The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) successfully air launched in late August their prototype for the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program.

Designed with both a sea surface and air launch variant, LRASM seeks to develop an autonomous, precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile based on the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) variant, according to a DARPA statement. DARPA Program Manager for LRASM Artie Mabbett said Thursday in a conference call with reporters the agency added “brains” to JASSM-ER by making LRASM able to autonomously track, detect and engage targets of interest without having to be dependent on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) or Global Positioning System (GPS) architectures for guidance like JASSM-ER.

A rendering of LRASM by Lockheed Martin.

LRASM also incorporates sensors and systems to create a stealthy and survivable subsonic cruise missile. Mabbett said DARPA demonstrated, in the recent flight test, the new sensor suite in the closed loop system of the missile so it can perform autonomously. Mabbett declined to provide specifics on the sensors, but said it was a multi-modal sensor suite that operates over all spectrums for targets of interest.

“What we’re actually doing is taking that dependence…removing it and adding an autonomous capability so that instead of following the pre-planned routing, it has the ability to actually route itself through the environment based on what it sees as it is flying the trajectory,” Mabbett said.

The test vehicle in the flight test detected, engaged and hit an unmanned 260-foot mobile ship target (MST) with an inert warhead. A B-1 bomber dropped the LRASM, which followed a pre-planned route to the target. Approximately halfway toward the destination, the weapon switched to autonomous guidance, in which it autonomously detected the moving target and guided itself to the desired location.  Though JASSM-ER has a range of 500 nautical miles, Mabbett said the LRASM flight test was performed at a range of 200 nautical miles simply for the sake of the flight test demo.

In two additional flight tests planned for this fall, Mabbett said DARPA would push the envelope a bit further by stressing altitude, range and overall geometries in the target areas. DARPA, Mabbett said, also has two test events scheduled for next summer to demonstrate its sea surface capability out of a vertical launch system (VLS). A DARPA spokesman said Friday the agency had not yet identified specific dates for the upcoming tests.

Mabbett said the Navy has considered LRASM as a variant in its offensive anti-surface warfare program that it is working to turn into a program of record over the next few years. Though he didn’t provide more specifics, Mabbett said DARPA is working closely with the Navy so it can assess LRASM capability as compared to other systems.

Mabbett said a submarine-launched variant of LRASM has also been discussed and there is “significant interest” from the submarine community. A successful demonstration with a submarine-based VLS, Mabbett said, could facilitate LRASM to move onto subs.

The flight test was the culmination of a five-year development and integration of these advanced sensors into an All-Up-Round (AUR) missile, Mabbett said in a statement. Other than the B-1, LRASM has been proposed to be deployed on an F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is developed by Boeing [BA].

Lockheed Martin [LMT] completed a two-part series of captive carry flight tests earlier this year. DARPA originally scheduled two air-launched flight demonstrations for early 2013, but those were delayed when the agency increased the scope of the program to include a third flight to further mature key technologies in preparation for transition opportunities. DARPA awarded Lockheed Martin a $71 million contract modification to conduct flight tests this year (Defense Daily, March 6).

LRASM originally focused on technology for two variants, LRASM-A and LRASM-B. LRASM-A leveraged the JASSM-ER airframe and additional sensors and systems to achieve a stealthy and survivable subsonic cruise missile while the -B variant focused on high-altitude and supersonic speed over stealthy penetration. DARPA decided in early 2012 to focus solely on technology development for LRASM-A.

Lockheed Martin is the performer for the demonstration of the LRASM weapon while BAE Systems is the performer for the design and delivery of onboard sensor systems. Lockheed Martin edged rival Raytheon [RTN] in a 2009 competition to demonstrate air and surface-launched capability (Defense Daily, July 16).

Lockheed Martin also develops JASSM-ER, an Air Force program.