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Airmen load a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) on a pre-block F-16 for a test launch. June 6, 2022 (Image source: DVIDS)
Citing lessons drawn from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, The Pentagon seeks to beef up the US military forces arsenal from cutting-edge munitions to powerful, long-range missiles.
Procurement plans include doubling the production of Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASM) and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), the two most in-demand weapons of the armed forces.
Long-range weapons have grown remarkably in recent years and have become a must-have on the battlefield. Furthermore, war simulations have shown how strategically significant these missiles are, particularly in the event of a Chinese invasion of the Taiwan Strait.
Given its substantial contribution, wargames also noted how these potent and highly capable ammunitions would be among the first to run out of stock. As a result, the Pentagon has urged expanding the production line.
In an unclassified document, Naval Newsreported that US Navy aims to ramp up procurement of strike weapons—specifically LRASM and JASSM missiles, from 500 to a thousand. A Lockheed Martin executive has also confirmed this, saying:
“Over the course of the multi-year we will double production from where we are today, which is a little over 500 combined LRASM and JASSM, to well over a thousand combined LRASM and JASSM,” said Dominic DeScisciolo, the LRASM Business Development Lead at Lockheed Martin.
On top of that, the service is considering increasing the yearly acquisition of Tomahawk cruise missiles by sixfold.
Keeping Up with Demand
Lockheed has opened a second production line to meet the increasing demand for the LRASM anti-ship cruise missiles and the JASSM-ER (Extended Range) air-to-surface variant.
In addition, the American aerospace giant will expand and invest in automation and integrate upgrades and innovations to its new facility to keep its production up to speed, which the Defense Department has already called Lockheed on, urging it “to increase its production rate substantially.”
A quick background: the JASSM is Lockheed’s first cruise missile and has over 20 years of field experience in partnership with the US Air Force.
Capable of carrying up to 1,000-pound (450 kilograms) of armor-piercing warhead, this potent ammunition has provided a long-range, precision capability to the service for air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missions. The service is trying to get its hands more on the extended range variant of the cruise missile, which features a more efficient engine, larger fuel capacity, and is capable of reaching far more distances of over 575 miles (925 kilometers).
Meanwhile, LRASM anti-ship subsonic missile provides deterrence and air defense capable of penetrating through sophisticated targets.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developed the precision-guided, all-weather, stealth missile for the US Air Force and Navy to combat diverse surface threats at a safe standoff range.
It is currently outfitted on Air Force’s B-1 Lancer bomber and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F fighter jets. At the same time, considerations are being made to incorporate the anti-ship missile onto some US military aircraft, including the multi-service F-35 fighter jets and the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon.
Lockheed is likewise looking into utilizing the revered High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as a launcher for the LRASM that can strike targets up to 230 mi (370 km), further boosting the already deadly platform.
Increasing US Presence in the Pacific
The US is gradually shifting its focus toward the Pacific to address China’s rapid and aggressive expansion and provide assistance to its allies in the Pacific region. Thus, the need to double up its arsenal of ship-killing weapons.
As a recap, Pentagon announced last month the armed forces’ largest-ever discretionary budget request for fiscal 2024, with funding to support the Ind-Pacific Command coming on top with a whopping $15.3 billion. According to reports, that’s a $26 billion increase over fiscal 2023 and $100 billion more compared to fiscal 2022.
The enormous leap in the budget request was for Washington to compete, if not outcompete, Beijing and its ongoing military modernization quest.
Additionally, the US intends to strengthen its presence in the area by, among other things, creating more US military bases, acquiring more high-end weaponry and munitions, and conducting training exercises.
“We assess what we need for ourselves for munitions routinely, we do it against the way in which we think about how we fight for the future, and against the real world demands that our combatant commands have [and] how they would operate,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks during a press briefing held on March 13.
“And we’re focused… not just on what we may need today, for example, to support Ukraine… but looking ahead to the types of capabilities that we think are game-changing for the future,” she added.
The budget also sought, in some way, to replenish the stockpiles sent to Ukraine, which has been an emerging concern to some since the onset of the Russian invasion.
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