U.S. Air Force B-1B Bombers Conduct LRASM Training in Europe During Bomber Task Force Mission

Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers conducted training on the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) during the recent long-range Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission to the Black Sea region in Europe.

The bombers from the USAF’s 28th Bomb Wing based at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, conducted the mission on May 29.

The AGM-158C LRASM is a next-generation weapon designed to detect and destroy specific targets within groups of surface warships in electronic warfare environments. The LRASM missile gives the B-1B bombers the ability to have advanced stand-off and counter-ship capabilities.

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A Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft flying with two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lance strategic bombers. Ukrainian Air Force photo.

“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht, 603rd Air Operations Center, Bomber Task Force planner. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”

Albrecht also highlighted the fact that through training scenarios during Bomber Task Force Missions, B-1 aircrews are able to train to new emerging threats. Training for those threats is adequately preparing them to be ready to answer National Defense Strategy objectives.

“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Albrecht.

In addition to enhancing the training of bomber crews, the ability of the U.S. Air Force to train to this weapon system also increases its deterrent capability.

According to Albrecht, this training adds deterrent value not only to the U.S. but to our allies and partners. He says that in the future adversaries will not only have to worry about missile threats from surface ships, but land-based bombers as well. These capabilities should weigh heavily on any potential adversaries mind and they should account for them in their decision calculus. Bombers equipped with LRASM should give adversaries pause and deter aggressive actions by would-be adversaries who seek to do harm to the U.S. and its allies and partners.

In 2018, the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) authorized Ellsworth as the early operational capacity basing location for the AGM-158C LRASM. This authorization made Ellsworth and the B-1B bombers the first base and airframe to train and qualify on the LRASM.

B-1B Lancer

The Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy strategic bomber used by the U.S. Air Force. It is commonly called the “Bone” (from “B-One”).

The B-1B is one of three strategic bombers in the U.S. Air Force fleet, the other two being the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress bomber. Unlike the other two bombers, the B-1B is currently not capable of being armed with nuclear weapons.

The B-1 can carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the U.S. Air Force.

AGM-158C LRASM

AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) is a precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile developed by Lockheed Martin based on the company’s successful AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (AGM-158B JASSM-ER). The AGM-158B JASSM-ER is the extended-range variant of the AGM-158 JASSM low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile (ALCM).

AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM)
AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM). Photo: Lockheed Martin.

The stealthy missile is designed to meet the needs of U.S. Navy and Air Force warfighters in contested environments. The missile has an estimated range of 300 nmi (560 km; 350 mi) and is capable of being fired from an aircraft or a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) onboard a ship. The LRASM was intended to pioneer more sophisticated autonomous targeting capabilities than the Navy’s current Harpoon anti-ship missile (AShM), which has been in service since 1977.

In August 2015, the Navy officially designated the air-launched LRASM as “AGM-158C”. In 2017, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control was awarded a $86.5 million contract for LRASM Lot 1 production.

The air-launched variant of LRASM achieved Early Operational Capability (EOC) on the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B Lancer strategic bomber in December 2018. This provides an early operational capability meeting the offensive anti-surface warfare (ASuW) Increment I requirement. The LRASM missile achieved EOC on Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in November 2019.

The Navy is also seeking to integrate the Lockheed Martin LRASM missile onto the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, according to a sources sought notice published on Jan 28 this year.



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