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B1-B Lancer Completes Target-Seeking Long-Range Missile Test

A US Air Force B-1B supersonic bomber test-fired two sensorized missiles developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide enhanced surface attack options.

Lockheed Martin announced May 23 that the B-1B Lancer's employment of two Long-Range Anti-Ship (LRASM) missiles struck targets successfully. "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 company said in a news release.

The air-fired missiles are tailored to track and strike navy ships with reduced reliance on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, which sometimes can be hard to come by for the US Navy in areas such as the Pacific Ocean.

During April testimony before the US Congress, US Pacific Command (PACOM) nominee Admiral Philip Davidson said "PACOM only has about a quarter of the [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] it needs in the AOR," or area of responsibility.

Lockheed Martin has a requirement to integrate the 2,200 to 4,500 pound missile onto the US Air Force's B-1B by 2018 and the US Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornet by 2019, according to a DARPA fact sheet.

"With the growth of maritime threats in anti-access/area denial (A2AD) environments, this semi-autonomous, air-launched anti-ship missile promises to reduce dependence on external platforms and network links in order to penetrate sophisticated enemy air-defense systems," the fact sheet notes.

The basic framework of the missile is built off of the Joint Air-to Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER). The LRASM is a subsonic missile like the JASSM-ER, however the LRASM has a shorter range because of its extra sensors that help "discriminate between targets," according to DARPA and Breaking Defense. In 2012, the US military cancelled an LRASM-B program that would have competed with the Indo-Russo developed BrahMos missile.

While the JASSM and Tomahawk missile "are used against fixed, land-based targets," security expert John Pike said Wednesday, "LRASM has [a] terminal homing seeker the others lack."

"A long time ago there was some interest in an anti-ship variant of Tomahawk," the missile fired by US Navy vessels against Syria's Shayrat air base in April 2017, "but nothing came of it," said Pike, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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