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Pentagon Tests Next-Gen Anti-Ship Missile From Air Force B-1B Bomber

Lockheed Martin successfully fired production-configuration Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles from a U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Pentagon’s next generation anti-ship missile was successfully fired at and hit multiple targets during a recent test over the Sea Range at Point Mugu, Calif.

During the test, which was conducted last week, a U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber simultaneously launched two production-configuration Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) against multiple maritime targets, marking an important step toward meeting early capability milestones, according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin, LRASM’s manufacturer.

“The successful flight demonstrates LRASM’s continued ability to strengthen sea control for our forces,” said a statement released by David Helsel, LRASM program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

LRASM is a precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile, and is based on Lockheed’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER). LRSAM began as a DARPA program at the 2009 request of U.S. Pacific Command to rapidly field a modern air-launched, anti-ship weapon.

LRASM is designed for use by both the U.S. Navy and Air Force. LRASMs are expected to be used by the Air Force B1-B bombers starting next year, and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F warplanes in 2019, according to a statement released by Lockheed Martin.

In July, Lockheed officials told USNI News a deck mounted launcher for the LRASM is also being developed for use by the Navy’s surface warfare community. Demonstrations could occur in 2018.

  • Duane

    What is significant about the B-1B’s certification to deploy LRASM is its massive payload of 125,000 pounds, distributed between external hard points and internal bomb bays. Each LRASM weighs roughly 2,200 pounds. Meaning, load up one of these Lancers with LRASM in Guam or one of our air bases in Japan or ROK and it could singlehandedly take out an entire Chinese surface task force. Add in the Super Hornets, and shortly thereafter our F-35Cs and As (which will be certified for LRASM, along with F-15s), or our allies’s (Japan and ROK) F-35s,and the Chinese will have a very bad day at sea should they opt for bad behavior.

    • According to the Air Force, the B-1B can carry 24x JASSM – definitely an upgrade from a B-52 with 12x Harpoon.

      The question is just how smart is LRASM. AShM’s have a pretty poor track record against any sort of countermeasures so 24 missiles could very quickly become just a handful of actual hits.

      • Duane

        Yup – 24 LRASM would indeed take out an entire task group. LRASM is the same form factor as JASSM, with some new twists to make it more stealthy and continuous upgrades to the electronic brains with a focus on ship-killing.

        The specific capabilities of LRASM with respect to anti-jamming and ECM are of course very highly classified and will not ever be publicly released by the Navy or Air Force or LM. Generally, its use of passive RF is part of its suite of trackers .. essentially honing in on the very radar signal generated by either the target ship or its counterfires. The rest is all black arts.

      • Marauder 2048

        Practically the only reliable countermeasure against a dual-mode IIR + passive RF seeker is hard-kill.

        • Multimode guidance and advanced missile processors are definitely promising but it is hard to make firm statements before they have seen use in battle. Radio emitting decoys, laser dazzlers, and even flares can all be used to confuse a missile seeker.

          • Marauder 2048

            Firm investments in hard-kill counter-ASCM capability the world over reinforce firm statements.

            Confusing a multi-mode seeker is only useful if you can maneuver completely out of its field of view *and* the missile doesn’t have sufficient fuel to make another pass. So in a typical engagement, countermeasures are mainly a means of buying yourself time to employ hard-kill.

          • Ed L

            Maybe a few guide by wire should be thrown in

          • Ctrot

            Guide by wire anti-ship missiles? Just how big a spool of wire do you expect such a missile to carry?

          • Ed L

            How about the IDAS Submarine Launched Surface to Air Missile System developer by the Germans. I like throwing ideas out there. Out of the box thinking was my Forte while on staff duty

          • Ctrot

            What about it? Apples / Oranges.

          • Ed L

            Guidances systems can be overcome unless one throw an overwhelming number of ASM’s at the enemy. If we square off against the Chinese in the East China Sea. I betting on 50 Missiles at each aircraft carrier and at least a dozen at each escort and another 50 tossed in for good measure. Think about ASM’s from Aircraft ship shore and submarines. Diesel subs willing to Sacrifice themselves to sink a carrier. Craze Chinese ship drivers willing to close with American ships hoping to sink and maybe boarding an American warship. The Chinese people of the new Empire of China feel they are superior above all the barbarians Especially Americans. An don’t forget the attacks they will inflict on our civilians. Power outages gas prices soaring.

          • Ctrot

            You’ve yet to explain what a submarine launched surface to air missile has to do with a wire guided anti ship missile or how you propose to store enough wire for such a missile to have the range (IE hundreds of miles) necessary for such a missile.

          • Ed L

            nothing to explain That’s what naval warfare is. a multi diimensional environment. Where the threat is either from Sub-surface, Surface, Air, Cyper or Space. In the middle of attack the enemy will launch a special at your force wiping out your force. So they lose a few submarines, surface ships and a few dozen aircraft. They don’t care. why because they don’t have the same morality that we do. did you know that during the 80’s if the Warsaw pact cross the line, American forces estimated casulties were in the neighborhood of 100,000 plus. That is not including the Americans civilians caught at nato installations during the attacks. oh a few years back the Germans perfected a sub SAM system especially design to target ASW Helo’s and Aircraft. But I bet you dollars to a donut that the Red Chinese already has it.

