Anti-ship mis­sile pro­to­type first suc­cess­ful solo test flight


Ad­ver­saries’ so­phis­ti­cated air de­fence sys­tems can make it dif­fi­cult for cur­rent air- and sur­face-launched anti-ship mis­siles to hit their tar­gets at long range. To en­gage spe­cific enemy war­ships from be­yond the reach of counter-fire sys­tems, warfight­ers may re­quire launch­ing mul­ti­ple mis­siles or em­ploy­ing over­head tar­get­ing as­sets such as radar-equipped planes or global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem (GPS) satel­lites—re­sources that may not al­ways be avail­able.

To help ad­dress th­ese chal­lenges, the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Of­fice of Naval Re­search (ONR) are col­lab­o­rat­ing on the long range anti-ship mis­sile (LRASM) pro­gramme which suc­cess­fully launched its first pro­to­type on Au­gust 27.

De­signed for both sur­face and air launch, LRASM seeks to de­velop an au­ton­o­mous, pre­ci­sion-guided anti-ship stand­off mis­sile based on the suc­cess­ful joint air-to-sur­face stand­off mis­sile ex­tended range (JASSM-ER) sys­tem.

LRASM aims to in­cor­po­rate sen­sors and sys­tems to cre­ate a stealthy and sur­viv­able subsonic cruise mis­sile with re­duced de­pen­dence on in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (ISR) plat­forms, net­work links and GPS nav­i­ga­tion in elec­tronic war­fare en­vi­ron­ments. The pro­gramme also fo­cuses on pre­ci­sion lethal­ity in the face of ad­vanced coun­ter­mea­sures.

“This fully func­tional test is a sig­nif­i­cant step in pro­vid­ing the US Navy and US Air Force with a next-gen­er­a­tion anti-ship mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity,” said Ar­tie Mab­bett, DARPA Pro­gram Man­ager for LRASM. “This test is the cul­mi­na­tion of the five-year de­vel­op­ment and in­te­gra­tion of ad­vanced sen­sors in an all-up-round (AUR) mis­sile. It also rep­re­sents the first time we’ve in­te­grated ad­vanced sen­sors and demon­strated the en­tire sys­tem, re­sult­ing in per­for­mance that sub­stan­tially ex­ceeds our cur­rent ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

DARPA de­signed the free-flight tran­si­tion test (FFTT) demon­stra­tion to ver­ify the mis­sile’s flight char­ac­ter­is­tics and as­sess sub- sys­tem and sen­sor per­for­mance. Be­yond the pri­mary ob­jec­tives of the free-flight tran­si­tion, the test ve­hi­cle also de­tected, en­gaged and hit an un­manned 260-foot mo­bile ship tar­get (MST) with an in­ert war­head.

A B-1 bomber from the 337th Test and Eval­u­a­tion Squadron con­ducted the mis­sion from Dyess AFB, Texas, to the Point Mugu Sea Test Range off the coast of south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Once in po­si­tion, the B-1 re­leased the LRASM, which fol­lowed a pre-planned route to­wards the tar­get. Ap­prox­i­mately half­way to its desti­na­tion, the weapon switched to au­ton­o­mous guid­ance, in which it au­tonomously de­tected the mov­ing MST and guided it­self to hit the de­sired lo­ca­tion on the tar­get. A F/A-18 fighter from the Air Test and Eval­u­a­tion Squadron (VX) 31 in China Lake, Cal­i­for­nia, fol­lowed the weapon dur­ing the flight.

Lock­heed Martin Mis­siles and Fire Con­trol (LMMFC) is the prime con­trac­tor for the demon­stra­tion of the LRASM weapon. BAE Sys­tems’ In­for­ma­tion and Elec­tronic Sys­tems In­te­gra­tion di­vi­sion is the prime con­trac­tor for the de­sign and de­liv­ery of LRASM’s on­board sen­sor sys­tems.

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