For decades, the anti-ship weapon of choice for the U.S. military has been Boeing’s Harpoon missile system. But that may change thanks to Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).
Like the Harpoon Missile system, the LRASM is being developed out of necessity. The Harpoon was created to counter Soviet sea defenses during the Cold War. The LRASM will counter the growing capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy fleet.
In many ways the LRASM is a lot like the weapons system it’s intended to replace. The Harpoon and LRASM both have electronics to guide the warhead to its target from over the horizon.
The big difference between the two is the LRASM’s autonomous ability and range. The LRASM is a smart, stealthy, drone-like-kamikaze that flies itself to its intended target up to 200 nautical miles away (about 230 miles). Its onboard systems are expected to identify targets without prior intelligence or supporting technology, such as GPS.
The U.S. military expects the LRASM to be operational by 2018. It is based on the JASSM air-to-ground missile, also known as the “terrorist killer” for its bunker-blasting capability.