Lockheed Martin and the US Navy have tested
the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM
) for the first time. The missile was launched from a Super Hornet aircraft during a jettison test that aimed to validate its air-to-ground capabilities. Developed to replace the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM
-ER), the company added that the weapon will provide the Navy with more effective combat capabilities in maritime battlefields, noting the missile is ideal for tactical operations.
The US Navy is beginning to acknowledge a growing problem that threatens its freedom of the seas: its strike reach is shrinking and aging, while potential opponents’ attack reach is expanding and modernizing. As new designs replace older planes, US carrier aircraft range is shrinking to 1950s levels. Meanwhile, its anti-ship and land attack missiles are generally older, medium-range subsonic designs like the Harpoon Block I, which are vulnerable to air defenses. In contrast, China is deploying supersonic SS-N-22 “Sunburn” missiles bought from Russia, and working on a DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The Sunburn is just one of Russia’s supersonic anti-ship missile options for sale, and a joint venture with India has added the supersonic PJ-10 BrahMos.
The math is stark: enemies with longer reach, and better weapons, may be able to create large “no go” zones for the Navy in key conflict areas. In response, think-tanks like CSBA are proposing ideas like AirSea Battle, which emphasizes a combination of advance hardening, more stealth and long-range strike options, and a progressive “blinding and grinding” campaign of strikes and interdiction. Success will require some changes to America’s array, beginning with the missiles that arm its ships and aircraft. Hence LRASM: the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, with a secondary land-strike role.