The Buzz

U.S. Navy and Air Force Missiles Will Soon Be Even Deadlier Than Before

BAE Systems has begun production of an advanced targeting sensor for the emerging Long Range Anti-Ship Missile engineered to track and destroy moving targets from great distances semi-autonomously, developers said.

Beginning as a Lockheed Martin, DARPA and Office of Naval Research effort, the LRASM program is developing a high-tech air and surface launched weapon for the Navy and Air Force.

While many of the particulars of the new sensor for the weapon are not available for security reasons, BAE Systems developers do explain the technology in a general way.

For instance, BAE developers say the precision routing and guidance technology of the sensor ― which doesn’t rely exclusively on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, networking links, or GPS navigation ― enables the missile to operate effectively in contested domains and all weather conditions, day or night.

Along with advances in electronic warfare, cyber-security and communications, LRASM is design to bring semi-autonomous targeting capability to a degree that does not yet exist. As a result, some of its guidance and seeker technology is secret, developers have said.

“Our differentiator is that our technology can sense, identify, and help target moving ships from a great distance. With our LRASM sensor, we’ve transitioned our world-class electronic warfare capabilities from other platforms to a missile system with extremely low size, weight, and power constraints,” BAE LRASM Program Manager, Joseph Mancini, told Scout Warrior.

BAE Systems is a subcontractor to main LRASM developer Lockheed Martin. Production of the sensor comes shortly after Lockheed received the first LRASM production contract award from the Navy and Air Force.

Once operational, LRASM will give Navy ships a short and long-range missile with an advanced targeting and guidance system able to partially guide its way to enemy targets and achieve pinpoint strikes in open or shallow water.

Overall, LRASM employs the multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.

LRASM is engineered with all-weather capability and a multi-modal seeker designed to discern targets, Lockheed officials said. The multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system can detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships, Lockheed officials said.

LRASM is armed with a proven 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, Lockheed officials said.

With a range of at least 200 nautical miles, LRASM is designed to use next-generation guidance technology to help track and eliminate targets such as enemy ships, shallow submarines, drones, aircraft and land-based targets, according to Lockheed Martin developers.

"The objective is to give Sailors the ability to strike high-value targets from longer ranges while avoiding counter fire. The program will use autonomous guidance to find targets, reducing reliance on networking, GPS and other assets that could be compromised by enemy electronic weapons,” a Navy statement said.

Developers say the weapon is particularly well suited for the most advanced adversary weapons systems and most high-threat warfare scenarios such as a "near-peer" type of combat engagements. Advanced threat environments are expected to include enemy forces armed with long-range sensors, electronic warfare, tactics for compromising or jamming GPS signals and a host of additional countermeasures designed to thwart incoming surface and air weapons.

"The program will use autonomous guidance to find targets, reducing reliance on networking, GPS and other assets that could be compromised by enemy electronic weapons," a statement from the Office of Naval Research said.

The LRASM, which is 168-inches long and 2,500 pounds, is currently configured to fire from an Air Force B-1B bomber, Navy surface ship Vertical Launch Tubes and a Navy F-18 carrier-launched fighter. The weapon is expected to be operational from an Air Force B-1B bomber and a Navy F-18 by 2019, Navy statements have said.

Given that the LRASM weapon is designed for both maritime and air launch, the efforts to build a new launcher are taking place alongside commensurate service efforts to advance the air launch efficacy of the weapon.

The Navy has previously released LRASM from an F/A-18 Super Hornet, involving a "jettison release" of the weapon designed to validate the aerodynamic separation models of the missile, developers explained.

Distributed Lethality

The development of LRASM is entirely consistent with the Navy’s existing “distributed lethality” strategy which seeks to better arm the fleet with long-range precision offensive and defensive fire power.

Part of the rationale to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against high-tech adversaries.

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