Army Looks to New Missile to Attack Enemy Ships from Shores

By Stew Magnuson

Army photo

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — The Army’s top officer in the Indo-Pacific theater welcomed the recent news that the service’s new Precision Strike Missile has successfully completed a crucial test.

“The Precision Strike Missile — and the work that is going on with our Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space — is an absolutely crucial capability out in the Pacific,” Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, told reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum.

A few days prior to the forum, the Army and contractor Lockheed Martin at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico successfully completed a test of the new missile at a range shorter than 85 kilometers, although the service would not disclose the exact distance it traveled.

Three weeks after the conference, the Army confirmed in a Dec. 8 statement that it had received the Precision Strike Missile Increment 1 Early Operational Capability missiles.

The Army’s stated goal is to have the Precision Strike Missile travel as far as 500 kilometers but has only achieved 400 kilometers. The short-range test conducted Nov. 13 was operationally more difficult to execute than a long-range test, a Lockheed Martin statement said.

“The short-range flight represents the most stressful, dynamic environment for the missile as it maneuvered at hypersonic speeds to align to the target,” the statement said. Hypersonic speeds are generally defined as Mach 5 or above.

The test verified the missile’s accuracy, maneuverability and structural integrity, the statement said.

The new missile is fired from the legacy High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is also manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Flynn said the new missile combined with the launcher will be a powerful tool for multi-domain operations where the Army and the Marine Corps may be called upon to fire at ships from positions ashore.

“What the HIMARS capability represents is the ability to not be fixed. It allows you to have mobile, reloadable, distributed — both lethal and nonlethal — capabilities because it’s tied to the joint targeting network,” he said.

The possibility of having the Army, Marines and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific that also operate the HIMARS system — and could therefore deploy the new Precision Strike Missile as well — will be a powerful capability in the region, Flynn said.

“I’m aware of the recent success, and in my view, it can’t come fast enough. And I’m communicating that back to my Army leaders,” Flynn said.

The fact that it has not yet demonstrated the requirement to fly 500 kilometers didn’t bother Flynn. He would accept an incremental so-called “80 percent solution” to have the capability in Indo-Pacific Command, he said.

Testing incrementally at different ranges is important because the Army will need a “range of variants” to achieve different capabilities, Flynn said.

Lockheed Martin — which has received three production contracts for the missiles so far — indicated there were still more tests to come.

“The demonstration is the first of several production qualification tests moving the [Precision Strike Missile] closer to fielding and delivery of early operational capability missiles this year,” Jay Price, Lockheed Martin vice president of precision fires at the company’s missiles and fire control division, said in a statement. It “is a critical capability and the top long-range fires modernization priority for the U.S. Army.”

Another missile system Flynn is looking forward to deploying in 2024 is the Strategic Mid-Range Fires System, also known as the Typhon missile system. It leverages existing Navy Raytheon-produced SM-6 missiles and Raytheon-produced Tomahawk cruise missiles that are modified for ground launches, with Lockheed Martin serving as the integrator. Like the Precision Strike Missile, it is intended to target ships at sea.

The Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office within two and a half years of conceiving of the system successfully demonstrated an SM-6 missile launch — and later a Tomahawk missile launch — from the prototype system, “confirming the full operational capability of the system,” an Army release said, with Flynn adding that a “battery or two” is ready to deploy.

“We intend to deploy that system in the region. I’m not going to state where and when,” he said, steadfastly declining to say if they would be on U.S. or foreign soil.

Plans so far call for four batteries, which include four launchers, an operations center and a number of support vehicles and trailers. ND

Topics: Marine Corps News, Missile Defense

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