The U.S. will begin production of new air-launched cruise missiles designed to be equipped with nuclear warheads. The U.S. Air Force has signed a $2 billion contract with Raytheon, Defense News reported.
Under the agreement, Raytheon will manufacture a Long Range Standoff (LRSO) cruise missile and conduct flight tests. According to the Pentagon, the LRSO program aims to develop a weapon that, while performing strategic tasks, can guarantee a breakthrough of an echelon of air defense system (air defense) of a potential enemy.
The LRSO air-launched cruise missile, designed to be equipped with a nuclear warhead, will have a range of about 2,500 km. It is planned that it will be adopted by 2030 in the US Air Force. The US Department of Defense expects to begin deployment of these weapons during this period. B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers will be equipped with these missiles. They will also be installed on the B-21 heavy strategic bomber, which is now being created by Northrop Grumman.
Production of the nuclear-armed cruise missiles will be located in Tucson, Arizona, and will be completed by February 2027, according to aif.ru. In total, the Air Force plans to purchase approximately 1,000 such cruise missiles. The cost of this program is expected to be about $10 billion. Not all of the missiles will be equipped with a nuclear warhead. Some of them are supposed to be kept as spare and some will be used for tests.
Michael White, deputy director for hypersonic development in the Pentagon’s Office of Research and Development, said June 2 that the United States intends to accelerate the deployment of hypersonic weapons. The military budget for 2022 meets these goals.
White noted that the development of air-launched cruise missiles is a priority for the U.S., as they are more compatible with other hypersonic platforms because of their size.