In its pursuit of the long-awaited Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) C-3 variant, the US Naval Air Systems Command has definitised an additional $24m funds in a contract modification on 6 June 2024, to provide additional non-recurring engineering and material support toward the future weapon system.

LRASM is an autonomous, precision-guided, air-to-surface, stand-off missile deployed by B-1B bombers and the F/A-18E/F aircraft. It is developed by the US defence prime Lockheed Martin.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research initiated its development alonside the main contractor in 2008 in order to penetrate more sophisticated air defence systems of enemies from longer ranges.

Once launched, LRASM guides to an initial point using a GPS guidance system and employs onboard sensors to locate, identify, and provide terminal guidance to the target.

What is the C-3 variant?

To date, there are three LRASM variants which comprise the Navy’s Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment 1 programme, designated: LRASM 1.0, LRASM 1.1, and LRASM C-3.

In fiscal year (FY) 2021, the Navy introduced the C-3 version, which has added land strike capabilities while removing components to reduce unit cost. C-3 will also have an extended range beyond the existing 1.0 variant, including advanced communications and survivability capabilities.

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US B-1B Lancer bomber deploys LRASM unit. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

The Navy is still working on the details required to plan and execute test events in order to meet the C-3 early operating capability planned for Q4 FY24.

According to the Department of Defense (DoD), C-3 will compete for limited modelling and simulation resources already reserved for LRASM 1.1 operational testing.

What stage has the Navy reached?

Currently, the C-3 initiative has reached a post-critical design review stage, in which limited ‘test asset building’ is underway.

Previously, the DoD awarded Lockheed Martin another $288m modification contract on 1 May, which the department stated would achieve the same requirements as the latest $24m modification. The reduced funds indicates that the Navy is moving closer toward its goal of producing the C-3 concept.