Lockheed Martin, Raytheon to complete for USAF’s nuclear-capable cruise missile

6:22:00 AM


The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Lockheed Martin and Raytheon each USD900 million contracts for the new nuclear-capable Long Range Standoff (LRSO) cruise missile’s technology maturation and risk reduction acquisition phase.

The two companies will work via cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts, expected to be completed by 2022, to replace Boeing’s AGM-86B nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile with a new LRS), the Pentagon said in a 23 August announcement.

Updates to the nuclear arsenal as currently planned to include the LRSO, the new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber, Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) to largely replace Minuteman ICBMs, and 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines to replace Ohio-class SSBNs. All this will come at significant cost, mostly during or just after a projected spike in overall defence modernisation spending because of US Navy shipbuilding requirements and the introduction of new USAF aircraft types.

The LRSO has emerged as a potentially at-risk programme, given the looming costs and arguments that a new B-21 bomber should suffice for the air leg of the US nuclear ‘triad’.

The Pentagon in 17 begun its Nuclear Posture Review that is to culminate in a final report to the president by the end of the year.

A key element of Washington's nuclear posture has been drawing down warhead numbers while maintaining and upgrading the ageing weapons and the strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and long-range strategic bombers.

US Air Force General John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, told Congress last year that he "strongly" supports efforts to modernise all legs of the 'triad'.

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