Australia is one of a small number of nations that have shown interest in the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) being developed for the US Navy and US Air Force, Lockheed Martin has revealed.
The LRASM is a development of the JASSM-ER, the extended range variant of the AGM-158 JASSM stand-off missile in service on the RAAF’s F/A-18A ‘classic’ Hornets. It is being developed by Lockheed Martin under a cooperative program for the US Air Force and Navy that will see the stealthy missile fielded on the B-1B bomber in 2018 and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from 2019.
“We are encouraging the Navy to respond to international interest in this system. Australia is one country that has expressed some interest, the UK has expressed some interest, Canada has expressed some interest,” Frank St John, vice president tactical missiles/combat manoeuvre systems at Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business unit, told Australian media on Tuesday.
“I expect that within some period of time the US Navy will have an export policy on [LRASM] and [we] can start talking seriously about how we integrate it on other platforms.”
The LRASM is about 85 per cent common with the JASSM-ER, mainly differing in featuring a multi-mode radio frequency sensor that gives the weapon a semi-autonomous targeting capability.
“The same kind of targets that caused the United States Navy to develop the LRASM are the same kinds of threats that … Australia is dealing with, and so people come by our booth at trade shows and say ‘could you build some of those for us?’ and we say ‘as soon as you go talk to the Navy and get their permission I can talk to you about this’, and I know that they’ve started having some conversations with the Navy.”
A requirement for new anti-ship missiles for the RAAF’s fighter fleet of F/A-18F Super Hornets and the forthcoming F-35A Joint Strike Fighter is mentioned in the new Defence White Paper’s accompanying Integrated Investment Program (IIP) document.
“A series of new weapons will be acquired for the strike and air combat capability including air-to-surface and air-to-air munitions, with specific consideration of high-speed and long-range strike and anti-ship weapons,” the IIP notes.