It was announced on 25th January that the US Navy had awarded a contact to perform further development work to upgrade the Orbital ATK AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile) air-to-surface missile to the AGM-88E AARGM-ER (Extended Range) variant.
The US Navy originally funded the initiative, which reportedly doubles the circa 80 nautical mile (150 kilometre) range of the standard Raytheon AGM-88 series missile via the addition of a solid-fuel integrated ramjet rocket, with the development of this weapon expected to continue until 2020. The missile is being developed as an internally-mounted weapon which could equip the force’s Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning-II fighters. This could augment the suppression of enemy air defence and electronic warfare capabilities of the force’s Boeing EA-18G Growler aircraft, which will also carry the AGM-88E, along with the navy’s McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters.
This latest contract will see the maturation of the AGM-88E AARGM-ER into a preliminary design, according to a press release from the company announcing the news, prior to the weapon entering the engineering and manufacturing development phase. The AGM-88E AARGM variant is currently in full rate production for the US Navy and will be integrated onto the EA-18G jets flown by the Royal Australian Air Force, with the missile also expected to equip the Panavia Tornado-ECR aircraft of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and Aeronautica Militaire (Italian Air Force).