AUSA NEWS: Army to Extend Range of Precision Strike Missile

By Connie Lee
Army tactical missile system

Photo: Army

Following the U.S. withdrawal from the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Army and industry are now looking at ways to extend the range of the next-generation precision strike missile.

Due to the restrictions imposed by the INF Treaty between the United States and Russia, the Army had not been developing land-based missiles with ranges exceeding 499 kilometers. However, in August the Trump administration formally pulled out of the arms pact after accusing Moscow of cheating.

The withdrawal removed those range limitations and opened up new design possibilities for the precision strike missile, which is intended to replace the Army tactical missile system, or ATACMS.

“It's going to go beyond 500 kilometers," Col. John Rafferty, director of the service’s long-range precision fires cross-functional team, said at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C., which kicked off Oct. 14.

The weapon will be less expensive than the ATACMS while delivering the same lethality, he said.

The new missile system is slated to have two launch pods per container to double the onboard firepower and provide commanders with more flexibility, Rafferty noted. Initial fielding is scheduled for 2023.

Long-range precision fires is the Army’s top modernization priority as it prepares to modernize its force for multi-domain battles. In August, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced that the Pentagon would “fully pursue” previously banned capabilities.

Industry competitors for the precision strike program are gearing up for the change. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are scheduled to conduct separate flight tests of their systems in November and December at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. First flight tests were initially slated for this summer, but were delayed due to problems with a subcontractor for both companies.

James Smith, Raytheon director of advanced land warfare systems, said the company’s design supports exceeding a range of 499 kilometers. Some options to extend the missile’s reach include making the rocket motor casing and insulation a little lighter and thinner, he noted.

“That gives you a little bit more propellant that you can work with,” he said in an interview at the AUSA conference. “There's ideas down the road about maybe taking a look at the propellant chemistry. There's a lot of things you can do to continue to increase the range.”

The company is now working on integration and testing with inert missiles, he said. These have all the same features, materials and components that the actual flight test missiles will have.

“The difference is that you won't have explosive material in it so that you could take it out, shake and bake it,” Smith said.

Lockheed Martin is also designing its product “with the future in mind,” Misty Holmes, the company’s manager of business development told National Defense. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the ATACMS. Its bid for the precision strike munition has an open system architecture and a modular design, she noted.

“We're increasing the accuracy and the lethality and the survivability," she said. The company is “designing it specifically to the precision strike missile [capability] targets," she added.

Lockheed is examining “all the options right now" and what it will take to extend the range and maintain mobility and commonality with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the M270 launcher, Holmes noted.

“We've got lots of options that we've studied and conceptual designs, and we're going to work with our user community to define exactly how much more range that they need,” she said.

Topics: Army News

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