Lockheed Martin has conducted the first flight test of a prototype anti-ship weapon based on its stealthy AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (Jassm-ER).

The flight was conducted on Aug. 27 under the joint Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program.

LRASM is developing a stealthy, survivable missile that can autonomously engage specific enemy warships at long range, in heavy electronic countermeasure without help from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets.

“We have taken a basic waypoint-following cruise missile and added brains to it,” says Artie Mabbett, Darpa program manager. “It can autonomously detect, track and engage targets of interest without depending on lots of a priori knowledge and with reduced dependence on ISR assets.”

Details of the multi-sensor, multi-spectral guidance system, developed by BAE Systems, are not being discussed, but Mabbett says LRASM incorporates an advanced inertial measurement unit to cope with GPS denial, and a better radar altimeter was added to enable the Jassm-ER to sea-skim.

For the first flight test, the LRASM was released from a Rockwell B-1 over the Point Mugu test range off southern California. Halfway to its target, the missile switched from following a pre-planned route to autonomous guidance.

“There were three vessels in the target area, all with representative emitters,” Mabbitt says. The missile autonomously detected the moving target and hit the 260-ft. unmanned ship in the desired location with its inert warhead. “The purpose of the test was to stress the sensor suite. It detected all the targets and only engaged to one we had told it to.”

Two more flight tests are planned this year, involving different altitudes, ranges and geometries in the target area. “We will push the envelope, with more stressing tests, to get a good assessment of the maturity of the technology,” Mabbitt adds.

Surface-launched flight tests have been added to the program, and work is underway to integrate the Jassm-based LRASM into the vertical launch system used on Navy warships. Two launches are planned for next summer.

Once the Darpa/ONR program is complete, LRASM will be a candidate for the Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare program, which is ramping up and expected to become the program of record to replace the Harpoon anti-ship missile.

“We are working very closely with the Navy so they can assess LRASM’s capability along with other systems out there,” Mabbett says. noting that the Air Force also is interested in the capabilities being added to the Jassm-ER.