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The Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) Cruise Missile and its Role in Future Nuclear Forces

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[Technical Report, Research Report]

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The United States has a nuclear triad that consists of ballistic missile submarines SSBNs, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles ICBMs, B-52 bombers, and B-2 bombers. The non-stealthy B-52 relies entirely on the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile ALCM in the nuclear role, whereas the B-2 penetrates enemy airspace to drop unguided bombs. The current SSBNs, ICBMs, ALCMs, and B61 bombs will all reach end of life between the early 2020s for the B61 bomb and the early 2040s, whereas the B-52 should last until at least 2045 and the B-2 should last until at least 2050. Programs are well under way for a new SSBN, a new bomber, and the B61-12 guided bomb, whereas programs have just started for a new ICBM and for the Long-Range Standoff LRSO cruise missile that is planned to replace the AGM-86. Among these programs, the LRSO is the most controversial and probably the one at most risk of cancellation. Analyses presented here suggest that LRSO is critical to the future of the triad and should not be terminated or delayed.

Subject Categories:

  • Air- and Space-Launched Guided Missiles
  • Nuclear Warfare
  • Underwater-Launched Guided Missiles

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[A, Approved For Public Release]