Air Weapons: Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Kills Ships


October 8, 2015: In August 2015 the U.S. Navy successfully tested an AGM-88E HARM (High speed Anti-Radiation Missile) that had been modified to hit moving ships. This makes the AGM-88 an effective anti-ship weapon. The modifications that make this possible will be available (as modification kits) for existing missiles in 2016 or 2017. About the same time newly produced missiles will have that feature built in. Meanwhile another upgrade of the AGM-88, the AGM-88F, completed testing in 2014 and will soon enter production. This version will also have the anti-ship capability. All these upgrades contributed to the missile getting a new name. It’s now an AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile) instead of a HARM.

 The AGM-88F has a GPS guidance added (with less accurate but jam-proof INS as a backup) added. The older AGM-88D also used GPS so that the missile, which normally homes in on radar transmissions, could be used to attack targets by location alone. The F model expands on basic GPS capabilities and also includes other features that assist in defeating enemy electronic defenses. What the GPS/INS provides is for a way for HARM to act on previous intelligence (about where an enemy radar is) while also using its radar signal homing capability and new anti-decoy features. Many countries now use a decoy emitter that send out a fake radar signal to lure the HARM away from the real radar. The 88F model uses GPS and more sensors and new software to get around all known deceptions (and some that haven’t been invented yet).

The first 88E production models were delivered in 2010. This included testing for use on the new electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-18G, which entered service in 2011. AGM-88E testing ran into many problems in the three years before it entered service and there were more hardware failures than expected. The military admits that it is still working on some of these issues but that, in its current state, the AGM-88E is good to go.

The AGM-88 moves at high speed (2,200 kilometers an hour or 36 kilometers a minute) to hit targets 100 kilometers away. The D version of the AGM-88 costs nearly $100,000 each. Another version uses more complex sensors that can detect and guide the missile to a wide variety of radar signals. These versions cost about $300,000 each. GPS enables HARM (or the aircraft carrying it) to locate radar when it is turned on, store the GPS location, then goes after the target regardless of whether the ground radar is turned on or off. Over 24,000 AGM-88s, of all types, have been produced since the 1980s.

The new AGM-88E/F designs use a more complex and expensive approach to nailing enemy air defense radars (looking for targets) that are turned on briefly and quickly turning off power. This is an attempt to avoid detection destruction by missiles (like all AGM-88s) that home in on radar signals. The AGM-88E remembers where the radar is when it was on, however briefly, and carries its own high resolution (millimeter wave) radar to make sure it gets the radar. Finally, the AGM-88E can transmit a picture of the target, just before it is hit, so the user can be certain of what was taken out. The AGM-88E, also called the AARGM, was developed jointly by U.S. and Italian firms. The original AGM-88 entered service in the 1980s. The original 1960s anti-radiation missile (ARM) quickly evolved into the HARM. Currently, there are orders for over 2,000 AGM-88E/Fs from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Italy, and Germany.





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