LRSO is a Cost-Imposing, Cost-Saving Strategy

The development of a new Long Range Standoff weapon (LRSO) is “a cost-imposing strategy” that doesn’t cost very much, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said Thursday. The stealthy, air-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile would allow the Air Force to “maneuver or position my bombers wherever they have to be,” and would not require “overflight of any particular countries,” Wilson told the audience at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Washington, D.C. These capabilities, plus the reality that a bomber would be able to carry 21 LRSO missiles at a time, makes the weapon “a very daunting challenge for any adversary.” But the key, Wilson said, is that Russia already has a similar missile “in production,” and LRSO’s deterrent value is much more cost-effective than the development of a new system to defend against the Russian weapons. The LRSO won’t be fielded until 2030, however, so the current air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) will continue to undergo a service life extension, updating “telemetry, encryption, and our flight termination components”—for now, Wilson said. But getting the LRSO online is “the key to making sure we can maintain an air leg of the triad going forward.” The LRSO development program is slated to receive $451 million in President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.