Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Air Force has received its first operational AGM-158C LRASMs (Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles), a stealthy anti-ship cruise missile that can pinpoint and sink a specific warship target on its own without the need of any kind of external guidance.
Lockheed Martin, the developer of the LRASM, attained early operating capability (EOC) for this smart weapon ahead of schedule. LRASM can be launched from Air Force strategic heavy bombers and ground attack jets.
Lockheed Martin delivered the first LRASM to the Air Force for use on the Rockwell B-1B Lancer strategic heavy bomber. LRASM will eventually be integrated into the Air Force’s B-52H heavy bombers, and the U.S. Navy’s Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet carrier-based multi-role fighters in 2019.
LRASM is a long-range precision guided stand-off missile designed to autonomously detect and destroy enemy warships based on their image recognition, infrared, radar and other sensor profiles.
LRASM prioritizes the destruction of enemy warships, which has been neglected since the end of the Cold War in 1991, but has since taken on importance with the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
LRASM, which is armed with a 450 kg blast-fragmentation warhead, can lock-in on a specific warship target using its onboard AI. Its multi-mode seeker ensures the correct warship is hit in a specific area to maximize its destruction.
The AI enables autonomous targeting. It uses on-board targeting systems to independently acquire a target without the need for prior precision intelligence, GPS or data-links. LRASM can be launched at a target warship from as far away as 370 kilometers.
LRASM is equipped with multi-modal sensors. It is GPS-guided and is capable of detecting and selecting pre-programmed enemy vessels without outside guidance. The Air Force successfully fired an LRASM from a B-1B in August 2017 for the first time.
Despite its impressive capabilities, LRASM is only a stop-gap weapon. It will be succeeded in 2024 by the much superior Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW)/Increment 2 anti-ship missile.
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