The Navy’s Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) completed its final round of launch tests ahead of a fiscal year 2014 safety inspection, a BAE Systems official told USNI News on Wednesday.
On the week of Sept. 9, BAE and the Navy’s Program Executive Office, Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) fired nine of the 155mm munitions successfully on the White Sands Testing Range in New Mexico, Darien Kearns with Systems said at the Modern Day Marine conference at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
The tests proved LRLAP rounds could maneuver across a distance of about 45 nautical miles — guided by GPS coordinates — to precisely hit within feet of a stationary target.
“There have been fourteen consecutive test successes since January,” Capt. Mike Ladner, Navy Surface Ship Weapons, major program manager, PEO IWS said in a Thursday statement.
“We’ve now successfully demonstrated almost every first time event possible from a land-based platform.”
The tests prove the efficacy of the Navy’s next generation of guided weapons fired from the sea to support troops ashore.
The rounds will be used from BAE’s Advanced Gun System, currently under development for use on the three planned Zumwalt-class destroyers (DDG-1000).
Currently, the Navy has a limited capability to offer so-called naval gunfire support to ground troops — primarily Marines — since the service retired the storied Iowa-class battleships (BB-61) shortly following the first Gulf War.
The increased standoff distance Zumwalt’s bring to naval fire support is important to the Navy and the Marine Corps as increasingly sophisticated guided weapons threaten ships closer to shore.
The Navy’s current Mk-45 five-inch guns have an unguided range at 13 nautical miles, compared to the more than 60 nautical mile range of the LRLAP.
The ultimate utility of the Zumwalt’s is in question, however. With only three planned for the fleet, it’s still unclear how and when the Navy will employ the ships in support of troops on the ground.
BAE has taken lessons learned from the LRLAP and applied them into a round that could be used in the fleet’s current Mk-45s, as well as Army and Marine Corps artillery.
The Multi Service – Standard Guided Projectile (MS-SGP) program, internally funded by BAE, is currently undergoing tests with the Army for the service’s M777 and M109 artillery pieces under a limited research contract with the service.
BAE claims the MS-SGP can be included on current Navy ships with minimal modification to the ship.
The Navy plans to give a safety certification for LRLAP by 2014 ahead of a planned low-rate initial production (LRIP) of 22 rounds by 2015.