Lockheed And Raytheon Pick Up Air Force Contracts To Develop New Nuclear Cruise Missile

Gear
An unarmed AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile maneuvers over the Utah Test and Training Range en route to its final target Sept. 22, 2014.
U.S. Air Force photo

Editor’s Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.


The Pentagon has awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. contracts to begin preliminary work on the new Long Range Standoff weapon, known as LRSO.

The defense contractors were awarded agreements valued at $900 million apiece and lasting almost five years “to mature design concepts and prove developmental technologies,” the Air Force said in a release on Wednesday.

“This weapon will modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear triad,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. in a statement. “Deterrence works if our adversaries know that we can hold at risk things they value. This weapon will enhance our ability to do so, and we must modernize it cost-effectively.”

LRSO is a nuclear-capable cruise missile to be launched from aircraft such as the B-52 StratofortressB-2 Spirit and future B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber. The B-1B Lancerbecause it is no longer a nuclear-capable bomber, is not slated to receive the weapon, Air Force officials told Military.com.

The LRSO program would replace the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, known as ALCM, developed in the early 1980s. The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO in the late 2020s, the release said.

“The Long Range Standoff is a critical capability required to support Gen. John Hyten’s war plans,” added Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, citing the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal.

Both companies will do preliminary work until the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center will choose a sole company to design and manufacture LRSO in 2022.

Lockheed will perform work at its Orlando, Florida, facility while Raytheon will use in Tucson, Arizona, as its facility, the release said.

Earlier this week, the Air Force awarded two contracts to Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. for its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program to replace its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system.

Air Force officials on background said that unlike GBSD, information on LRSO — like the highly-classified B-21 stealth bomber — is scarce because of its upped classification. The only commonality between GBSD and LRSO “are that they are nuclear,” but LRSO remains a more tactical program. Officials explained the LRSO missile is a weapon in it of itself — and does not divulge tactics, techniques or procedures — instead of an entire launch and command-and-control system like GBSD.

Classification of the program was determined by the “appropriate classifying authority,” officials said, and noted that appropriate leadership — such as lawmakers — are briefed accordingly on a need-to-know level as the program progresses.

Furthermore, defense companies have not openly disclosed if they bid on the program. The Air Force launched the contract request for proposal last year.

In March, Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he “would be willing to support” speeding up the fielding of LRSO, or the B61-12 nuclear bomb on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter because of continuous  arms treaty violations from Russia.

The congressman’s comments came the same day as nine Senate Democrats said they wanted to cap funding on the LRSO program in an effort to slow its development.

Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and eight senators introduced the bill, which would limit funding for a new nuclear-armed air-launched missile “at 2017 levels until the Trump administration submits a Nuclear Posture Review to Congress,” according to a press release.

A similar bill was introduced by House members in May. Neither bill has made it to committee.

Air Force officials reiterated the need for LRSO, and not just because of ALCM’s age. With adversaries technological advances, ALCM will no longer be able to penetrate various systems, they said.

LRSO will only be able to be carried on bomber aircraft. It will not be interchangeable with the B61-12 nuclear bomb, for example, on the F-35 Lightning II.

More from Military.com: 

A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.

It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.

Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.

Read More Show Less

No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.

Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.

"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.

Read More Show Less
A projectile is fired during North Korea's missile tests in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019. (KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.

Read More Show Less

Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.

In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.

"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.

Read More Show Less
Erik Prince arrives for the New York Young Republican Club Gala at The Yale Club of New York City in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., November 7, 2019. (REUTERS/Jeenah Moon)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.

Read More Show Less