The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is conducting market research to identify potential suppliers of a long-range, air-launched munition for the US Marine Corps.
The long-range attack missile (LRAM) is intended to provide greater range and maneuverability over the service’s air-launched weapons such as the Hellfire.
Its expected range of 150 nautical miles (278 kilometers/173 miles) exceeds current long-range loitering munitions, like the Switchblade 600 and the Hero-1250.
The AeroVironment Switchblade has a range of 40 kilometers (25 miles), while the UVision Hero can fly as far as 200 kilometers (124 miles).
Other features include being platform-agnostic, vertical takeoff and landing, and modular design to accommodate multiple payloads of up to 25 pounds (11 kilograms), excluding fuel.
“The USMC requires a vertical takeoff and landing family of systems aircraft agnostic, network-enabled, long-range precision weapon that will generate an asymmetric advantage in range, standoff, and lethality to deter/destroy both maritime and land-based targets,” the NAVAIR source sought notice explained.
“The USMC’s desired LRAM solution is a modular design that allows trade-space for various mission-specific payloads with a minimum total payload weight capacity of 25 pounds to include weapon seeker and warhead (but excludes fuel weight), while relying on a Universal Armaments Interface for launch platform integration.”
The NAVAIR expects to award a development contract in fiscal 2025 and field the munition two years later with an early operational capability.
Weapon for Indo-Pacific
The LRAM capability is a part of the Marines’ ongoing Force Design 2030 modernization effort to better prepare the service against a potential conflict with adversaries such as China.
Referring to the munition, Capabilities Development Directorate Brig. Gen. Stephen Lightfoot told reporters earlier this year a missile like the Hellfire is not good enough for the Pacific theater.
“That’s great in [Operation Iraqi Freedom], [Operation Enduring Freedom] and areas we’ve been fighting in for years. But when you move over to the Indo-Pacific and some of the distances we’re talking about, 8 kilometers (5 miles) doesn’t really do as much as you’d want,” Defense News quoted Lightfoot as saying.
“That [LRAM] is a capability that brings hundreds of kilometers, and that allows us to be able to use a current platform to be able to do things that we never thought we’d be able to do.”
He added that swarming munitions could be launched from ground launchers too.