Home » Aviation » LRASM Set for More Air, Surface Tests This Year


LRASM Set for More Air, Surface Tests This Year

A F/A-18E flying with a black LRASM missile. Lockheed Martin Photo

A F/A-18E flying with a black LRASM missile. Lockheed Martin Photo

Operating under a $321 million contract from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Lockheed Martin is set to complete the critical design review (CDR) for the company’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) next month, company officials told USNI News on Tuesday.

Completion of the CDR will kick off a round of testing for the use of the missile on the Boeing B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter with a goal of an early operational capability on the Lancers by the end of 2018 and the Super Hornets in 2019, Mike Fleming, Lockheed’s LRASM air launch program director said.

“They’re calling it the integration and test phase, that goes through now through fielding and encompasses the rest of the test program for both of the platforms to get it fielded,” Fleming said.

A LRASM missile in a hangar with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Lockheed Martin Photo

A LRASM missile in a hangar with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Lockheed Martin Photo

The missile – based on the company’s long-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) – is part of an urgent operational need first laid out by U.S. Pacific Command for a new air-launched anti-ship missile in 2009.

“I need weapons systems of increased lethality that go faster, go further, and are more survivable,” PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate in February.
The “subsonic ship-to-ship munition, the Harpoon, is essentially the same missile we had in 1978, when I was a newly commissioned ensign.”

The need from PACOM began with two contracts with DARPA and the Office of Naval Research that successfully proved the LRASM could be launched at a moving maritime target from a B-1 bomber.

The LRASM program – also known as the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Increment I – is the first of several new or modified weapon the Pentagon is working on to help bridge a decades-old gap in anti-surface weapons development that stalled during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, several much more modern Russian and Chinese anti-surface weapons have emerged.

An artist's concept of a Lockheed Martin LRASM fired from a U.S. Navy VLS tube. Lockheed Martin image.

An artist’s concept of a Lockheed Martin LRASM fired from a U.S. Navy VLS tube. Lockheed Martin image.

Other anti-surface weapons that are in the works are an anti-surface variant of the Raytheon Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) set to field on ships and submarines in 2021 and an anti-surface variant of the Raytheon Standard Missile-6 (SM-6).

Additionally, Lockheed Martin intends to conduct a vertical launch test of a LRASM from a Navy guided-missile destroyer sometime later this year, company officials told USNI News.

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Categories: Aviation, Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • sferrin

    They NEED to get a variant of that into the Mk41 VLS. And they really ought to looking to stretching the airframe for more range. They could give it roughly a 4-foot stretch, use Tomahawks booster instead of VL-Asrocs, and still fit in the cell.

    • Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo

      Yeah, it’s 2m shorter than a Tomahawk and a range of around 300km.
      Perhaps it will allow integration into more vessels that won’t have the full strike-length VLS?
      But it does seem short legged…… surely an optional extra booster for better range would have been smart?

      Then there is the number of VLS cells available?
      Are they always occupied?
      Will devoting 8-16 cells for the LRASM put pressure on room for other things?

      • sferrin

        300km? Try about 4 times that. JASSM-ER (which LRASM is based on) has a range well over 1000km. Even a standard JASSM is around 400km. As for the cells, they can’t even fill the ones they have (not enough munitions in the inventory).

        • Seriously? The VLS cells in our vessels aren’t filled when they head out to battle? That is an upsetting notion, our munitions are painfully expensive compared to our adversaries, who I can imagine can afford to fill their cells with cheap C-802s.

        • Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabadoo

          Yeah, according to wiki the rage is much reduced because of the space taken up by extra sensors…. plus when launched from the surface compared to air-launched the range reduces that bit further.

          • sferrin

            Hmmm. I could see the sensor thing. Surface launch isn’t really going to affect range much though, like it would a short range SAM.

  • James Bowen

    The performance characteristics of this missile are similar to those of the Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile which went away more than 20 years ago. I fail to see how this is progress; this is more like retracing steps after backpedaling. We need something like the Russian SS-N-19 Shipwreck.

    Also, it looks like it is a higher priority to get this deployed on B-1B Lancers than it is to the fleet. Why? Historically, land-based strategic bombers have not performed well in the maritime role.

