The U.S. Navy and Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] an $86.5 million Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) production, the company said Wednesday.

The contract is the first production award for an air-launched variant of LRASM and includes 23 missiles with engineering support that fall under low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 1. Lockheed Martin expects several annual production lots to deliver further missiles to the Navy and Air Force.

A Lockheed Martin rendering of LRASM.
A Lockheed Martin rendering of LRASM.

A Defense Department contract announcement said this is a sole-source acquisition with the missiles to be built at the company’s facility in Orlando, Fla., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 29, 2019.

The LRASM is a precision anti-ship standoff missile based on the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER). The air-launched variant has an early operational capability for the Navy’s offensive anti-surface warfare Increment I requirement for integration on the Air Force’s B-1B in 2018 and Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in 2019.

“This first production lot of LRASM brings a new level of capability to both the U.S. Air Force and the Navy,” Mike Fleming, LRASM director at Lockheed Martin, said in a statement.

Previously Lockheed Martin demonstrated a successful jettison test of the LRASM from a Navy F/A-18E/F during a flight test (Defense Daily, April 5).

Separately, the company conducted the first successful launch of the surface-launch variant of the LRASM from a topside canister, mimicking a deck-mounted configuration, Lockheed Martin said Thursday.

The test occurred at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., which the company said proved the missile’s ability to conduct an angled launch to replicate a ship-launched environment. The topside canister is also a newly designed feature, Lockheed martin said.

In the test an LRASM, its Mk-114 booster, and booster adapted cleanly eject from the launcher using the same launch control and sequencer software used by the Mk-41 Vertical Launch System (VLS).

Lockheed Martin highlighted this proves they are ready to respond to the Navy’s ‘Distributed Lethality’ concept with a longer range anti-surface capability. The concept aims for the Navy to have more weapons on more platforms that can operate independently.

“This test also validates the flexibility and versatility of LRASM, as it proved it can be successfully fired from VLS and non-VLS surface platforms,” said Scott Callaway, subsonic cruise missile director at Lockheed Martin’s missiles and fire control business area.

The company noted this test shows the LRASM can be used in vertical or angled launcher variations and is suitable for various surface fleet platforms.

Lockheed Martin started developing a deck-mounted launcher that could be bolted on a ship without a vertical launching system after the Navy released the original request for information for a future frigate (now FFG(X)) over-the-horizon (OTH) missile. However, earlier this year the company withdrew from a competition for the OTH requirement on the Littoral Combat Ship and FFG(X).

Lockheed Martin said it was comfortable with the initial request for proposals but later modifications changed top-level requirements that undervalued its bid. A joint Raytheon [RTN]-Konigsberg Gruppen offering of their Naval Strike Missile appears to be the only remaining offeror by the proposal deadline (Defense Daily, June 23).

Callaway noted that any ship with VLS cells is capable of using LRASM using the tactical tomahawk weapon control system (TTWCS) and ships without VLS but deck space similar to the Harpoon launcher footprint can use the topside canister-launcher variant of LRASM

“Even though we pulled out of the OTH-WS competition, we believe there is a role for LRASM, as the Surface Navy is focused on distributed operations and the Sea Control mission. Our investments have shown the maturity of the Surface Launch configuration and compatibility with both VLS and non-VLS launchers,” he said in a statement to Defense Daily.

He was unwilling to specific other potential customers for the LRASM like international platforms “but Lockheed Martin stands ready to answer any call from our warfighter.”

The air-launch variant of LRASM is a Navy program of record which involved DARPA in the demonstration phase. The surface-launch variant is being funded entirely by Lockheed Martin under its research and development budget.

Note: This article was updated to include industry comments on the future role of surface-variant LRASM .