US Navy LRASM can Start Sinking Chinese Warships from Long Range by 2019
The first successful launch of the air-to ground version of the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) -- the longest-range anti-ship cruise missile in the U.S. Navy - confirms the operational deployment of this new weapon aboard attack aircraft by 2019.
A "captive carry integration test" for LRASM scheduled for mid-year follows the jettison release of this weapon from a U.S. Navy Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in early April at the Navy Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, California. Initial operating capability for LRASM will follow after a bevy of more tests in the coming year.
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The air-launched variant will first be integrated onboard the U.S. Air Force's B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bombers in 2018 and on the navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in 2019.
"The first time event of releasing LRASM from the F/A-18E/F is a major milestone towards meeting early operational capability in 2019," said Mike Fleming, Lockheed Martin LRASM program director.
"The program is executing the integration and test contract, maturing subsystems and proving flight worthiness."
The air-launched LRASM prioritizes the destruction of enemy warships, which has been neglected since the end of the Cold War in 1991, but has since taken on importance with the modernization and aggression shown by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its growing fleet of aircraft carriers.
LRASM can find a warship target on its own by using its onboard AI to locate a specific warship from among a fleet of enemy warships. A multi-mode seeker guided by the AI ensures the correct warship is hit in a specific area to maximize the probability of sinking the target.
The AI enables autonomous targeting by using on-board targeting systems to independently acquire a target without the need for prior precision intelligence, GPS or data-links.
These capabilities allow positive target identification and the precision engagement of moving warships in an enemy fleet heavily defended by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and electronic countermeasures. The missile is designed with counter-countermeasures to evade active defense systems on enemy ships.
Built by Lockheed Martin, LRASM will be an effective counter to the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) that relies on long-range anti-ship missiles (ASMs) and SAMs for its offensive and defensive power. Its warhead is a 450 kg blast-fragmentation penetrator.
LRASM can be launched at a target PLAN warship from as far away as 370 kilometers. That places the launching U.S. attack aircraft well out of the range of the Chinese HHQ-9 SAM defending many of the PLAN's modern warships. HHQ-9, the PLAN's most modern SAM, has a slant range of 200 km.