Weapon Systems

JASSM air-launched cruise missiles showcase lethality, reach while keeping aircrews safe


The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile can be integrated with bombers, fighters and even cargo aircraft to strike a wide range of targets.

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The first Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is released from an F-16 over the Gulf of Mexico on September 19, 2018. [US Air Force]
The first Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is released from an F-16 over the Gulf of Mexico on September 19, 2018. [US Air Force]

The Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, is a stealthy, air-launched cruise missile designed for the US Air Force and international partners to strike a wide range of targets.

The JASSM has proven its long-range, precision engagement capabilities over 20 years.

Equipped with 450kg penetrating warheads, the JASSM is designed to be highly survivable, with stealth features that reduce its radar cross-section and make it difficult to detect and track.

Initial production of the JASSM began in 2001, and an extended range version of the missile, the JASSM-ER, first went into service with the Air Force in 2014.

The JASSM has a range of 370km, while the JASSM-ER has a range of 1,000km, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Missile Defense Project.

The United States has purchased more than 2,000 JASSMs, and Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland have deployed or are on contract to deploy the weapon, according to CSIS.

The JASSM can be fitted to the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52H Stratofortress bombers, along with the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 and F/A-18 fighters.

The B-1B and F-15E also can integrate with the long-range JASSM-ER.

In 2018, the United States and partners used two B-1B bombers to deploy 19 JASSM-ERs in the battlespace in Syria, according to Air and Space Forces Magazine -- part of a package of missile strikes that targeted the Syrian government's chemical weapon arsenal.

In addition, the US Air Force says it now can equip cargo aircraft like the C-17 and C-130 with the capacity to airdrop long-range weapons like the JASSM.

Using the Rapid Dragon palletized munitions system, the Air Force can drop weapons from a cargo aircraft via a specially designed deployment box on a standard airdrop platform, without the need for aircraft modifications.

During an exercise in the Pacific in July, a C-17 deployed a JASSM, and it "absolutely serviced a target and was extremely, extremely successful," Gen. Mike Minihan, who leads Air Mobility Command, told Business Insider in September.

The chief of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, told reporters the goal was not for cargo aircraft to assume the role of bombers but to expand the number of aircraft that can perform similar missions.

Wide range of targets

The JASSM can be used to strike a wide range of targets, including command-and-control centers, air defense systems, communication facilities and high-value infrastructure targets such as power plants and bridges.

A derivative of the JASSM, the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) also has the capacity to target ships and has been successfully integrated and fielded on the B-1B bomber and F/A-18E/F fighter.

LRASM utilizes advanced stealth missile seekers, enabling it to detect and engage specific maritime targets in contested environments with less dependence on traditional navigation systems.

Deliveries to the Air Force of another variant of the JASSM, the JASSM-XR (Extreme Range) with a range of approximately 1,800km, are expected to begin in January 2024. These weapons also are expected to be integrated with the B-1B, reported Air and Space Forces Magazine.

This capability, in addition to the many other land, sea and air assets of the US military, enables the United States to help its allies in times of need against common adversaries.

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