The AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) is a stealthy anti-ship cruise missile under development for the United States Navy by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The LRASM was intended to pioneer more sophisticated autonomous targeting capabilities than the US Navy's current Harpoon anti-ship missile, which has been in service since 1977.
The Navy was authorized by the Pentagon to put the LRASM into limited production as an operational weapon in February 2014 as an urgent capability stop-gap solution to address range and survivability problems with the Harpoon and to prioritize defeating enemy warships, which has been neglected since the end of the Cold War but taken on importance with the modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Navy will hold a competition for the Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW)/Increment 2 anti-ship missile as a follow-on to LRASM to enter service in 2024.
Competitors to Lockheed Martin protested the decision to award them a contract given the circumstances of selection and competition for the missile. The Navy responded by saying Lockheed's LRASM program was limited in scope, the decision to move ahead with them was made after an initial DARPA contract award, and that it was an urgent need to face future threats. The initial LRASMs are expected to be operational in 2018. The OASuW Increment 2 competition will be completely open and start by FY 2017. It is expected the LRASM will compete against the joint Kongsberg/Raytheon offering of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) for air-launch needs and an upgraded Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missile for surface-launch needs.
In August 2015, the Navy officially designated the air-launched LRASM as the AGM-158C.
Unlike current anti-ship missiles the LRASM is expected to be capable of conducting autonomous targeting, relying on on-board targeting systems to independently acquire the target without the presence of prior, precision intelligence, or supporting services like Global Positioning Satellite navigation and data-links. These capabilities will enable positive target identification, precision engagement of moving ships and establishing of initial target cueing in extremely hostile environment. The missile will be designed with counter-countermeasures to evade hostile active defense systems.
The LRASM is based on the AGM-158B JASSM-ER, but incorporates a multi-mode radio frequency sensor, a new weapon data-link and altimeter, and an uprated power system. It can be directed to attack enemy ships by its launch platform, receive updates via its datalink, or use onboard sensors to find its target. LRASM will fly towards its target at medium altitude then drop to low altitude for a sea skimming approach to counter anti-missile defenses. DARPA states its range is "greater than 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi)." Although the LRASM is based on the JASSM-ER, which has a range of 500 nmi (930 km; 580 mi), the addition of the sensor and other features will somewhat decrease that range. It is estimated that the LRASM has a range of 300 nmi (560 km; 350 mi).
To ensure survivability to and effectiveness against a target, the LRASM is equipped with a BAE Systems-designed seeker and guidance system, integrating jam-resistant GPS/INS, passive RF and threat warning receiver, an imaging infrared (IIR infrared homing) seeker with automatic scene/target matching recognition, a data-link, and passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) and radar warning receiver sensors. Artificial intelligence software combines these features to locate enemy ships and avoid neutral shipping in crowded areas. Automatic dissemination of emissions data is classified, located, and identified for path of attack; the data-link allows other assets to feed the missile a real-time electronic picture of the enemy battlespace. Multiple missiles can work together to share data to coordinate an attack in a swarm. Aside from short, low-power data-link transmissions, the LRASM does not emit signals, which combined with the low-RCS JASSM airframe and low IR signature reduces detectability. Unlike previous radar-only seeker-equipped missiles that went on to hit other vessels if diverted or decoyed, the multi-mode seeker ensures the correct target is hit in a specific area of the ship. An LRASM can find its own target autonomously by using its active radar homing to locate ships in an area, then using passive measures once on terminal approach. Like the JASSM, the LRASM is capable of hitting land targets.
LRASM is designed to be compatible with the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System used on many US Navy ships and to be fired from aircraft, including the B-1 bomber. For surface launches, LRASM will be fitted with a modified Mk 114 jettison-able rocket booster to give it enough power to reach altitude. Although priority development is on air and surface-launched variants, Lockheed is exploring the concept of a submarine-launched variant, and deployment from a topside canister launcher for smaller ships. As part of OASuW Increment 1, the LRASM will be used only as an air-launched missile to be deployed from the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and B-1B Lancer, which has the capacity to carry 24 LRASMs.
