Military

Lockheed Martin developing cruise missile replacement for US Air Force

Lockheed Martin developing cru...
Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to develop a replacement for the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile
Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to develop a replacement for the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile
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Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to develop a replacement for the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile
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Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to develop a replacement for the current AGM-86 air-launched cruise missile

Lockheed Martin may have lost out on designing America's next-generation ICBM, but the company has been selected to help replace the vintage AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile. The US$900 million US Air Force Technical Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract tasks the company with developing the technology needed to build the nuclear-capable Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) missile.

If you've ever wondered why the United States still maintains fleets of heavy bombers in an age of super sophisticated anti-aircraft defenses, part of the answer is the AGM-86. Operational since 1986, the variants of the Boeing-built cruise missile allowed the bombers to still pay a key role as a leg of the nuclear deterrent triad.

Today, bombers like the B-52 are unlikely to be able to penetrate enemy airspace to drop nuclear or conventional weapons on sites heavily defended by advanced anti-aircraft systems. But the air-launched AGM-86's compact Williams F107 turbofan jet engine, terrain-hugging radar navigation, and small radar signature allow bombers to stand off and launch cruise missiles from over 1,500 mi (2,400 km) to attack strategic targets.

The problem is that after 30 years, the basic design of the AGM-86 is obsolescent and the existing fleet's service life ends in 2020. Since this would leave the bomber force without a strategic mission, the Air Force is looking for a replacement with the LRSO program set to create a cruise missile capable of handling advanced integrated air defense systems from a significant standoff range.

According to Lockheed, the TMRR contract will focus on developing needed technologies, systems and subsystems for the new weapon system to meet the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development milestone in 2022.

"LRSO will provide the next generation strategic deterrent missile for the air-launched portion of the nuclear triad," says David Helsel, LRSO program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Lockheed Martin's proven experience in cruise missile and strategic systems technologies will provide the most reliable, capable, sustainable and affordable program in defense of our nation and our allies."

Source: Lockheed Martin

5 comments
Bob
I'm sure that the old and slow cruise missiles have become quite vulnerable. Hopefully, their modern replacements won't be so hyper-expensive that we can only field a few. While top technology is a modern marvel, depending on fewer, more sophisticated weapons is way over rated. The recent collisions at sea of our most sophisticated warships shows just how vulnerable advanced technology can be. Putting all our eggs in the high technology basket continues to be just as foolish as it ever was.
EZ
What a wonderful waste of money by those who apparently have money to burn--our money. Feed the M-I Complex. We don't want them to get too hungry. Then, what are they going to do with the obsolete missiles? Oh, I forgot! They sell them to our adversaries to cut the cost a bit. Brilliant. Especially, when we can't fire them off anyway due to the simple fact that we will be ending our own existence along with our adversaries.
JimFox
In 1982 the US Air Force began studies for a new cruise missile with low-observable characteristics after it became clear that the AGM-86B cruise missile would have difficulty penetrating future air defense systems.
This was the result- The AGM-129A/B/C. A total failure, going through 4 manufacturers from 1983 until the last missile was destroyed in April 2012.
Lockheed was the losing contractor to the AGM-86B in 1983! Better luck this time... although the concept of ALCM's launched from B52's seems madness, to me.
RJB
Just under $1 Billion to develop the technology.
Then it's more $Billions to build them and maintain them on top of the $Billions for the warheads and delivery systems.
I'm glad it's not my money.
CharlieSeattle
I just hope future targets are actually hit and cost more than the bullet.
In 1998, after al-Qaeda blew up two U.S. embassies in Africa, Bill Clinton lobbed a few cruise missiles into empty tents in Afghanistan. That showed ’em. Ops, Bin Laden survived the attack.
Al-Qaeda got the message. Two years later, the USS Cole. A year after that, 9/11.