Lockheed Martin [LMT] recently completed a two-part series of Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) captive carry flight tests, advancing the research program toward its first missile release and free flight test later this year.

The captive carry missions were flown aboard an Air Force B-1B at the Sea Range in Point Mugu, Calif., according to company statement. The primary mission objectives, which the company said were met, were to collect telemetry for post-flight analysis, verify proper control room telemetry displays and simulate all the test activities that will occur in later air-launched flight tests.

A rendering of LRASM by Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Melissa Hilliard said last week the next air-launched flight test and missile release will take place by the end of September. Hilliard also said, other than a B-1B, the LRASM is also proposed to be deployed on the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is manufactured by Boeing [BA].

LRASM is a joint Navy-Air Force program in coordination with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to invest in advanced technologies to boost advancement in United States surface warfare capability, according to DARPA. Current surface-launched, anti-ship missiles face a challenge penetrating sophisticated enemy air defense systems from long range, often requiring multiple missile launches and overhead targeting assets to engage specific enemy warships from beyond the reach of counter-fire systems, according to DARPA.

The LRASM program aims to reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation in electronic warfare environments. LRASM is an autonomous, precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile leveraging Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) heritage. Armed with a 1,000-pound penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, LRASM employs a multi-mode sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam GPS to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships.

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.

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).

DARPA said it also started an effort to integrate the LRASM for launch from a surface vessel by addressing the long-lead developmental tasks, including modifications to the missile airframe, design of the booster separation system and development of a new hybrid canister to accommodate the LRASM. DARPA also plans to address surface-launched risk reduction (SLRR) issues.

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, Raytheon spokesman John Eagles said yesterday, to demonstrate air and surface-launched capability.