WHITE SANDS, N.M., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Aerospace giants Raytheon Missile Systems and Boeing Co. have teamed up, testing a tactical missile anticipated to be launched by a half-dozen different aircraft.
The joint venture aims to secure a $5 billion contract to build more than 33,000 missiles for the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile, known best by its JAGM acronym, is expected to replace Hellfire, Maverick and TOW missiles.
Both Boeing and Raytheon said recently that a test missile launch was completed with success at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The JAGM employed its infrared guidance system to lock on to the target before it launched and hit a stationary battlefield tank more than 2 miles away.
"We're very pleased with our efforts," said Michael Riley, Raytheon business-development chief for the program. "We have accomplished all of the contractual agreements on time and on budget," he was quoted saying by The Arizona Republic newspaper.
"We have done a significant amount of effort on our own company money to reduce the risk for us and the government to ensure success of this program."
Competing against Lockheed Martin, the JAGM missiles are planned to be used by F-18 fighter aircraft, along with the Apache, Seahawk, Super Cobra and Arapaho helicopters. Its application is also designed to meet requirement for certain types of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The August test marked the fourth time that the Raytheon-Boeing team test-fired the weapon. Two other test runs were successfully completed in April, capped by a government-funded launch in late June.
"For the next 25 years, this is probably going to be one of the last new-start programs they purchase for something that's going to be fired off of a helicopter," said Mike Nachshen, a Raytheon spokesman.
Lockheed, likewise, said in a company statement that it too had completed " a preliminary design review of its missile and is confident it will provide greater capabilities than existing weapons and do so more affordably."
The company said it had performed two test flights in early August and was "looking forward to F/A-18 flight tests in the fourth quarter of this year."
At 6 feet long and 7 inches in diameter, the 108-pound missile, say Boeing and Raytheon, is superior to competing weapons because of the powerful sensor implanted in the nose of the missile, combining the use of "semi-active laser, uncooled imaging infrared and millimeter wave."