    • sferrin

      The difference is it’s VLO stealth. There are two ways to reduce a target’s reaction time. One is with speed. The other is with stealth. Tomahawk has neither. LRASM is the fastest way to get SOMETHING reasonable deadly into the hands of the warfighter. LRASM-B would have been better in my opinion but they chickened out on that one. Too difficult. (Never mind that real brains did all the hard work on that thing back in the late 70s.)

      • James Bowen

        I am skeptical as to how great of an advantage stealth is vs. raw momentum.

        This might indeed be seen as the quickest way to get something out there soon, but it is still not enough. It also begs the question of why the Navy was so openly and arrogantly complacent about anti-ship weapons for so many years.

        • sferrin

          “Raw momentum” is useless if you can’t get it to the target because you were spotted 40 miles out and shot down.

          • James Bowen

            If there are 20 of these missiles coming at a target, which is the design philosophy of the SS-N-19, the chances of scoring devastating hits are a lot higher than with one or two of these lighter “stealth” missiles.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            What’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. In this case what air defenses the USN will face from peer navies like Russia and China is not the same as what those nations will face trying to score hits on USN ships. Despite the advent of so called “Chinese Aegis” they are still at least a full generation behind (and that’s only if every system works as advertised, which given Chinese/Russian military corruption, lack of field testing or combat experience is highly unlikely). So (IMO) a smaller number of USN LRASM or NSM will have the same number of probable hits as an exponentially higher number of enemy inbounds.

          • James Bowen

            This sounds like a classic example of assuming we are better than our adversaries are, or in other words, selling our opponents short. I have not seen any evidence that their systems perform any worse than ours, and it is not prudent to use wishful thinking as a design basis for a weapons system.

          • sferrin

            Your choice at the moment is LRASM or NOTHING. LRASM-B would have been an excellent addition but they chickened out with that one. Too much risk. Fasthawk would have been another perfect option. Cancelled because reasons. RATTLRS would have been nice too. Cancelled because “no need”. Seeing a pattern here? (Dumb, short-sighted bureaucrats.)

          • James Bowen

            Yes, LRASM is better than nothing. However, the fact that that is our choice at the moment reveals that this is a threat and a shortfall in our own capabilities which we are still not taking very seriously–which is my general point.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            It is equally imprudent to assume your enemy has capabilities beyond what can be reasonable assumed. For instance, to throw away the USN aviation capability because China claims it has a “Carrier Killer” is equally foolish as ignoring the developing capability.
            In this case what strike platform works best to penetrate the existent and developing AAW capabilities of our potential adversaries is what is needed, not to match the strike platform OF our adversaries which face a much different AAW system.

          • James Bowen

            Actually, it isn’t. As long as we are talking about realistic capabilities, we cannot assume our potential enemy is too powerful to any detriment to ourselves.

            If our adversaries have an air defense system that is not as good as ours, going with high performance heavy system will almost certainly get the job done. If their systems are as good as ours, we need every hit to count. Either way, we need something that goes fast, hits hard, and is large in numbers; not more overly complex systems which are simply outmatched in performance by their counterparts.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            My point is you must look at what capabilities to prioritize. Size, speed, range, sensor suite, payload, stealth, and price are all in conflict so no one system can check every box. Given the capabilities of the USN, especially in ISR and submarine & aviation forces, it makes sense to emphasize size, range, stealth & price over speed.

          • James Bowen

            We are not emphasizing size that much. There are much bigger weapons out there. Being strong in those areas you mention is very important, but it is also no substitute for having weapons that move fast and hit hard.

          • sferrin

            If there are 20 of those so-called “lighter” stealth missiles coming at a target it’s screwed. Shipwrecks will be spotted the moment they leave the water, and Aegis was specifically designed to deal with the type of raid you suggest. LRASM will be approaching from every azimuth and won’t be spotted until they’re almost on top of the target.

          • James Bowen

            I am not all that convinced that airborne stealth is effective. It has never really been tested against an equal power. It might be, but anything that flies with a jet engine is certainly not undetectable. If stealth proves to not be all its cracked up to be, these missiles will be easy targets for air defense systems.

