The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) combines the active laser guidance capability of a Hellfire missile with millimeter wave radar (MWR) guidance. One of the downsides of firing a missile that goes to where a laser is pointed is the possibility for fog, smoke, snow or light rain to disrupt the missile's flight path. The millimeter wave radar, by comparison, can operate in in virtually any weather while remaining accurate.
The Longbow Hellfire missile has MRW guidance, while the Hellfire has the laser system. JAGM ties both guidance systems into one missile.
"Using a [semi-active laser] missile, the last six seconds of the missile flight is the most critical to keep your laser sight on target," a test pilot said in a US Army news release Tuesday. "If you're getting shot at and your line of sight goes off target, your missile misses. JAGM can start off using the laser, then transition to the radar portion and still hit the target if the crew has to use evasive measures," the aviator noted.
US Army Apache helicopters have been testing the missiles against unmanned moving vehicles at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, the service said.
"Once you have the missile off the rail and encounter smoke or dust or fog, a regular laser missile could lose that target. With JAGM, I have a pretty good guarantee that I am going to kill that target with a single missile instead of multiple missile shots," says Al Maes, aviation weapons technical advisor for the Army.