NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.Northrop Grumman [NOC] is doing preliminary integration work for the company’s AGM-88G Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile Extended Range (AARGM-ER) on the

Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35A fighter in preparation for lab integration work next year, a Northrop Grumman official said Aug. 3.

“We’re going to be in the lab in May of next year with a missile emulator–a rack of our circuit cards–doing software integration,” Doug Larratt, Northrop Grumman’s program director for AARGM-ER, said in an interview during the Sea Air Space Conference here.

The target for AARGM-ER integration on the F-35A is 2025. “The Air Force is leading the way on that,” Larratt said.

The AARGM-ER is to be a supersonic tactical missile system to suppress and destroy enemy air defense systems on land and sea. In addition to the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet by Boeing [BA], the missile is to be integrated on the Navy EA-18G Growler aircraft and the three variants of the F-35 multi-role fighter for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.

Northrop Grumman won a nearly $322 million engineering and manufacturing development contract in March, 2019 for AARGM-ER.

While the target procurement for the AGM-88E AARGM was 2,000 missiles, that number is likely to come down, as AARGM-ER comes on board. Navy plans may call for roughly the original number of AARGM-ERs, as AARGMs.

Since 2012, the Navy has fielded 1,450 AARGMs, which have sensor, avionics, and software upgrades to the Raytheon [RTX] AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) air vehicle. As the Navy continues to field AARGM and moves to an initial operational capability by the end of fiscal 2023 for AARGM-ER, the service is to continue to rely on its inventory of HARMs–1,961 of which were fired from U.S. aircraft in HARM’s first extensive use during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, according to the Gulf War Air Power Survey.

In contrast to the “soft kill” HARM system, which serve to suppress adversary use of air defense radars, AARGM “has a dual mode seeker,” Larratt said. “Not only is it an upgraded passive sensor system. It has the ability to detect, identify and locate and do very accurate DF [direction finding] to a target. We create track files so if you radiate for a finite amount of time, we know where you are, and there’s an active sensor in the front end…that will search, detect, identify and guide actively on the target. You’re no longer a suppression weapon, a throwaway.”

Northrop Grumman said this week that it completed the first live fire test of AARGM-ER from a F/A-18 Super Hornet multi-role fighter and that the test met all key test objectives (Defense Daily, Aug. 2).

The test was done three months ahead of schedule, Capt. A.C. “Count” Dutko, the Navy’s program manager for Direct Time Sensitive Strike (PMA-242), said in a statement included in Northrop Grumman’s announcement.

The test was conducted in July 19 at the Point Mugu Sea Range in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California.

Northrop Grumman said the test “demonstrated the long-range capability of the new missile design.”

Larratt said on Aug. 3 that AARGM-ER will allow the destruction of relocatable air defense missile systems.

“One of the key tenets of this program is we have to get to the fleet fast because adversary capabilities are there today, and we also need it to be affordable in terms of building these in quantity,” he said.