Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The seventh successful test of the U.S. Air Force’s “AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM)” keeps this stealthy and devastating new weapon designed to destroy warships of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Russian Navy on track for operational deployment by 2019.
“In the event over the Sea Range at Point Mugu, California, a U.S. Air Force B-1B from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, released the pair of LRASMs,” said Lockheed Martin (the developer of LRASM) in a statement. “The missiles navigated through all planned waypoints, transitioned to mid-course guidance and flew toward the moving maritime target using inputs from the onboard sensors. The missiles then positively identified the intended target and impacted successfully.”
This was the second time Lockheed used two LRASMs against a single, moving ship. “The success of this second dual-LRASM test event speaks volumes,” said David Helsel, LRASM program director at Lockheed Martin. It was the seventh consecutive successful test of the LRASM, the most recent one being in March of this year. The LRASM was first tested against a moving target in 2013.
LRASM will provide the Air Force and U.S. Navy with an offensive anti-surface weapon (OASuW) to counter the growing threats from the PLAN and the Russian Navy. It carries a 450 kg blast-fragmentation penetrator warhead out to a distance of 370 km. LRASM is also designed to give the Navy and Air Force a precision-guided, long-range standoff capability that can survive in advanced electronic-warfare environments.
The air-launched variant will first be integrated onboard the Air Force’s Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bombers and on the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. This variant prioritizes the destruction of enemy warships, which was neglected since the end of the Cold War in 1991, but has since taken on importance with the modernization and aggression shown by the PLAN and its growing fleet of aircraft carriers.
LRASM can find a warship target on its own by using its onboard AI to locate a specific warship from among a fleet of enemy warships. A multi-mode seeker guided by the AI ensures the correct warship is hit in a specific area to maximize the probability of sinking the target.
The AI enables autonomous targeting by using on-board targeting systems to independently acquire a target without the need for prior precision intelligence, GPS or data-links.
These capabilities allow positive target identification and the precision engagement of moving warships in an enemy fleet heavily defended by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and electronic countermeasures. The missile is designed with counter-countermeasures to evade active defense systems on enemy ships.
LRASM can be launched at a target PLAN warship from as far away as 370 kilometers. That places the launching U.S. attack aircraft well out of the range of the Chinese HHQ-9 SAM defending many of the PLAN’s modern warships. HHQ-9, the PLAN’s most modern SAM, has a slant range of 200 km.
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