Lockheed LRASM completes captive carry tests

Lockheed Martin says it recently completed a series of captive carry flight tests for a new Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) it is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) over the Point Mugu sea range in California. The new weapon, which is based upon the company’s AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) system, is expected to make its first free flight test later this year.

mfc-lrasm-pr2-h.jpgMike Fleming, Lockheed’s LRASM air launch programme manager, says that the captive carry tests were flown onboard a Rockwell International B-1B because the JASSM-ER is already integrated onboard the US Air Force strategic bomber.  

“Collecting telemetry data while flying in the B-1B bomb bay significantly reduces risk ahead of the first launch,” he says. “Initial assessments indicate the missile performed as expected.”

The LRASM is slightly modified from the original JASSM-ER to incorporate a multi-mode “radio frequency” sensor, but Fleming cannot say more than that about the DARPA-furnished hardware. The LRASM also incorporates a new weapon datalink, an altimeter and an uprated power system. However, by and large, it is the same weapon system at the JASSM-ER with no other changes to the airframe or outer mold line.  

For the anti-ship role, the weapon can either be cued by the launch platform or it can receive updates via its datalink. But, Fleming says, even if the weapon is just given a general area in which to find its quarry, its onboard sensors will be able find and attack an enemy warship.

To defeat the increasing sophisticated air defenses of modern enemy warships, the LRASM will fly towards its target at medium altitude and then at some point drop down to low altitude to act as a sea-skimming stealth cruise missile in the terminal phase of the engagement, Fleming says. The JASSM-ER has a range of over 500nm (926km), but DARPA publically will only say the LRASM has a range greater than 200nm (370km).

Later this year, DARPA and ONR will conduct test flights of instrumented versions of the new weapon from the B-1. But next year, the programme will also conduct vertical launches from the Mk-41 vertical launch system found on US Navy warships like the Arleigh Burke-class class guided-missile destroyer and Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers from a so-called “desert ship” at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

For the surface launch capability, Fleming says that the weapon is slightly modified to incorporate a jettison-able Mk 114 rocket booster on the tail-end of the missile. Once the rocket boosts the weapon up to medium altitude, the surface-launched LRASM will operate just like an air-launched version.

Lockheed has also explored concepts for a submarine-launched variant of the LRASM, Fleming says. But the first priority is the air-launched weapon followed by the surface-launched variant. Lockheed was selected by DARPA to demonstrate the LRASM’s air- and surface-launched capability after a competition in 2009, he says.

Fleming says that the current contract with DARPA is for maturing the LRASM technology, but he says believes that there will be a follow-on contract for further development. However, the USN has yet to formalize what it wants from a follow-on anti-ship missile, so the future is somewhat uncertain.




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