Air Weapons: Learning From Failure In Serbia


January 17, 2016: In late 2015 Germany decided to acquire new anti-radiation missiles (ARM) in 2016 to replace the AGM-88B HARM (High speed Anti-Radiation Missile) long used by their Tornado warplanes. ARMs are used on the Tornado ECR which is optimized for SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) missions. At the same time 85 Tornadoes will undergo an upgrade to the ASSTA 3.1. standard. This will include multifunctional color displays for pilots, upgraded data link 16 elements and according to some sources a missile approach warning.

The new ARM is an upgraded version (AGM-88E) of the AGM-88B. Not only is the E model an improved B model it also includes modifications that enable it to hit moving ships. This makes the AGM-88E an effective anti-ship weapon as well. 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 manufacturer 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-88D moves at high speed (2,200 kilometers an hour or 36 kilometers a minute). Over 24,000 AGM-88s, of all types, have been produced since the 1980s. AARGM weighs 361 kg (794 pounds) and can detect and attack targets more than 150 kilometers away while travelling at a speed of 2,450 kilometers per hour.

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 AARGM was developed jointly by U.S. and Italian firms. 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.

The AGM-88B HARM entered service in 1983 and used passive radar seeker which home on enemy fire-control radars emissions in order to destroy it and thus render Surface-to-air missile (SAM) system useless (well at least these which use radars for target tracking). In 1999 (Kosovo War) HARM was found to be vulnerable. The Serbian forces limited their radar usage to minimum and used quick radar shutdown techniques and “pack and leave” tactic for their SAM units. Because of these HARM had problems with acquiring targets because the missile has precision guidance only when enemy radar is working during all the time (in “offline mode” missile uses INS/GPS only). As a result NATO forces failed to silence Serbian SAMs during the campaign.

After 1999 both Europeans and Americans started separate efforts to develop a HARM replacement. The Germans were soon working on the ARMIGER (Anti-Radiation Missile with Intelligent Guidance and Extended Range) program. The ARMIGER was to be faster and have longer range thanks to Ramjet propulsion (similar to Meteor missile). Moreover it was to use a double seeker with a passive radar sensor plus an infrared imaging one for terminal guidance. The missile have gained the interest of the British, of Italy and even France, but ultimately the program was terminated due to money problems. An alternative was to put the ARMIGER double seeker into the Meteor missile creating a light and capable totally passive ARM missile. That effort also ended in failure. Meanwhile the Americans went forward with their own AARGM program. After failure of ARMIGER program Italy decided to join American program in 2005. AARGM began Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) in 2008. The U.S. Navy plans to buy AARGM while the Italian Air Force wants up to 250 missiles By 2015 Germany realized their only choice was AARGM because there’s just no other competition. This kills attempts to resurrect the ARMIGER project.




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