          • Ctrot

            Again, how does a wire guided anti-ship missile with 200-500 miles range work?

          • Ed L

            You obvious under estimate the abilities of our opponents. What you average tactics people think is ridiculous. People who work on the fringes always take the unknown in account. A wire guided missle doesn’t need a 200 mile range. Sucide units like fishing vessel (3 man crew) could have 4 missiles guided wire with a 10 mile range with dozen of fishing vessels working among islands near choke points. While our vessels are transiting that choke point and start coming under long range ASM. The fishing vessels attack. Remember our future opponents most likely will have little value for life and be willing to die without hesitation.

          • Marauder 2048

            Wouldn’t naval vessels tend to avoid choke points or declare exclusion zones around them?

          • Marauder 2048

            It is mainly an anti-ASW helicopter weapon where you need man-in-the-loop to prevent fratricide. Most sub drivers would prefer not to be tethered to a weapon that has a long time of flight.

    • Bulldogdriver

      The only way to defend against missiles with passive seekers is to go active on the radar and scan the horizon continuously. Not exactly the best idea as it will broadcast the task group’s location. Once located there are dozens of options to destroy them. Thus the existence of LRASM alone makes all surface vessel vulnerable to attack.

  • Ed L

    Good Information, now we just need a supersonic anti ship missile other than that SM-6. Maybe we can use a B-1B to air drop Anti submarine torpodes in clusters of 3 to a dozen at a time. I bet a B-1B can carry 20 to 30 in a rotary magazine

    • Duane

      Super sonic speed is greatly overhyped, and is simply not an important capability in an ASCM. Of vastly greater utility are stealth, “smartness” (as in ability to distinguish targets and precisely target specific parts of the target ship, use multimode-non-jammable passive seekers, and/or the ability to sense and avoid incoming counterfires), and maneuverabilty – which LRASM and NSM have in abundance.

      Supersonic speed ASCMs carry multiple disadvantages, most importantly, it can’t skim the waves at SS speeds, meaning it has to go higher and thus give up stealthiness as well as maneuverability. And SS speeds reduce range. The only SS ASCMs today only go SS at the terminal end of their cruise, when they pop up high and come down on the target … that only makes the ASCM a big, fat, easy to track target for smart agile and equally supersonic anti-ASCMs like ESSM and SeaRam.

      • Spectreoneone

        You have no clue what you’re talking about. Supersonic ASCMs are some of the most dangerous and stressing threats to modern warships. There are a large abundance of long-range (100 nmi+) supersonic ASCMs in service with multiple navies throughout the world. BrahMos, Moskit, and the Oniks (just to name a few) are some of the most dangerous ASCMs deployed today, and they’re only getting more dangerous as technology advances. They also most certainly do get extremely low (sub 50 ft), and many conduct high-G terminal maneuvers. Additionally, most supersonic ASCMs are supersonic throughout their entire flight envelope. The only missiles that do what oh describe are hybrid types like the “Sizzler” that drops a supersonic “sprint” vehicle in its terminal phase. No, low observable subsonic ASCMs might be difficult to defeat, however modern supersonic ASCMs represent the pinnacle of modern ASCM design and continue to be highly dangerous and difficult to defeat.

        • Duane

          You have no idea what you’re talking about. Being supersonic provides no additional defense – indeed it removes the primary defense of a sea–skimming cruise missile which is stealth, and inability to be detected by radar beyond the horizon. Supersonic missiles cannot “outrun” RF. Being detected is the required first step in defense.

          All of our principal anti-missile missiles are themselves supersonic, so there is no missmatch in speed.

          You’re seriously ignorant of how anti-missile missiles operate if you think a supersonic speed is any kind of serious barrier to interception whatsoever.

          • Spectreoneone

            Yeah, that’s not how it works at all. I don’t know your background, but it is obviously not ASMD/IAMD (Anti-Ship Missile Defense/Integrated Air and Missile Defense). Without going into detail I cannot share in this forum, your assessment is dead wrong; modern supersonic ASCMs have initial detection ranges that make their time from detection to impact a highly compressed timeline (measured in seconds). I’ve been in the field of ASMD/IAMD for 13 years now, and supersonic ASCMs are still our primary threat. Obviously, you will dismiss my credentials (as this is the Internet, and I could be some random keyboard warrior like yourself that has no clue how modern ASMD/IAMD systems work), but I assure you that this field is what I do for a living, and I take my work very seriously. Stealth is not the primary defense of a sea-skimming ASCM; the concept of stealth is a product of its flight profile. Low-observable features have been added to most modern ASCMs (sub- and supersonic), which make them even more difficult to detect. However, between specifically-timed maneuvers, low terminal altitudes, and ever-faster speeds, modern supersonic ASCMs remain the single most dangerous threat aside from ASBMs. For example, the P-800 “Oniks,” NATO designation SS-N-26 “Strobile” flies at Mach 2 down to altitudes of 10 meters…an altitude that is comparable to many of your highly-touted subsonic ASCMs. Traveling at Mach 2, the missile closes at 22 miles/minute…if you pick it up just over the horizon, you have just about 30 seconds to impact. Even if you know its coming, that type of threat is extremely difficult to defeat, because there are things like train time for things like RAM launchers and CIWS, tip-over range for missile fired from a VLS, transition-to-track times for RADARs…and the real time-eater: human reaction time to recognize a threat. That’s as far as I can go into the process, but I assure you that if you knew anything about ASMD/IAMD, you would already know this. No, your assessment is dead wrong, and you would know this if you actually did this job for a living. But, give me hard evidence of your assessment, please. You’ll be hard-pressed to find it, I assure you, rather than just bloviate and act like a know-it-all.

