The war hungry US regime has just tested a new type of nuclear-tipped air launch cruise missile, reaffirming the viability of the air-based leg of its nuclear triad against evolving threats from near-peer adversaries China and Russia.
The unusual development has profound implications for regional stability and global non-proliferation norms. However, the AGM-181A cruise missile bolsters US air-based nuclear deterrent and aims to give China pause on Taiwan and in South China Sea.
This month, The Warzone reported that the US Air Force had conducted nine flight tests of its future nuclear-tipped AGM-181A Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) cruise missile prototypes, including one test with a mock nuclear warhead.
The Warzone notes that the milestones were reported in a 2022 Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) released last month, with the tests aiming to gauge the missile’s stealthy capabilities.
The report mentions the US Air Force has selected Raytheon to develop the AGM-181A LRSO missile, which will replace the AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM).
The missile is part of the Long Range Strike family and has reportedly undergone nine successful major flight tests, demonstrating its high survivability with a stealthy air-frame.
The Warzone says the Pentagon’s 2022 acquisition report classified all nine test events as flight tests, but not all involved independent missile flights.
It notes that captive carry sorties were conducted for safety and that four powered-flight tests were deemed successful, including a Controlled Test Mission demonstrating the design’s maturity, manufacturing processes and navigation system performance.
The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has revealed that the first powered flight test of an AGM-181A LRSO Cruise Missile with a W80-4 nuclear warhead launched from a B-52 bomber was conducted.
This will now guarantee a decision about low-rate initial production to be expected in 2027. For now and the time being, the US AGM-86B ALCM has been upgraded to be operational until 2030, 38 years beyond its intended lifetime.
the US Air Force must maintain a credible air-based nuclear deterrent, mentioning that with the AGM-86B ALCM retiring soon, the AGM-181A LRSO is the only solution to keep the B-52H nuclear-capable.
While the US Air Force has committed to ordering at least 100 B-21 Raiders to replace B-2 and B-1 bombers, only a stealthy cruise missile such as the AGM-181A LRSO can hold specific targets at risk.
The LRSO will ensure the B-21’s stealth technology remains effective against evolving military technology and advanced air defenses.
The development of the AGM-181A LRSO may spark a proportionate nuclear response from China and Russia, which could entail strategic-level cooperation to increase their respective nuclear arsenals, sparking a renewed nuclear arms race with the USA.
Russia has shifted its approach towards China due to the Western sanctions imposed after its military invasion of Ukraine.
Despite long-term concerns about China’s potential threat in Russia’s Far East, Moscow has provided it with nuclear technology to strengthen its position vis-a-vis the West.
China is growing its nuclear arsenal to improve the likelihood that its arsenal will survive in the event of a war with the USA. China can strengthen its second-strike capability by having a more extensive and more varied nuclear arsenal.
This project puts China in a better position to use its nuclear weapons as a coercive tool and employ them if necessary.
America’s development of the AGM-181A LRSO also has profound implications for regional military strategies and strategic-level deterrence.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2023.