KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The Air Force is on track to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile with modernized weapon capabilities designed for its nuclear bomber fleet, to include the B-21.
Today, the Air Force awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin Corporation and Raytheon Company to mature design concepts and prove developmental technologies for the new Long Range Standoff weapon.
“This weapon will modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear triad,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “Deterrence works if our adversaries know that we can hold at risk things they value. This weapon will enhance our ability to do so, and we must modernize it cost-effectively.”
Each company was awarded a contract of approximately $900 million, with an approximate 54-month period of performance. Upon successful completion of the contracts, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center will choose a single contractor for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development and Production and Deployment phases of the program.
The current Air Launched Cruise Missile was first fielded in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, and Lockheed and Raytheon are charged with developing the technologies and demonstrating reliability and maintainability of a replacement weapon. The aging ALCM will continue to face increasingly significant operational challenges against emerging threats and reliability challenges until replaced. The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO in the late 2020s.
“Secretary Wilson and I are responsible for organizing, training, equipping, and presenting ready nuclear forces to the Strategic Command commander,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “The Long Range Standoff is a critical capability required to support Gen. John Hyten’s war plans.”
“The LRSO will be a reliable, long-ranging and survivable weapon system and an absolutely essential element of the nuclear triad,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee in May. “The LRSO missile will ensure the bomber force continues to hold high-value targets at risk in an evolving threat environment, including targets deep within an area-denied environment.”
“These contract awards mark another important step in replacing our aging Air Launched Cruise Missiles,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, commander of the AFNWC and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems. “Continued competition will help ensure the bomber leg of the nuclear triad is cost-effectively modernized with a survivable, reliable, and credible standoff capability.”
The LRSO program office, located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is part of the AFNWC Air Delivered Capabilities directorate. Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command, in direct support of AFGSC. The center has more than 1,100 personnel assigned to 17 locations worldwide.