This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has won one of two awards from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to study and design a Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).
DARPA received nine proposals, and one more award is expected in the next 60 days, according to an agency official. Boeing, Raytheon and ATK also submitted proposals.
LRASM is an unconventional DARPA effort; the agency typically focuses on technology that is not readily in hand. However, the Navy requested DARPA's help in fielding LRASM in response to a need to protect ships in the Pacific against a perceived threat from an exotic anti-ship system in development in China. The goal of the program is to develop a weapon that can quickly transition into operational use by the Navy. LRASM must be mated with the Navy's Vertical Launch System, which is already installed on cruisers and destroyers in the fleet.
LRASM's standoff range requirement is designed to allow U.S. Navy ships to engage targets well outside their striking range. The weapon must operate with reduced dependence on intelligence sources, datalinks and Global Positioning System guidance. The missile also must employ survivability techniques to penetrate air defenses once it is well into its flight.
"Once the missile flies that far, it has a requirement to be able to independently detect and validate the target that it was shot at," said Rob McHenry, program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. "Once it finds that target, then it has to be able to penetrate the air defenses. The standard of maritime integrated air defenses has risen dramatically over the past few years," he said via a June podcast on the agency's Web site.
The U.S. Navy is currently lacking a "credible" anti-ship capability. Today's weapons rely heavily on proper intelligence preparation for a mission and offboard sensors or communications. LRASM is a "new level of capability organic to the weapon itself," McHenry said.
To achieve survivability, the missile must also be capable of maneuvering; this could require some advances in propulsion technology.