The Air Force employed an AGM-65E laser-guided Maverick surface-attack missile in combat operations for the first time in June, Raytheon [RTN], the missile’s maker, said yesterday.

Although the Laser Maverick has been in service for several decades with the Navy and Marine Corps, the Air Force’s decision to start using it came as a result of efforts to meet an urgent operational need emerging from combat experiences in places like Iraq for an accurate weapon that could be used against fleeting targets without causing much collateral damage.

The Air Force intends to sign a contract with Raytheon perhaps as soon as this month to acquire 450 new-build Laser Mavericks starting in early to mid 2009 (Defense Daily, Oct. 26). To supply them, the company will restart its production line.

Until the new Laser Mavericks are available, the Air Force has been using a stock of original-vintage Laser Mavericks provided by the Navy that the company built more than 15 years ago.

The Air Force’s first use of the Laser Maverick occurred on June 14, according to Raytheon.

The new version of the Laser Maverick will incorporate state-of-the-art seeker technology, the company said.