service remains to be seen. David C Isby