The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) plans to award Lockheed Martin a contract to continue development and conduct additional flight tests of the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (Lrasm), keeping the weapon on track for possible deployment in 2018.

Pentagon efforts to transition Lrasm from a Darpa/Office of Naval Research (ONR) demonstration to a program of record without a competition have attracted controversy. But in a December notice, Darpa announced its intent to award Lockheed a sole-source contract for follow-on development.

The 24-month effort “will continue maturation of the Lrasm subsystems and system design that Lockheed Martin has developed under the current contract awarded in 2009 after a full and open competition,” the notice says.

The follow-on effort “will conduct further sensor and avionics hardware development based on previous results achieved under the current contract … [and] provide for fabrication of missile hardware to enable additional flight tests.”

Lrasm is a candidate for the U.S. Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) weapon to replace the Boeing Harpoon, and Darpa plans both air-launched tests from a U.S. Air Force Rockwell B-1B bomber and surface launches from the Navy’s vertical launch system (VLS).

Since the Navy dropped plans to field an interim OASuW capability using a modified Tomahawk cruise missile, Raytheon has lobbied against the transition of Lrasm from a demonstration to an operational weapon without another competition.

The fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill approved by Congress in December takes aim at the Lrasm plans by prohibiting any OASuW funds being used “to modify or enter into a contract using procedures other than competitive procedures.”

But the prohibition does not apply to funds “that are made available for the development, testing and fielding of aircraft-launched offensive anti-surface warfare weapons capabilities,” the bill says.

“The intent is not to disrupt current, continuing [Defense Department] efforts to develop and air-launched capability for OASuW that is in support of [Pacific Command’s] validated [Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement], and to require the Navy to provide a competitive environment for any surface-launched capability development subsequently,” a congressional staffer says.

The stealthy Lrasm is based on Lockheed’s AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (Jassm-ER) and is equipped with a BAE Systems multi-sensor guidance system. The weapon is designed to autonomously detect and identify its target within a group of enemy ships in an electronic warfare environment.

The first flight test, launched from a U.S. Air Force B-1B, was conducted in August, with the unarmed missile hitting the target ship. A second flight test was conducted in November, the missile receiving inflight targeting updates via data-link and scoring a direct hit on the moving ship target.

Darpa originally planned two air-launched flight tests, but in March 2013 increased the scope of the program to include a third air-launched flight and two surface-launched ballistic tests to mature the technologies and reduce the risks.

The two surface launches from the Navy’s Mk. 41 VLS are planned for late 2014. In September 2013, Lockheed conducted a company-funded test in which an Lrasm boosted by a Vertical-Launch Asroc rocket motor was fired through a VLS canister cover onto a guided flight profile.