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DARPA flight tests LRASM missile

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Designed to launch from both ships and planes such as the B-1 bomber, the test vehicle detected, engaged and hit an unmanned 260-foot Mobile Ship Target (MST) with an inert warhead (inset). A black circle indicates where the missile hit and punched straight through the target. Photo: DARPA.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (BNS): The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Lockheed Martin recently completed a successful first flight test of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).

In the test over the Sea Range at Point Mugu, California, a US Air Force B-1B from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, released the LRASM.

The missile navigated through all planned waypoints, transitioned to autonomous guidance and flew toward the maritime target using inputs from the onboard multimodal sensor. The missile then descended to low altitude for final approach to the target area, positively identified and impacted the target.

A F/A-18 fighter from the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 31 in China Lake, Califorrnia, followed the weapon during the flight.

"This fully functional test is a significant step in providing the US Navy and US Air Force with a next-generation anti-ship missile capability," Artie Mabbett, DARPA programme manager for LRASM, was quoted as saying in a DARPA news release.

DARPA designed the free-flight transition test (FFTT) demonstration to verify the prototype's flight characteristics and assess subsystem and sensor performance.

"This is a monumental accomplishment for the LRASM program and paves the way for subsequent missile launches," added Mike Fleming, LRASM air launch programme manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

LRASM is an autonomous, precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile leveraging the successful Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) heritage, and is designed to meet the needs of US Navy and Air Force warfighters in a robust anti-access/area-denial threat environment.

The LRASM programme began in 2009. The programme, currently in the second of two phases, initially focused on technology for two variants, the LRASM-A and LRASM-B.

Working in close collaboration with the US Navy to provide warfighters a capability that can make a difference at sea in the near term, DARPA decided in January 2012 to focus solely on technology development for LRASM-A, ceasing development of LRASM-B.

LRASM-A leverages the state-of-the-art Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) airframe and incorporates additional sensors and systems to achieve a stealthy and survivable subsonic cruise missile.

Armed with a proven 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, LRASM employs a multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships.

Together with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), DARPA successfully launched the first prototype of LRASM programme on August 27.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (LMMFC) Strike Weapons, Orlando, Florida, is the performer for the demonstration of the LRASM weapon, and BAE Systems, Information and Electronic Systems Integration, Nashua, NH, is the performer for the design and delivery of onboard sensor systems.

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