A better version of the Army’s and Marine Corps’ go-to air-to-ground missile package planned to replace the old standby Hellfire missile is expected to hit full-rate production later this year.

A posting on the federal government business website, fbo.gov, this week announced an acquisition requirement for as many as 3,000 Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles, or JAGMs, in fiscal year 2020 and another maximum order of 1,500 in fiscal year 2021.

Last year, Military Times’ sister publication Defense News reported that the program had reached “low-rate initial production” and that Lockheed Martin was set to deliver 2,631 JAGMs under that contract.

Lockheed also makes the Hellfire.

The JAGM will combine aspects of several missiles to improve on targeting and lethality for platforms that will fire it, such as AH-64E Apache and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters, which it was tested and qualified on, according to Defense News.

The missile will also be used on various drone systems.

Ultimately the JAGM will replace the BGM-71 TOW, the AGM-114 Hellfire and the AGM-65 Maverick missile systems.

The move comes amid concerns about close-range missile effectiveness against new armor systems that the Russian and Chinese militaries are sporting.

The new system will let pilots fire at longer ranges, protecting them from increasingly accurate distance fire missile defenses.

Early testing on the JAGM showed some kinks to work out, including cyber vulnerabilities.

Four of the 18 missiles launched with live warheads failed to detonate in early testing, Defense News reported. And the missile missed at least two targets entirely during early phases.

The Army subsequently confirmed that problems discovered in those tests were fixed.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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