Raytheon wins $2bn nuclear cruise missile contract for USAF

AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missiles before being loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress. Image: US Air Force/senior airman Lillian Miller
AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missiles before being loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress. Image: US Air Force/senior airman Lillian Miller

Raytheon has won a $2 billion US Air Force contract for engineering and manufacturing development of a nuclear-armed cruise missile.

During this phase, manufacturing processes of the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapons system will continue to mature and the manufacturing environment will be demonstrated and transitioned to a pilot line readiness state.

Bloomberg has reported USAF plans to purchase up to 1,000 of the new LRSOs.

The objective at the end of this next phase is to demonstrate full production readiness. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona, and is expected to be completed February 2027.

Related: First two B-21 bombers are ready to start testing

The LRSO will replace the aging air-launched cruise missile that was fielded in 1982, the nuclear-armed AGM-86B.

Raytheon and Lockheed Martin were developing competing designs for the cruise missile during an earlier technology maturation and risk reduction phase. The Air Force last year decided to proceed with Raytheon after an extensive evaluation of contractor programmatic and technical approach.

The new system, which will be deployed in about 2030, will be carried on the B-52 bomber as well as the service's new B-21 Raider.

The B-21 programme is on schedule and on budget, it was recently revealed by congressman Adam Smith after a briefing on the defence programme.

Related: Collins Aerospace to modernise B-52 wheels and brakes

Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said the briefing was “one of the most positive, encouraging things that I’ve had happen to me in the last couple of weeks.”

USAF wants to acquire at least 145 B-21 Raiders from Northrop Grumman, estimated to cost in excess of $90 billion.

President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next secretary of the air force, Frank Kendall, says that “is a reasonable number, at this point.”



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