Lockheed Martin has successfully tested
its newly developed Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM). The test was conducted over the Sea Range of Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. Two missiles were launched from a B-1B bomber, after making their way through several waypoints the missiles successfully hit a moving vessel. The LRSAM
is the Navy’s answer to a growing problem that threatens its freedom of the seas. The missiles are a new generation of anti-ship weapons, offering longer ranges and better odds against improving air defense systems. The LRASM is designed to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships using its sensors, encrypted communications and a digital anti-jamming GPS. The missile can be launched from the F/A-18 Super Hornet
, the B1-B Lancer, the F-35 Lightning II
and from a vertical launch system on a Navy destroyer. It is designed to be used in battle against the surface ships of advanced foes, such as China or Russia.
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.