Air Weapons: A Better HARM Flaws And All


 November2, 2012:   After eight years of development, the latest version of the American anti-radiation missile, the AGM-88E, entered service last year. But a government oversight office recently announced that the AGM-88E was not able to accomplish its mission. The flaws in question are classified and the navy (which developed the AGM-88E) insisted that the new missile is more effective than its predecessor and the air force and marines also want to see the AGM-88E in service. There was no disagreement over remaining problems with the missile. The military believes that, despite the flaws, the AGM-88E is an improvement and that it should be issued for use.

For the moment, the military are getting their new missile but the oversight officials are going to the media and politicians to try and stop that. Since the problems are largely classified, the public will not know what is really at stake for some time (until the details are declassified or leaked). There are a lot of new features in the AGM-88E and it’s probably some of these that the military insists should not stop the missile from being delivered to combat units.

The first production models were delivered two years ago for testing. This included use on the new electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-18G, which entered service last year. AGM-88E testing ran into many problems over the last few years 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 U.S. anti-radiation missile being replaced, the AGM-88D, uses GPS so that the missile, which normally homes in on radar transmissions, can be used to attack targets by location alone. The AGM-88 moves at high speed (2,200 kilometers an hour or 36 kilometers a minute) to hit targets 100 kilometers away. That's why it's also called HARM (High speed Anti-Radiation Missile). 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 23,000 AGM-88s, of all types, have been produced in the last three decades.

The new AGM-88E uses 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 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (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-88Es from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Italy, and Germany.




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