            I also doubt that these missiles are intended to be fired in salvos. U.S. surface combatants only carried 8 Harpoons back when they carried full loads. It looks like this is a similar design philosophy: make the command and control systems as complex as possible and pretend that that somehow makes up for performance characteristics.

          • sferrin

            “I am not all that convinced that airborne stealth is effective.” Those who would know are.

          • James Bowen

            Who would know? It has never been tested in combat with an equal adversary before.

          • sferrin

            Who would know? Everybody who’s been using them. It’s not like they have absolutely no clue what would happen.

          • James Bowen

            Yes, that’s true. However, we don’t have a full understanding either. Stealth platforms might live up to its promises under combat conditions, but it might not either. For the last 20+ years, we have been fully betting that it will, which is foolish.

          • Charles Haas

            LRASM will be launched from Mk-41 VLS cells, with at least 88 cells capable of launching them for every DDG-51 in the fleet, and 122 for the CG-47s. The only problem of launching them en mass depend solely on how many are built. We need to be building these at a rate of around 120 per year at the very least.

          • Arthur Vallejo

            I would love to ask your question to a fleet Admiral

          • James Bowen

            Thanks. So would I.

        • DWinslow

          Soon the Russians will be fielding the hypersonic, scramjet powered BrahMos-II.

          • James Bowen

            Wow, that is really interesting. While we are fiddling around with something that, outside of the electronics, is basically 1940’s technology, they are about to deploy hypersonic anti-ship missiles. People must really be deluding themselves if they think our navy is the best equipped in the world with that kind of pending disparity.

          • Marauder 2048

            Ramjets are 1940’s technology as well. So what’s your point?

          • James Bowen

            My point is that the propulsion and performance characteristics of the Tomahawk, LSRAM, Harpoon, etc. are not that different from the V-1, even though the technology exists to make these weapons far more powerful.

          • You bring up a great point.

            However, can’t your point be said for the 5.56, the Navy 5″ and the list might go on to include the sailor. Have we had an ‘improved’ model of those in centuries?

            So, what do we do instead? Halt a needed program and hope to get a replacement in 15 years?

            Your point is accurate, but I am not sure there is a near term solution.

            Wayne

          • James Bowen

            Yes, you are right about this. The LRASM is the only game in town at the moment. However, the fact that it is is testimony to how severely anti-ship missiles and anti-surface warfare has been neglected and continues to be neglected. For years we heard so many arrogant boasts about how much more powerful our navy is than the rest of the world, and the result of this complacency is a severe deficiency in our ability to fight a war at sea.

          • sferrin

            If by “soon” you mean “sometime this century” then you might be onto something.

        • Arthur Vallejo

          You think like a physicist. My take is that the USA is confident against supersonic targets with its interceptor syatems like SM-6 and evolved sea sparrow. F-35C with DAS plus E-2D Hawkeyes will spot any supersonic attack missiles from distance. My best guess is that USA will put all its eggs in 2 baskets – VLO stealthy cruise missiles and hypersonic scramjet powered attack missiles. USA might be wise to back out of SALT/START and start deploying intermediate range ballistic missiles in Guam with advanced MARVs.

          • James Bowen

            I actually am a physicist, so thanks for the compliment. As long as we have a balance between stealthy cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles, that is a good approach. So far, however, I see a lot of confidence put into the former while the latter appears to be neglected.

      • DWinslow

        I’m surprised they didn’t try to weaponize the GQM-163A Coyote supersonic Navy target drone.

        • sferrin

          I’m not. It’s range is too short, it’s payload is too small, and it wouldn’t fit on any existing launch system in the USN.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      In this case the Bone is an arsenal plane, high cruise speed and great range make for an excellent platform to for interdiction and sea denial, and each B-1B can carry the equivalent of a half dozen or so F-18s or a whole squadron of F-35Cs, though I’m not sure what the Bone’s ISR capability is, especially for volume search and discrimination.
      As for the Shipwreck, so much hype vs actual capability. The SS-N-19 only has a high mach “sprint” capability (after being in a SM-6 engagement envelope for ~200nms). High speed in a ASCM has significant tradeoffs for that speed, reduced range or increase size, obviously less stealthy and forced into a less advantageous attack platform (try flying a missile with such small control surfaces at 2,000mph at under 100ft, it will go splash long before it goes boom). That said a short engagement window is extremely dangerous when the target has limited (or no) AEW capability and/or limited air defense connectivity (both of which a USN CBG has in spades, but a SAG will lack).

