DARPA gets order to improve our long range anti-ship missile program to counter Iranian go-fast missile boats

by Bill Sweetman at 12/6/2010


DARPA has posted an update on the Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM) program, for which the first of two parallel demonstration contracts was awarded in November.

The update clarifies some aspects of LRASM. Specifically, we now know that the program involves two entirely different airframe/propulsion approaches, both developed by different divisions of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. Both use a common seeker from BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire, the former Lockheed Sanders. The project is jointly sponsored by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research.

One set of demonstrations will focus on air launch and the other on surface-ship launch, but both teams will define both air- and ship-launched versions – confirming that the plan would be to take only one weapon into full-scale development.

LRASM-A is being developed by the Strike Weapons unit in Orlando and is based on the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) airframe, and its demonstration program will culminate in two air-launched demonstrations. The formal contract award does not appear to have been published yet.

LRASM-B is run by Tactical Missiles (legacy Vought) out of Grand Prairie, Texas, and uses “prior ramjet development activities” – which I suspect means hardware developed under a black or long-forgotten program – to provide a supersonic-cruise missile with some stealth qualities. The ramjet technology is out of Pratt & Whitney at West Palm Beach. LRASM-B will wind up with four boosted launches out of Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes.  The program is due to be complete by April 2013.

BAE Systems’ role suggests that the core of the sensor suite is based on passive radio-frequency technology. However, previous discussion of LRASM has made it clear that it will use multiple sensors in order to autonomously select warship targets even in a cluttered sea lane, while operating in a GPS-denied environment.

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