I’ve complained before about the lack of modern American antiship missile options. Finally, the rebuilding Chinese Navy has gotten Lockheed Martin to answer the call. Building upon their excellent AGM-158 JASSM air-launched cruise missile, Lockheed has made a new antiship missile that checks pretty much all of the boxes I might have and then some.

The LRASM (Long Range AntiShip Missile) is based on the AGM-158B JASSM-ER. It’s low-observable for both infrared and radar sensors, and comes with a nice 1,000 lb. penetrating blast fragmentation warhead. It flies at a medium altitude towards the target, then dives for a sea-skimming terminal attack. While it has good range, estimated at about 350 nautical miles, this is rather less than the 500 nautical miles or so that the AGM-158B can manage, and most of that is due to the fancy new multimode seeker system.

LRASM comes with a fancy multimode imaging infrared and active radar homing seeker system, to help it find ships and not be spoofed by decoys. It also includes a datalink for external targeting information, and the inertial/GPS navigation system that you’d expect to find on a cruise missile. While the launch platform can designate targets for it, the LRASM is also capable of searching for targets autonomously. It can also pull targeting data from its radar warning receivers and passive RF sensors. This formidable sensor suite gives LRASM excellent targeting capability, and a wide variety of attack options for the commander.

Since JASSM and JASSM-ER are both air-launched platforms, the US Navy originally envisioned LRASM, and will initially deploy it, as an air-launched weapon. It’s being integrated onto F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and B-1B Lancers. The Lancers are noteworthy for being able to carry 24 AGM-158Cs, and give a long-range land-based naval attack capability to the United States for the first time in a while. However, testing showed that by adding the booster used on Lockheed Martin’s RUM-139 VL-ASROC, LRASM could be launched from Mk. 41 VLS tubes. This would give Mk 41 equipped ships the ability to easily be configured to have a formidable surface attack capability, and would remove the need for supplemental harpoon launchers.

LRASM is a modified land-attack cruise missile, and it has been tested against land targets in addition to ships. Its targeting systems work just as well against land targets. Right now, its range is less than ideal as a land-attack missile, but there are proposals to trade some warhead weight for more fuel to increase the range. Having one missile type for surface vessel attack and land attack would considerably simplify supply for the US Navy ships.

What do we think? It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Low observability and an excellent targeting system are excellent features. Few current antiship missiles (from any country) actually take advantage of low-observability features. Plus, it’s great that it can be used from both aircraft and standard Mk. 41 VLS tubes. We’d buy lots as soon as they get put on the market.

7 thoughts on “AGM-158C LRASM

  1. Checkmate

    There are two design schools of tought WRT modern ASM: go fast or go tricky. It is important to note that supersonic ASM’s are only supersonic in their terminal phase, because it takes ludicrous power to reach high speeds at low altitudes. The russians have a system whereby missisles can share info, thus one can pop up and act as guidance for the others.
    If you’re looking for western ASM’s you’ll be dissappointed. The only ones are the japanese ASM-3 and the taiwanese Hsiung Feng III. Important to note that the first is air-launched for now, and the latter is too big to fit in a VLS. Goes for the russian missisles as well (mostly). Also fast means less as a general rule (or big fuel tanks on a big bird).

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      I rather like the HF-3. I’d love to know how Taiwan managed to squeeze 8 on a Kidd-class DDG.

      Anyway, yeah, the west really doesn’t do AShMs. Which is why I’m so excited about these.

    2. Checkmate

      Well, Israel manages to squeeze lots of dakka on their Sa’ar class. Rumor has it they sacrifice seaworthiness for that, which works in the relatively calm Mediterranean, but constitutes a big reason why it was never exported.
      Then again, the Kidds are pretty big ships, so I’m not surprised. If you can fit a 100mm cannon, 2 30mm CIWS, a Grad launcher and eight Klubs on a 900 tonne corvette, you can probably manage on a ship that’s 7000 tons in weight.

    3. parvusimperator Post author

      Good point. I keep forgetting that e.g. Taiwan doesn’t have too much bad weather to worry about in the South Pacific.

  2. Checkmate

    The LRASM is good news indeed.
    As for fitting stuff, Israel managed to squeeze lots of dakka on their Sa’ar class. Rumor has it came as the cost of seaworthiness, which is why it was never exported. Still, if you can fit a 100mm cannon, 2 30mm CIWS, 8 Klub missisles and a Grad on a ship that weighs 900 tonnes, it’s probably doable on one that weighs 7000. The Kidds are pretty big.

    1. parvusimperator Post author

      No worries. And the Spruances/Kidds are pretty expansion friendly. Cf. Friedman’s US Destroyers if you’d like tons of details on them.

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