Some naval advisors have proposed increasing the LRASM's capabilities to serve dual functions as a ship-based land attack weapon in addition to anti-ship roles. By reducing the size of its 1,000 lb (450 kg) warhead to increase range from some 300 mi (480 km) to 1,000 mi (1,600 km), the missile would still be powerful enough destroy or disable warships while having the reach to hit inland targets. With the proper guidance system, a single missile would increase the Navy's flexibility rather than needing two missiles specialized for different roles.
The program was initiated in 2009 and started along two different tracks. LRASM-A is a subsonic cruise missile based on Lockheed Martin's 500 nm-range AGM-158 JASSM-ER - Lockheed Martin was awarded initial development contracts. LRASM-B was planned to be a high-altitude supersonic missile along the lines of the Indo-Russian BrahMos (missile), but it was cancelled in January 2012. Captive carry flight tests of LRASM sensors began in May 2012; a missile prototype was planned to fly in "early 2013" and the first canister launch was intended for "end 2014".
On October 1, 2012, Lockheed received a contract modification to perform risk reduction enhancements in advance of the upcoming flight test of the air-launched LRASM-A version. On March 5, 2013, Lockheed received a contract to begin conducting air and surface-launch tests of the LRASM. Three air-launched tests were scheduled for 2013, with one from a B-1 Lancer. Two surface-launch tests were scheduled for 2014. On June 3, 2013, Lockheed successfully conducted "push through" tests of a simulated LRASM on the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS). Four tests verified the LRASM can break the canister's forward cover without damaging the missile. On July 11, 2013, Lockheed reported successful completion of captive-carry testing of the LRASM on a B-1.
On August 27, 2013, Lockheed conducted the first flight test of the LRASM, launched from a B-1. Halfway to its target, the missile switched from following a planned route to autonomous guidance. It autonomously detected its moving target, a 260 ft unmanned ship out of three in the target area, and hit it in the desired location with an inert warhead. The purpose of the test was to stress the sensor suite, which detected all the targets and only engaged the one it was told to. Two more flight tests were planned the year, involving different altitudes, ranges, and geometries in the target area. Two launches from vertical launch systems were planned for summer 2014. The missile had a sensor designed by BAE Systems. The sensor is designed to enable targeted attacks within a group of enemy ships protected by sophisticated air defense systems. It autonomously located and targeted the moving surface ship. The sensor uses advanced electronic technologies to detect targets within a complex signal environment, and then calculates precise target locations for the missile control unit.
On September 17, 2013, Lockheed launched an LRASM Boosted Test Vehicle (BTV) from a Mk 41 VLS canister. The company-funded test showed the LRASM, fitted with the Mk-114 rocket motor from the RUM-139 VL-ASROC, could ignite and penetrate the canister cover and perform a guided flight profile. In January 2014, Lockheed demonstrated that the LRASM could be launched from a Mk 41 VLS with only modified software to existing shipboard equipment.
On November 12, 2013, an LRASM scored a direct hit on a moving naval target on its second flight test. A B-1B bomber launched the missile, which navigated using planned waypoints that it received in-flight before transitioning to autonomous guidance. It used onboard sensors to select the target, descend in altitude, and successfully impact. On 4 February 2015, the LRASM conducted its third successful flight test, conducted to evaluate low-altitude performance and obstacle avoidance. Dropped from a B-1B, the missile navigated a series of planned waypoints, then detected, tracked, and avoided an object deliberately placed in the flight pattern in the final portion of the flight to demonstrate obstacle-avoidance algorithms.
In August 2015, the Navy began load and fit checks of an LRASM mass simulator vehicle on an F/A-18 Super Hornet. The first production contract expected in 2017. Initial airworthiness flight testing of the LRASM simulator with the Super Hornet began on 3 November 2015, with the first flight occurring on 14 December, and load testing completed on 6 January 2016. Live-fire trials will begin from the B-1B in 2017.
In July 2016, Lockheed successfully conducted the third surface launch of the LRASM following two tests at the Navy’s Desert Ship, firing it from the Navy’s USS Paul F. Foster Self Defense Test Ship. Tied to a Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System (TTWCS) for guidance and boosted by the Mk-114 motor, it flew a planned, low-altitude profile to its pre-determined endpoint. While the missile is currently planned to be exclusively air-launched, future requirements for employment across several launch platforms led to investment in risk-reduction for the future competition.
Sweden has publicly expressed interest in the LRASM in response to concerns of Russian actions in Eastern Europe. Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada have also expressed interest in the missile.