AGM-158C LRASM in flight. Photo Lockheed Martin / lockheedmartin.com
The U.S. Armed Forces, in collaboration with the defense industry, are continuing the process of introducing the latest AGM-158C LRASM anti-ship missiles. Recently it weapon reached the initial operational readiness stage as part of the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet carrier-based weapons complex. Thus, now such missiles can be used not only by the Air Force, but also by the Navy.
The new RCC was developed by Lockheed Martin since 2009 with the aim of replacing old models of a similar purpose. The existing AGM-158B JASSM-ER missile was used as the basis for the AGM-158C LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) project.
The aim of the project was to adapt the original product for use on a wide range of media - on aircraft of various types and on universal launchers of ships. It was also necessary to modify the equipment of the rocket in accordance with the new conditions of use. In particular, navigation and guidance tools have been redesigned, now able to work in the face of opposition from the enemy.
The LRASM product received a multifunctional radar seeker and navigation aids capable of working without external signals. Used penetrating fragmentation warhead weighing 450 kg. Flight range - about 500 nautical miles (more than 900 km).
Testing of the AGM-158C rocket began in 2013. Test discharges of prototype and experimental products from carrier aircraft were carried out; the rocket was also tested on the Mk 41 and Mk 57 shipboard installations. Based on the results of such tests, the project moved to new stages.
In the interests of the Air Force
On July 11, 2013, Lockheed Martin, together with the United States Air Force, carried out the first test discharge of prototype anti-ship missiles from the B-1B bomber. On August 27 of that year, the first full-fledged flight of a rocket with the defeat of a motionless surface target took place. The missile successfully passed the designated route, reached the target area, found it and hit it.
On November 12, a new launch took place from B-1B - this time along a moving surface target with previously unknown coordinates and targeting after passing part of the route. Despite the known complexity of such a task, the target was astounded. In February 2015, they launched a similar launch in a more complex environment. LRASM once again coped with the task.
Two tests were carried out in 2017, with the December events providing for multiple launch rocket launch. In the spring of next year, the tests were declared completed, after which preparations began for the adoption of weapons for service.
In December 2018, the Air Force Command announced the completion of a number of necessary procedures. RCC AGM-158C LRASM as part of the armament of the B-1B bomber reached the initial operational readiness stage. Now similar aviation the complex can be used in real combat operations.
One B-1B can carry 24 missiles on the internal and external pendants, which makes it possible to organize massive airstrikes on enemy naval formations. However, the US Air Force has not yet taken advantage of such opportunities. Moreover, one can only guess when LRASM is first used outside marine ranges.
Missile for naval aviation
In August 2015, preparations began for future tests of the LRASM rocket in the interests of the naval forces. The carrier of such weapons, according to the plans of the time, was to be a carrier-based fighter F / A-18E / F. Tests with RCC simulators started in November, and in December they completed their first flight with a prototype on an external sling. Such tests did not take much time and were completed in January 2016.
The flight tests of the AGM-158C on the F / A-18E / F began in April 2017. Further tests on the new carrier were carried out in parallel with the tests on the B-1B. Nevertheless, work in the interests of carrier-based aviation required more time. According to the initial plans, the achievement of initial operational readiness was to occur in September 2019.
Launch of the LRASM rocket from the launch vehicle. Photo Lockheed Martin / lockheedmartin.com
A few days ago, American media, citing the Command of the Naval Aviation Systems, announced the completion of the necessary procedures for the introduction of promising anti-ship missiles. The LRASM product as part of the F / A-18E / F weapons complex reached its initial operational readiness in November.
The F / A-18E / F carrier-based bomber is capable of carrying up to four AGM-158C missiles on the external sling. Two rockets are suspended under each plane, each on its own pylon. With such a load, the aircraft is able to take off both from the airfield and from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
RCC AGM-158C LRASM should also be used by various types of combat ships equipped with universal vertical launchers. The carriers of such weapons should be the Ticonderoga cruiser and the Arleigh Burke destroyers with the Mk 41, as well as the Zumwalt destroyers with the Mk 57 systems.
Tests of the ship version of LRASM began in June 2013 with trial breakthroughs of the TPK cover. These measures showed that the rocket could exit the container without damaging the warhead. On September 17, a missile was launched at a test bench simulating Mk 41 type launchers. In January 2014, a launch was made using the full Mk 41 launcher. It is interesting that the launcher preparation for the tests consisted only in updating the software. Subsequently, test launches with the participation of test ships began.
In the future, LRASM will be included in the range of ammunition B-52H - already considerable. Photo US Air Force
Full-scale testing of the AGM-158C as a ship weaponry has been going on for several years, but is far from complete. The adoption of a missile into service and deployment with the achievement of the necessary degrees of readiness is still a matter of the future.
At the moment, the main task of Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon in the context of the AGM-158C LRASM project is to bring the ship’s ship version to full operation. In parallel, other work is being carried out in the interests of the Air Force and Navy. It is expected that in the foreseeable future the list of LRASM carriers will be replenished with two or three aircraft.
RCC AGM-158C can be used long-range bomber B-1B. Given the state of long-range aviation, the Air Force requested a similar re-equipment of B-52H aircraft. Work is underway in this direction, but real missile launches have not yet been carried out.
The Navy already has one LRASM combat-ready carrier, and in the future another aircraft will have such a role. The anti-ship missile will replenish the armament range of the P-8A Poseidon patrol / anti-submarine aircraft. With the help of such weapons, he will expand the circle of tasks to be solved - not only submarines, but also surface ships will be included in the list of targets to be hit.
As a possible carrier of the AGM-158C, the F-35 Lightning II fighter in the corresponding modifications is currently considered as part of the air force and naval forces. However, there is no open information on real work on this topic. Perhaps the adaptation of the rocket to the technology of the new generation has not yet begun.
One rocket - many carriers
To date, two carriers of anti-ship missiles AGM-158C have reached the stage of initial operational readiness. These are B-1B bombers from the US Air Force and F / A-18E / F fighters from Navy carrier-based aircraft. In the near future, these weapons will receive new aircraft of the Air Force and Navy, as well as surface ships. However, the completion of all such work will require at least several years - they will continue until 2023-24.
The bulk of development work, testing and refinement on the LRASM project has already been completed, and the troops have begun the development of new weapons. However, this process is not yet completed, and will soon lead to new results of particular importance to the US Army. Having entered service with several combat arms, the AGM-158C will have to replace obsolete missiles and significantly affect their combat effectiveness.