US Army receives first long-range Precision Strike Missiles

by Tommy Grant

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has taken delivery of the first Precision Strike Missiles that will begin replacing the legacy Army Tactical Missile System, according to a Dec. 8 service announcement.

“The delivery of the Precision Strike Missile Increment 1 Early Operational Capability missiles follows successful production qualification testing in November at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico,” the statement read.

The delivery marks a major milestone for the PrSM program and was one of 24 major modernization programs the Army was trying to get into the hands of soldiers by the end of 2023.

“The Precision Strike Missile will provide Joint Force commanders with a 24/7, all-weather capability that will counter the enemy’s ability to conduct combat maneuver and air defense operations,” Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in the statement. “The rapid development and delivery of this capability is a prime example of the Army’s aggressive use of new acquisition authorities from Congress that allow us to move at much greater speed to get improved equipment to Soldiers.”

PrSM has been a top program for the Army and a key technology within the service’s long-range precision fires portfolio, which was created as part of the service’s new wave of modernization priorities identified in 2017.

The missile — which can launch from both the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the M270A2 Multiple Launch Rocket System — will be critical to the service as it seeks a deep-strike capability that can counter Russian and Chinese technologies. Both European- and Indo-Pacific-based U.S. commanders have been eager to receive the capability.

The program originally began as a competition between Lockheed Martin and RTX (formerly Raytheon Technologies), but the latter struggled to get the weapon ready for flight tests during the program’s technology maturation and risk reduction phase. The Army and RTX mutually decided to end the effort in March 2020.

Lockheed continued alone in development and flight testing for the first increment. The Army approved the PrSM program to move into the engineering and manufacturing development phase in September 2021, awarding the company a $62 million contract for early operational capability production.

The service again awarded Lockheed another $158 million a year later for additional early operational-capability PrSMs.

The Army is planning add-ons, including an enhanced seeker as well as technology to provide increased lethality and extended range. The priority for the PrSM in the near term is to pursue a maritime, ship-killing capability.

Lockheed Martin and an RTX and Northrop Grumman team will compete for a subsequent phase of the PrSM program. The Army awarded RTX a $97.7 million contract in February 2023 to advance its design for a Long Range Maneuverable Fires program, planned to become the PrSM Increment 4 effort.

Lockheed received a $33 million contract to develop capability for the increment around the same time. That increment focuses on dramatically extending the range of PrSM, possibly from its currently planned 499 kilometers (310 miles) to more than double that distance.

America’s 2019 withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia has allowed the U.S. Army to develop the missile to fly farther. The treaty had prevented the development of missiles with ranges between 499 kilometers and 5,000 kilometers.

In October 2021, the U.S. Army conducted a long-range flight test of PrSM that is believed to have exceeded the current range requirement of 499 kilometers.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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