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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

YAGM-180 / YAGM-181 Long-Range Standoff Weapon LRSO

The Long Range Stand-Off weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). The AGM-86B was fielded in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life. The current ALCM remain safe, secure and effective, it is facing increasingly sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats. LRSO’s range, survivability, reliability and credibility are key elements of the air-delivered leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear deterrent. Nuclear-capable bombers armed with standoff missiles provide the nuclear triad a clear, visible and tailorable deterrent effect, and deny geographic sanctuaries to any potential adversary. In addition, LRSO will provide a rapid and flexible hedge against changes in the strategic environment.

The LRSO weapon system will be capable of penetrating and surviving advanced Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) from significant stand off range to prosecute strategic targets in support of the Air Force's global attack capability and strategic deterrence core function. LRSO FY2013 funding supports completion of the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to compare the operational effectiveness, cost, and risks of proposed materiel solutions as well as Milestone A preparation activities.

This program is in Budget Activity 5, System Development and Demonstration (SDD), because it is conducting engineering and manufacturing development tasks aimed at meeting validated requirements prior to full-rate production.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Strategic Systems Division (AFLCMC/EBB) conducted market research for possible offerors in the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) acquisition. The Long Range Standoff program is responsible for procuring a nuclear-capable cruise missile that will replace the US Air Force's Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). The Government held an Industry Day on Oct 31, 2013 to review the draft Acquisition Strategy for feedback prior to the Acquisition Strategy Panel. The government intended to release the RFP for the Technology Development Phase in May 2014.

The LRSO program is an acknowledged special access program that limits its ability to distribute program requirements documents. Due to the security restraints, the Government requires that any potential offerors must possess and follow: Top Secret Security Clearances or the ability to obtain; Top Secret Security Facilities or the ability to obtain; JAFAN 6/0, JAFAN 6/3, JAFAN 6/4, JAFAN 6/9; and NISPOM 5220.22-M and the DoD overprint.

In FY11, LRSO efforts were funded in PE 0101122F, Air Launched Cruise Missile, project number 674797. In FY12, LRSO efforts were transferred from PE 0101122F, Air Launched Cruise Missile, project number 674797, to PE 0101125, Nuclear Weapon Modernization, project number 657008, in order to support LRSO development. In FY13, LRSO efforts were transferred from PE 0101125F, Nuclear Weapons Modernization, project number 657008, to PE 0604932F, Longe Range Standoff Weapon, project number 657011, in order to support LRSO development.

The FY2014 The House bill contained a provision (sec. 218) that would require the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a follow-on air-launched cruise missile, Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) weapon to the AGM–86 that achieves initial operating capability for both conventional and nuclear missions by not later than 2030 and is certified for internal carriage and employment for both conventional and nuclear missions on the next-generation longrange strike bomber by not later than 2034. The Senate committee-reported bill contained no similar provision.

The agreement included the House provision with an amendment that required the LRSO to achieve initial operating capability for conventional missions prior to the retirement of the AGM-86, for nuclear missions prior to the retirement of the nuclear armed AGM-86 and is capable of internal carriage and employment for both missions in the long-range strike bomber. The amendment provides that the Secretary may carry out the consecutive development of the nuclear and conventional capabilities, with the nuclear capability first, if it is determined to be cost effective.

The amendment further includes a provision that would prohibit, during fiscal year 2014, using available funds to contract for Navy offensive anti-surface warfare weapons using other than through competitive procedures. Development, testing, and fielding of aircraft-launched offensive antisurface warfare weapons would be exempted from that prohibition. Included in the provision is a waiver of the prohibition by the Secretary of Defense if the Secretary determines that waiving this prohibition is in the national security interests of the United States.

The 07 January 2005 Request for Information (RFI) of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, AFRL, Space Vehicles Directorate, solicited information about concepts and technologies applicable to a nuclear Enhanced Cruise Missile (ECM). The Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency (AFNWCA) Advanced Technology Division (AT) will use this information in support of the Joint ECM Phase 6.1 concept study, an internal, government conducted study. The intent of the study was to explore cruise missile concepts that offer improvements in safety, reliability, and performance.

The concepts and technologies should address the ability of the ECM to:

  • Have increased reliability over current cruise missiles
  • Incorporate advanced command and control concepts
  • Carry a nuclear payload and meet nuclear certification requirements
  • Offer improvements in safety and nuclear surety
  • Support global strike missions
  • Address a variety of targets
  • Address targets deep within future high threat anti-access environments
  • Reduce minimum and extend maximum range of current cruise missiles
  • Improve accuracy compared to current cruise missiles.
  • Be carried on strategic bomber aircraft as well as alternative launchers (ground, sea, missile, etc.)
  • Exploit altitude and missile velocity regimes

The ECM study team encouraged cruise missile system integrators and developers to become involved with this process by responding to this RFI. The RFI response can consist of pre-existing product documentation, but should preferably be organized and presented in accordance with this RFI. This RFI sought information to help the ECM study team make useful and efficient assessment of the ability of the aerospace industry to develop and produce a nuclear ECM that offers improvements over existing systems and meets Air Force requirements beyond 2020.

