DARPA Expands Anti-Ship LRASM to Surface Launches

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DARPA's Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program to develop a stealthy next-generation weapon for the US Navy is gaining heft. The agency has added two surface-launched tests and a third air-launched flight test of the missile, which is based on Lockheed Martin's JASSM-ER strike weapon.

Concept: DARPA

Lockheed Martin has just received an additional $54.4 million for surface-launch risk-reduction work, and DARPA says two ballistic-test surface launches are now planned for the end on 2014. The first of three air-launched test flights from a US Air Force B-1B is scheduled for this summer.

LRASM is designed to reduce dependence on ISR platforms, data links and GPS navigation for targeting in the electronic-warfare environment expected in any future war with China. Autonomous guidance should allow the missile to use less-precise cueing data to find its target, and "innovative terminal survivability approaches and precision lethality" to defeat countermeasures and destroy that target, DARPA says.

The BAE Systems-developed multi-sensor guidance package has been undergoing captive-carry flight tests on a Sabreliner testbed since mid-2012. The tests are continuing, simulating increasing complex scenarios, DARPA says. The addition of a third live-fire flight test will further mature the technology for transition to the services, says the agency. 

The addition of a launch capability from surface vessels will require modifications to the missile airframe, design of a booster separation system and development of a hybrid canister for the Navy's vertical launch system, DARPA says. Lockheed had already started the work on company funding. 

Unusually for a DARPA program, LRASM has been structured to deliver a development-ready "advanced prototype" weapon to the Navy and Air Force -- sufficiently mature to move rapidly into an acquisition program to meet what some see as the dire need for a new anti-ship missile to replace the decades-old Harpoon, now woefully outclassed by systems fielded by Russia, China and now India.

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