The US Air Force’s B-1B Lancer bomber could possibly best be described as a flight-capable greyhound mating with an airborne pit bull. As lethal as that coupling may be, that particular pup just became a whole lot more dangerous.
Instead of stealthily nuking Russkie missile sites or evaporating Chinese troops by the tens of thousands, the pride and joy of the US Air Force is now capable of sending to Davy Jones’ Locker “the most heavily defended enemy task forces.”
As reported by Kyle Mizokami of Popular Mechanics, “America’s first stealthy bomber, the Rockwell B-1B, now has a new mission: ship killer.”
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Fair bet Presidents Putin and Xi are none-too-thrilled with their latest edition of Popular Mechanics that just came in the mail.
Also noted by reporter Mizokami;
The B-1B bomber was originally conceived as a heavy strategic bomber. The large, swing-wing bomber was meant to fly fast and low, evading enemy radars and interceptors to penetrate the airspace of the Soviet Union and launch nuclear-tipped Short Range Attack Missiles at high value targets.
On August 17th, a B-1B bomber launched a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM, from the skies over Point Mugu, California. According to the U.S. Navy, the missile, “navigated through all planned waypoints, transitioned to mid-course guidance and flew toward the moving maritime target using inputs from the onboard multimodal sensor. It then descended to low altitude for final approach to target area, positively identified and impacted the target from among a group of ships.”
LRASM is an anti-ship missile descended from the U.S. Air Force’s JASSM-ER cruise missile. Once launched from a ship or aircraft, LRASM proceeds in the direction of the target. The missile can fly to multiple preset waypoints, avoiding obstacles such as islands and commercial shipping, then receives further targeting data via satellite. LRASM can adjust its flight path to avoid enemy air defenses before descending on a fleet of enemy ships. The missile is smart enough to sort through the ships of an enemy task force, identify its target, then strike the target at a precise point specified by mission planners.
And what is sure to make both Russian and Chinese Defense Ministers fill their Pampers to overload would be what Mizokami cited next;
LRASM is set to arm the Air Force’s B-1B and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. What makes the LRASM/B-1B combination stand out is the sheer amount of firepower the heavy bomber can deliver. Just three bombers could launch 72 LRASMs at a target.
For a bit of background on the LRASM, Mizokami reported in early 2016;
LRASM is first guided by the ship that launched it, then by satellite. The missile is jam-resistant and can carry on even if it loses contact with the Global Positioning System.
LRASM can detect threats between waypoints and navigate around them. If it decides it would be entering the engagement range of an enemy ship not on the target list, LRASM will fly around the ship, even skipping waypoints that might lie within enemy range and going on to the next one.
After locating the enemy fleet, it dives to sea-skimming altitude to avoid close-in defenses. LRASM then sizes up the enemy fleet, locates its target, and calculates the desired “mean point of impact”—the exact spot the missile should aim for, taking into account the accuracy of the missile—to ensure the missile does not miss. In most instances that is the exact center of the ship, with the angle of the ship in relation to the missile taken into consideration.
What really makes LRASM stand out is that all of this is completely autonomous. Human beings tell the missile where the enemy fleet is, which ship to strike, and a provide it with a continuous stream of data—the missile takes care of everything else. Using artificial intelligence, the missile takes data and makes decisions all on its own. Using AI and datalinks, multiple LRASMs can launch a coordinated attack on an enemy fleet.