          • Duane

            So you are the true “expert”. We’re supposed to take your word for it, like everyone else says on the internet?

            Yes, it is true that traveling at higher speeds results in less reaction time for systems. If a Russian launch is made from beyond the horizon, and relying solely upon own ship’s radar, there would be only seconds to react. But our ships do not operate strictly solo.

            Of course our ships are networked with both their own deployed aircraft as well as other aircraft ranging from carrier based fighters and E-2s, MQ-4s, and now the new F-35s that have the necessary sensors to continuously track both the launch platforms (if surface or air based) and any ASCMs they launch from far beyond the horizon, and feed that data back to our ships. we’ve invested tremendous sums in new sensors like synthetic aperture AESA radars that are able to pick out low flying targets like ASCMs from above, and then relay that info via our NIFCCA systems to our ships for both defensive and offensive actions. These new sensor systems have already been miniaturized for deployment on MQ-8s which are already in service on LCS and will be deployed on most of our surface combatants going forward.Plus the F-35 also now has DAS, and these aircraft are going to be deployed in large numbers on both CVNs as well as big deck amphibs and land based aircraft.

            SeaRAM, especially the new Block 2 version, is especially designed to defeat multiple supersonic maneuvering inbound ASCMs with longer range (now over 12 miles), faster speeds, greater maneuverability, and better target sensors. Block was successfully sea tested in 2016. That’s why SeaRams our best close in defense system against both supersonic and subsonic ASCMs including those that engage in high G evasive maneuvers in the terminal phase. And it has a faster response and training time than a VLS launched system – no “tipover” needed.

            Of course electronic and physical countermeasures don’t care at all what speed the missiles are coming in at, and CMs are also a key part of ASCM defense.

            It’s not as if we haven’t long known about the Russian and other supersonic ASCMs – they’ve only been around for decades. A decade ago we didn’t pay them much attention due to their long Cold War drawdown, But that all began to change by the 2010s, and nowwith the new Block 2 SeaRAMs, now being fitted on our newest warships ranging from the Ford class CVNs to the Flight III ABs and LCS and new amphibs, we’re better defended against SS ASCMs than any other force on the planet.

            Note that we aren’t developing new SS ASCMs period – we’re sticking with stealthy and very “smart” ASCMs.

            Finally, 30 meters above the wavetops is not “waveskimming”. Flying that high, necessitated by the high speeds, just makes the missile much easier to pick up on airborne radar.

    • Why? LRASM was originally going to have supersonic and subsonic variants – the supersonic was cut. When you’re within the horizon high speed is valuable since the enemy will see the launch and you want to hit as quickly as possible. But if you’re launching from over the horizon stealth is much more important because you don’t want the enemy to even realize they’re under attack until it is too late.

      And why would you want a B-1 dropping torpedoes? It doesn’t have any ASW sensors, the P-8 can already carry 11 weapons, and you don’t drop ASW torpedoes in clusters anyways because they could interfere with each other.

      • Ed L

        Okay no need for an ASM that travels Mach 2 or maybe 3+ Or defense against them. Now for a SAG how about a C-17 carrying a hundred to 200 anti submarine munitions Dropping a dozen at a time. no reason the Airforce can’t help It’s a way to suppress those sub SAMs

  • D. Jones

    Wanna bet the Zumwalt gets retasked to carry this, since it failed with the $800K / shot wundergun?

    Actually, this might be useful mission for the LCS; convert em to remote control, load em up with LRASMs (that sounds awkward), and send em in the direction of a hostile fleet. If the hostile fleet misbehaves, the RLCS could shoot its, um, compliment of missiles and if it gets taken out afterwards, oh well. Super range and loiter time. How many could a RLCS carry?

    Actually, you could control it from a sub tailing the RLCS quietly.

    • Ed L

      It is in the slightest possibly that the datalink be detected an put the submarine in jeopardy

    • Duane

      The Zums already feature 80-cell VLS, and LRASM is already certified for firing from the Mk 41 VLS (the Zum’s VLS is a little different, but I expect it can be certified readily for LRASM).

  • Chesapeakeguy

    So when will we see names attached to these weapons? What might the NSM and LRASM be called? Every good weapon deserves a good name..

  • Centaurus

    CHAMPS for the little fish-head