The US Air Force is planning to buy 48 JSM (Joint Strike Missile) cruise missiles for its F-35 Lightning II fighters, according to a budget request for the fiscal year 2024. The JSM is a stealthy, long-range, air-launched cruise missile developed by Norway’s Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace (KDA) and Raytheon.
The JSM is designed to strike high-value targets on land and at sea, such as ships, radar sites, command centers, and air defenses. It has a range of over 300 km (186 miles) and can fly at low altitudes to avoid detection by enemy radars. It also has a high degree of maneuverability and can change course in flight to evade enemy countermeasures.
The JSM is based on the NSM (Naval Strike Missile), which has been widely adopted by several navies around the world as an anti-ship missile. The JSM is modified to fit inside the internal weapon bays of the F-35, reducing its radar signature and increasing its stealth capabilities. The JSM can also be carried externally by other aircraft, such as F-16s and F/A-18s.
The US Air Force is expected to pay about $3.35 million per missile, based on an estimate derived from previous contracts signed by Norway and Japan, which are also customers of the JSM. Norway is the lead nation for the development of the JSM and has ordered 140 missiles for its own F-35s. Japan has ordered 37 missiles for its F-35s as well.
The US Air Force has been testing the JSM since 2018, when it conducted the first drop test with an F-35A at Edwards Air Force Base in California. In February 2021, it conducted another drop test with an F-35A at Utah Test and Training Range. The tests have demonstrated that the missile can be safely released from the aircraft and perform as expected.
The US Air Force plans to declare initial operational capability (IOC) for the JSM in 2025, meaning that it will have enough missiles and trained personnel to conduct missions with them. The IOC will coincide with the full-rate production decision for the missile, which will enable larger orders in subsequent years.
The JSM will provide a significant boost to the US Air Force’s strike capabilities, especially in contested environments where access may be denied by sophisticated enemy defenses. The JSM will complement other air-launched cruise missiles in service or development by the US military, such as AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) and AGM-179 JSOW-C1 (Joint Standoff Weapon).
The acquisition of JSM cruise missiles by the US Air Force reflects its commitment to modernise its weapons portfolio and maintain its edge over potential adversaries. The JSM will also enhance interoperability with allies who share common platforms and threats.
Joint Strike Missile
The Joint Strike Missile (JSM) is a weapon that can be launched from fighter jets to attack targets on land or at sea. It is designed by Norway and the United States, and it is based on an older missile called the Naval Strike Missile (NSM). The JSM has some advanced features that make it more effective and versatile than other missiles.
One of the main features of the JSM is that it can fly very low and follow the terrain, avoiding radar detection and enemy defenses. It can also change course during flight and communicate with other missiles or with a control center. This allows it to adapt to changing situations and find the best way to hit its target.
Another feature of the JSM is that it can fit inside the internal bay of the F-35 Lightning II, a stealth fighter jet that can perform various missions. The F-35 can carry two JSMs inside its bay, or four more on its wings. The JSM can also be launched from other aircraft, such as the F-16 Falcon, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the F-15E Strike Eagle.
The JSM has a range of over 300 kilometers (186 miles) and a speed of about Mach 0.9 (1,100 kilometers per hour or 684 miles per hour). It carries a warhead of 120 kilograms (264 pounds) that can explode on impact or after a delay. The JSM has a high accuracy of less than one meter (three feet) from its target.
The development of the JSM started in 2008 and was completed in 2018. The integration of the JSM with the F-35 is expected to be finished by 2024. The JSM will be used by Norway and Australia, and possibly by other countries in the future. The JSM is a powerful weapon that can enhance the capabilities of modern fighter jets and challenge potential adversaries.