US Navy’s New Anti-Ship Missile Makes Progress

 - December 15, 2015, 4:55 PM
Two black-painted LRASMs are just visible on the middle wing pylons of this US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. (photo: US Navy)

Lockheed Martin (LM) reported captive-carry flight tests of its Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) on a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. The potential replacement for the Harpoon missile was previously flight-tested on a U.S. Air Force B-1, including three firings. The LRASM is based on LM’s Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), which the company continues to produce for the U.S. Air Force and foreign air arms. 

Mike Fleming, the program director for LM, said the flight tests “put us one step closer to fielding this urgently needed capability.” The U.S. Navy took over the JASSM program from DARPA last year and has given LM sole-source contracts to meet what the service calls increment 1 of its Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) requirement. LM won the original DARPA contract to develop a missile capable of striking warships in well defended littoral areas from long ranges in 2009. The first flight test launch from a B-1 was in August 2013.  

The LRASM is thought to have a range of some 300 nm, three times that of the Harpoon but still about 200 nm less than the extended-range version of the JASSM on which it is based. The difference is due to the multiple, more sophisticated sensors that are integrated on the LRASM, which can employ radar, radio-frequency and infrared means for homing on target. The missile can operate autonomously in GPS-denied environments and can have its target coordinates updated from the launch aircraft by datalink.

Last October, LM said it had received contracts to build more than 2,300 JASSMs. These 2,000-pound-class cruise missiles employ GPS and infrared guidance, and are integrated on the U.S. Air Force B-1, B-2, B-52, F-16 and F-15E fleets. Finland and Poland are buying JASSMs via the U.S. foreign military sales route to arm their F-18s and F-16s, respectively.