The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency has approved the US$990 million ($1.47 billion) acquisition of the Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles for the Royal Australian Air Force.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale, following the request for up to 200 AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs).
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region,” the DSCA announcement stated.
LRASM is a long range, precision-guided anti-ship missile leveraging off its Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) heritage and is designed to meet the needs of US Navy and Air Force warfighters.
Australia intends to use the missile on its fleet of F-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft, with the DSCA identifying: “The proposed sale of the missiles and support will increase the Australian Navy’s maritime partnership potential and align its capabilities with existing regional baselines. This is Australia’s first purchase of the missiles. Australia will not have any difficulty absorbing these weapons into its armed forces.”
Armed with a penetrator and blast fragmentation warhead, LRASM employs precision routing and guidance, day or night in all weather conditions. The missile employs a multimodal sensor suite, weapon data link and enhanced digital anti-jam global positioning system to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of numerous ships at sea.
LRASM is designed to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of ships by employing advanced technologies that reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments.
The LRASM platform will play a significant role in ensuring military access to operate in open ocean/blue waters, owing to its enhanced ability to discriminate and conduct tactical engagements from extended ranges.
The air-launched variant provides an early operational capability for the US Navy’s offensive anti-surface warfare Increment I requirement. With the recent EOC declaration by the US Air Force for the B-1B, the focus is now on the US Navy’s F-18E/F Super Hornet in 2019.
Australia’s interest in the LRASM platform will focus on the integration of the platform with the RAAF’s F-18E/F Super Hornets and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter fleets to enhance the stand-off, deterrence and strike capabilities of the platforms.
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The 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP) and the Integrated Investment Plan (IIP) highlight the need for a new anti-ship, maritime strike missile for the RAAF fighter force.
The IIP states a requirement for a series of new weapons for “strike and air combat capability, including air-to-surface and air-to-air munitions, with specific consideration of high-speed and long range strike and anti-ship weapons”.
Sharing about 85 per cent commonality with the JASSM missiles, currently in service with the RAAF, the LRASM technology will reduce dependence on ISR platforms, network links and GPS navigation in aggressive electronic warfare environments.
This advanced guidance operation means the weapon can use gross target cueing data to find and destroy its pre-defined target in denied environments.
The LRASM platform is also configurable and compatible with the Navy’s Mk 41 vertical launch system (VLS) launcher, currently in service on board the Hobart Class guided-missile destroyers, Anzac Class frigates and is expected to form the basis of the Hunter Class guided-missile frigates’ VLS capacity.
LRASM can be employed from guided-missile destroyers and guided-missile frigates with only software modifications to existing launch control systems.