The third and final qualification firing test of the imaging infra-red terminal guidance version of the new French AASM modular air-to-ground weapon took place on July 9 at the DGA French procurement agency's Biscarrosse missile test range.
This “one-meter [accuracy] class” AASM, built by Sagem Defense Securite, features an inertial/GPS guidance system identical to that of the qualified “ten-meter class” version already in service in the French air force and used in Afghanistan.
AASM guidance kits are available for 125-kg., 250-kg., 500-kg. and 1,000-kg. bomb bodies, although so far the technology has been used with 250-kg (roughly 500-lb.) weapons. Photo: Joris Janssen Lok
But it also has an infra-red imager that automatically identifies the intended target as the weapon dives down towards it, approx. 10 seconds before impact (by taking two IR images one second apart).
Based on the updated target location, the AASM weapon then corrects its terminal trajectory to compensate for any GPS coordinate error or for a location change made by the target.
The missile was launched from a Mirage 2000 from a very low altitude from a range of 16 km (when dropped from high altitude, the AASM's standoff range can be more than 50 km). The aim was to hit a target which had been shifted 80 meters from the location transmitted to the AASM prior to being launched.
In July 2007, a first test with the imaging infared version resulted in a direct hit against a target that was offset 150 meters from the programmed GPS coordinate... but that weapon was launched from an altitude of 20,000 ft. and a distance of 15 km.
The DGA says the “test demonstrated that the infra-red terminal guidance AASM could locate and strike its target with metric precision, in an area with few landmarks that would allow for correcting the target trajectory.”
(Additional reporting by Joris Janssen Lok)