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: 

Seven of the twelve Soldiers participating in the Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Level 2 course at Fort Indiantown Gap practice folding the flag April 25. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)

Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.

Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (Associated Press photo)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.

"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."

Read More Show Less

Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.

Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.

"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'

Read More Show Less

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.

Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.

Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.

Read More Show Less