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AF releases request for proposal for nuclear air-launched cruise missile replacement

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- The Air Force released July 29 a request for proposals to industry for its Long Range Standoff (LRSO) nuclear cruise missile program; up to two contract awards are expected in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017.

The LRSO weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile. The AGM-86B was fielded in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life. The current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective. It is facing increasing 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 Forces 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 will be a reliable, flexible, long-ranging, and survivable weapon system to complement the nuclear triad,” Gen. Robin Rand, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in February.

“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,” he added.

The Air Force plans 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," Adm. Cecil Haney, the U.S. Strategic Command commander, told the House Armed Services Committee in February. "The new LRSO is needed to replace the aging (ALCM), 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 (Stratofortress) bomber fleet."

The proposal identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s technology maturation and risk reduction 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.

The LRSO weapon system will be a cost-effective force multiplier for B-52, B-2 Spirit and B-21 aircraft to credibly deter adversaries and assure U.S. allies of its deterrent capabilities.

“LRSO is a critical element of the United States’ nuclear deterrence strategy,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems. “Releasing this solicitation is a critical step toward affordably recapitalizing the aging air leg of the nuclear triad.”

The AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command in direct support of AFGSC. Headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base, the center has about 1,000 personnel assigned at 18 locations worldwide.

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