DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Air Force's B-1B Lancer -- in a move that will make it even more lethal -- will be the first aircraft to employ the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), despite the fact that it's a Navy missile.
Why not augment another bomber or fighter to carry it? Because the long-range B-1 already has the capacity, according to Lt. Col. Erick Lord, 9th Bomb Squadron commander.
"We can carry 24 of them," Lord said during a roundtable interview at the base on Dec. 18.
"There's not another jet in the inventory" that can do that, he said.
Military.com sat down with Global Strike Command officials during a trip to the base, and took a ride in the B-1B over training ranges in New Mexico last month.
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"It goes back to payload and range," said Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander. Parker also cited its versatility. "You can put it on there, you can talk to it; it's feasible that this would be a platform in theater [that] you would call on to use it."
"Now you're just continuing the evolution" of the bomber, Parker said. "You're seeing this because the platforms have been here a while -- but they're going to continue to be here a while," he said, referring to the total bomber fleet, which also includes the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit.
Once launched from the aircraft, the LRASM -- which is based on the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) -- will be able to autonomously sensor-locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
Lt. Col. Dominic "Beaver" Ross, director of operations for the 337th Test and Evaluations Squadron here, said it's taken priority for his office.
"We were the first ones to launch LRASM, and we are hot and heavy into testing," said Ross, who's been in the B-1 community since 2003 and seen four tours to the Middle East.
Ross said there is an entire LRASM office dedicated to solely integrating, learning and testing the LRASM, scheduled to enter service sometime in 2018.
Last month, B-1 crews launched the Lockheed Martin Corp-made AGM-158C LRASM at Point Mugu Sea Range, California. The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1B in August..
Three more tests are scheduled before the end of 2018, Ross said.
"The other ones were successful and they were able to capture the data" of basic testing, Ross said. The new tests will track not only basic targeting, but how the missile releases -- and hits.
"The developers are gathering more on how the weapon releases, how it interacts with the aircraft, and once it's released, how it gets to the target it's supposed to get to," Ross said.
That's also made possible through the B-1B's latest Block 17 software -- the latest iteration that enables weapons integration and data sharing -- which is also being continuously tested alongside LRASM.
"The reason that is such a big priority is how closely that block of software is tied to LRASM," Ross said.
"The B-1's old, generally," Lord said of the 1980s-era warplane. "With [new] equipment, comes a new set of capabilities. In terms of weaponry, it's one of the things that makes me proudest of being part of the bomber community -- there's a need, there's a threat. With LRASM, it's just one of those cases as a combatant commander need and it just continues to make the B-1 viable," he said.