      • James Bowen

        The SS-N-19 has a top speed of over Mach 2.5, it has a 1,653 pound warhead, and it has a range of about 350 nm. This LRASM looks like a pea shooter by comparison. It has somewhat better range, but nowhere near the speed and destructive power. When a salvo of them are fired, our defenses would have their work cut out for them. Somehow I doubt the LRASM is intended to be fired in salvos.

        As for the B-1B, that is all true, but historically land-based bombers have not been very effective in a naval aviation role. Their crews really aren’t trained for it, and the parent service (the U.S. Air Force or other land-based air forces) typically has other priorities.

        • Donald Carey

          Another factor is the age of the average Bone – how much will it cost to keep an adequate number fully combat ready?

        • Marauder 2048

          Of course LRASM is intended to be fired in salvos; it’s the entire motivation behind DARPA’s investment in simultaneous time-of-arrival algorithms for the program.

          “Land-based bombers have not been very effective in a naval aviation role”
          Tell that the crews of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales. Or the Japanese crews at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea to name just a few.

    • Arthur Vallejo

      Air Sea Battle Doctrine predicates that the USN never fight without integrated networked support from the USAF. The strenghts of LRASM are state of the art stealth, AI, and EW. A supersonic LRASM was scrapped because supersonic low level flight creates a huge IR signature and a massive fuel burn rate even with state of the art ramjet. LRASM-B will be hypersonic scramjet powered.

      • James Bowen

        I’m not convinced that stealth provides greater advantage compared to speed and power. The missile can still be detected and decoyed, whereas it is considerably harder to destroy or decoy, a full salvo of high-speed, heavy missiles, even if they are detected earlier.

        As far as the Air Sea Battle Doctrine is concerned, unless there as been a massive cultural shift in the U.S. Air Force which I am unaware of, it flies in the face of historical experience. Land-based non-naval air forces, even if they have capable platforms for attacking ships, have historically not excelled in this role. They tend to be either land-oriented (like the World War II Luftwaffe) or strategically-oriented (like the World War II RAF) or a combination of the two (like the USAF). They tend to underestimate the challenges of anti-ship warfare and don’t put too many resources into appropriate training and tactics. If you are interested, I would be happy to provide specific examples.

  • Ed L

    321 million dollars to redo existing tech? come on. How much of that money went into lobbying? Right now there is the Standard Missile-6 which can be used in a surface to surface engagement. While not a big warhead 64 kg traveling at MACH 3. it will have to do until something with a larger warhead comes along.

    • RobM1981

      The SM-6 continues to impress, that’s for sure.

      Hopefully, someone at one of the war-colleges is coming up with doctrine and tactics such that the SM-6 is used to blind/disable the target, such that the follow-on attack with slower but heavier warheads are able to penetrate the now-compromised defenses.

      Or something…

      • airider

        $4M+ to “blind” the target, $1M to “kill” it….ouch
        Need cheaper munitions….they’re one time use, throw away systems … and we need to treat them as such in the acquisitions phase.

        • RobM1981

          Agreed, but a supersonic SSM is going to cost at least as much, if not more. The SM-6 is expensive (and I agree, costs have become absurd), but it is also extremely capable. That $1M round is something like 30 years old at this point (more?)

    • sferrin

      And how is “something with a larger warhead” going to come along without paying for it? Is it just going to grow on a tree somewhere or what? Loosen the straps on your tinfoil hat man.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      $321m is a rounding error at DoD.

    • Pat Patterson

      You can’t put a Standard missile on an F-18 and you always need more than just one weapon in your bag. The LRASM is maneuverable with different attack patterns where the Standard is on a limited ballistic profile.

  • RobM1981

    Didn’t they bury Spock in one of those?

    I seem to remember seeing that in a movie…

    • sferrin

      No, they buried him in a giant USB stick.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    “an early operational capability on the Lancers by the end of 2018” Does he mean IOC in 2018? No real details in the article about what the testing schedule be beyond firing one from a VLS “sometime later this year”