Air National Guard Performs First JASSM Test Launch From “Pre-Block” F-16

The United States Air Force revealed on July 7, that the Air National Guard had conducted a test launch of an AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) from a “pre-block” F-16.

The June 8 test was carried out by a joint team from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center. The test was the first launch of a JASSM from a “pre-block” F-16, the Air Force’s term for Block 15-25-30 F-16s. Pre-block F-16s remain in service with 7 Air National Guard units and 2 reserve units, while Block 40/42 and 50/52 “late-block” F-16s form the Air Force’s current fleet.

“This was a significant test as it takes an older model F-16 and allows it to keep pace with and sometimes exceed the capabilities of younger F-16s,” said Lt. Col Dustin Brown, Director, F-16 combined test force.

“By validating the use of the JASSM with the pre-block F-16, we are ensuring that 4th generation aircraft are able to participate in major combat operations, and complement 5th generation aircraft missions.”

Preparing a JASSM (USAF)

According to the Air Force, feedback from the test will ensure success in future tests of the combining F-16 and JASSM.  Successful JASSM integration will increase options for combat operations of guard and reserve units, through use of the low-observable standoff cruise missile to remain out of range of hostile air defenses. While the Air Force has indicated that it intends to divest remaining pre-block F-16s in the “near term”, the added capability will keep them relevant until their final retirement.

Due to a growing focus on the Pacific and the long ranges inherent to combat in the region, the Air Force has increased its efforts in maximizing use of air-launched cruise missiles like the JASSM. One such effort is the Rapid Dragon palletized cruise missile deployment program, which combines a palletized JASSM dispenser with an aircraft-agnostic battle management system, allowing C-130s and C-17s to become JASSM launch platforms. Rapid Dragon had a successful live fire test in December 2021, with the project’s 15-month progress from drawing board to live fire test success also validating the project’s approach to rapid development.