The Air Force analyzed current and future roles for nuclear cruise missiles during the 2005 QDR and the fiscal year 2007 Amended POM (APOM). The Defense Department issued guidance on 20 December 2005 directing USSTRATCOM and the Air Force to study the nuclear cruise missile force structure, including the Air-to-Ground Missile (AGM) –86 Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) and the AGM–129 Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM). The guidance also directed us to build a retirement schedule for the missiles.

The resulting study recommended that the Air Force retire all ACMs, reduce the ALCM force to 528, retire all excess ALCMs, consolidate the ALCM force at Minot AFB, and retain ALCMs in the inventory through at least 2020, possibly 2030. On 12 April 2006, the Deputy Secretary of Defense accepted the study recommendations. On 23 June 2006, the Commander, USSTRATCOM sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense supporting the study findings and advocating adoption of the ALCM/ACM force structure recommendations. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Council endorsed most of the study recommendations. On 17 October 2006 the Secretary of Defense directed the Air Force to retire the ACM and reduce the ALCM fleet to 528 missiles.

The Air Force intended to remove from service, demilitarize and destroy all ACMs and the excess ALCM missile bodies. The remaining nuclear cruise missile force would be consolidated at Minot AFB, North Dakota. These cruise missile force structure changes were part of a balanced force reduction that supports both Presidential direction to reduce the active nuclear stockpile, as well as the United States’ obligation under the 2002 Moscow Treaty to reduce the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700–2,200 warheads.

William J. Perry was U.S. secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. Andy Weber was assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs from 2009 to 2014, during which he served as director of the Nuclear Weapons Council. On October 15, 2015 they wrote "Because they can be launched without warning and come in both nuclear and conventional variants, cruise missiles are a uniquely destabilizing type of weapon. President Obama can lead the world to a stabler and safer future by canceling plans for a new U.S. nuclear-capable cruise missile. Moreover, taking such a step — which would not diminish the formidable U.S. nuclear deterrent in the least — could lay the foundation for a global ban on these dangerous weapons."

“The LRSO will be a reliable, flexible, long-ranging, and survivable weapon system to complement the nuclear Triad. LRSO will ensure the bomber force can continue to hold high-value targets at risk in an evolving threat environment, to include targets within an area-denial environment,” said Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, to the Senate Armed Forces Committee in February 2016.

The RFP released 29 July 2016 identified the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction, or TMRR, phase. After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors. The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.

Releasing this solicitation is a critical step toward affordably recapitalizing the aging air leg of the nuclear triad,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, commander of Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Strategic Systems. The AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. Headquartered at Kirtland, the center has about 1,000 personnel assigned at 18 locations worldwide.

The Air Force planned to start fielding LRSO by 2030. "Maintaining an air-delivered standoff and direct attack capability is vital to meeting our strategic and extended deterrence commitments and denying geographic sanctuaries to potential adversaries," said U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander, to the House Armed Services Committee in February 2016. "The new LRSO is needed to replace the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile, which has far exceeded its originally planned service life, is being sustained through a series of service life extension programs, and is required to support our B-52 bomber fleet."

The LRSO weapon system will be a cost-effective force multiplier for B-52, B-2, and B-21 aircraft to credibly deter adversaries and assure US allies of US deterrent capabilities. “LRSO is a critical element of the United States’ nuclear deterrence strategy" according to Haney.

The Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, a vital strategic weapon in the US arsenal, is only about one year into its nine-year development schedule, a senior executive at Lockheed Martin told in October 2018. The LRSO will replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile in the US suite of air assault capabilities. "The program of record remains 54 months, [another] 54 months, and then five years of production," according to Frank St. John, executive vice president of Lockheed's missile division. While there have been talks of accelerating production of the missile, St. John said engineers can "go faster, but not appreciably faster."

A few months could get shaved from the development schedule, but because of the extremely low risk tolerance with nukes, the nine-year timeline is poised to remain intact. The speed at which the weapon can be completed is determined by how fast the payload can be developed, says the executive, and it would be pointless to have the weapon before having the right payload. Even once development is complete, St. John said, "there's a lot of simulation work that goes on" in addition to time-intensive weapon certification protocols.

"How do you make sure that the weapon is only ever going to do exactly what you want it to do and never have any kind of mishap?" St. John queried to illustrate the precise attention to detail required for the project. The framework of the project leaves no room for error: this is what "drives the deadline and timeframe," according to St. John.

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