Home Air US Air Force B-2 bomber launches JASSM-ER missile in covert test

US Air Force B-2 bomber launches JASSM-ER missile in covert test

B-2 Spirit JASSM-ER launch
Illustration: US Air Force file photo of a B-2 Spirit bomber at Diego Garcia in 2020.

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber successfully released a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) during a previously undisclosed flight test in December 2021.

The JASSM-ER success was revealed by Northrop Grumman in a Thursday release. The company is in charge of modernizing the bomber, which will include the integration of the long-range stealth missile.

The B-2 is already capable of firing the standard Lockheed Martin-built JASSM cruise missile, and the extended range version is expected to provide capabilities to retarget in flight in addition to longer range.

The company did not reveal further details about the test, saying only that JASSM-ER is one of three new capabilities being introduced to the B-2 to further modernize the platform.

The B-2 fleet, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear ordnance, is also integrating crypto modernization and a Radar Aided Targeting System (RATS). The latest system advancements are part of integrated functional capability (IFC) P6.4, which was certified last year by the Air Force. RATS will complete the latest phase of nuclear modernization of the B-2 Spirit.

“The unrivaled capabilities of the B-2 make it the only long range, penetrating stealth bomber currently in the US arsenal,” said Shaugnessy Reynolds, vice president and B-2 program manager, Northrop Grumman. “Committed to continued modernization of the B-2, we’re leveraging our company’s innovation in digital engineering and its decades of leadership in designing and maintaining low observable platforms to keep the B-2 Spirit mission ready.”

The integration of RATS allows the B-2 to fully employ the B-61 mod 12 nuclear bomb. RATS is the key element of the nuclear modernization, as GPS may not be available during a bomber task force mission.

Crypto modernization further improves the communications security of various high frequency transmissions. The B-2 may now securely utilize advanced communication devices in the future threat environment. Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman conducted a communications flight test with modern cryptology at its Oklahoma City Weapons System Support Center site.

At over 500 miles, JASSM-ER has roughly double the range of its predecessor – JASSM – which entered service in 2009. Armed with a penetrating blast-fragmentation warhead, the 2,000-pound cruise missile employs an infrared seeker and enhanced digital anti-jam GPS receiver to dial into specific points on high-value, well-fortified, fixed and relocatable targets.

The air force intends to buy 10,000 missiles over the life of the program, including the “extreme range” JASSM-D variant that will employ a new wing design to engage its targets at ranges of over 1,000 nautical miles.