The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Raytheon Missiles and Defense a $2 billion contract to develop the nuclear-tipped Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon system.
The LRSO system will replace Boeing’s aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), the service revealed in a statement. Development is expected to be complete by February 2027.
The ALCM nuclear and conventional variants were first deployed in the early 80s with a 10-year life span. According to the service, the system is becoming increasingly vulnerable to “emerging anti-access/area-denial threats.”
📰 .@usairforce awards #RaytheonDefense a sole-source contract to engineer, manufacture and develop the Long-Range Standoff Weapon. #LRSO will replace the service’s legacy Air-Launched Cruise Missile. Learn more: https://t.co/tlu9MZ1eaj pic.twitter.com/ski3GSAvbB
— Raytheon Missiles & Defense (@RaytheonDefense) July 1, 2021
Immune to Air Defense Systems
The LRSO system will allow the USAF to launch from a distance at which air defense systems such as the Russian S-400 and Chinese HQ-9 can not intercept them, wrote The National Interest.
“The LRSO team has strived for nearly three years to ensure the Air Force achieved a stable cruise missile design meeting the nation’s requirement for a credible air-delivered nuclear deterrent for many years to come,” said Elizabeth T. Thorn, LRSO program manager.
To Be Integrated With USAF Bombers
The new missile will be carried “on the B-52H large-payload multirole strategic bomber aircraft and on the air force’s new B-21 Raider long-range stealth bomber,” according to Janes.
“Awarding the EMD (Engineering and Manufacturing Development) contract marks our next step in finalizing development, fully maturing our manufacturing techniques, and proving LRSO meets its operational requirements,” Thorn added.