Boeing has modified its SLAM ER air-launched attack missile to allow it to attack moving targets on land. The Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response was declared operational by the Navy in July, and now Boeing is preparing to roll it out to the fleet.
“Upgrading the SLAM ER’s system software to include LMT capabilities was a Navy Rapid Technology Transition effort to fill a critical need by making SLAM ER an effective weapon for destroying or disabling high-value land-based moving targets, such as missile launchers and mobile radar. The software enables F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft to continuously receive updated target coordinates from appropriate Command and Control platforms, on-ship radar, or other third-party targeting sources, and then transfer these updates to the SLAM ER in flight.”
“Third party” could, concievably, include Predator UAVs and other unmanned vehicles. Theoretically, SLAM ER could be flown on the Raptor UAV, though that would require additional engineering. A “man in the loop” mode allows the pilot or operator to adjust the impact point during the final approach to the target; doing that from a ground station would require additional bandwidth to the launching UAV, or direct control of the SLAM ER by someone on the ground. But tying that capability to a long-range C4ISR platform like the Predator or Raptor would significantly extend their reach in supporting ground units in places like Afghanistan.
The SLAM ER is an evolution of the Harpoon antiship missile, which uses infrared terminal guidance to lock onto its target instead of the radar used by the Harpoon. It can be navigated by a combination intertial guidance and GPS navigation system, and has a range of over 150 nautical miles.