US Army taps teams to build new Precision Strike Missile for targets beyond 1,000 km

    WORLD  28 March 2023 - 07:02

    As the US Army eyes weapons that can travel longer distances over waters in the Indo-Pacific region, it has selected at least two teams to work on a future Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) that can fly more than 1,000 km, possibly double the range of the current version.

    Both Lockheed Martin and a Raytheon Technologies-Northrop Grumman team have told Breaking Defense they received Army contracts to develop a new missile form factor and propulsion system for the service’s PrSM Increment 4. That particular version of PrSM also has a new name: the Long Range Maneuverable Fires (LRMF) missile, breakingdefense.com reports.

    According to a website, it appears that PrSM incumbent Lockheed Martin received $33.3 million for the development and demonstration of a “Long Range Fires Capability,” while the Raytheon team received almost $100 million for “Long Range Precision Fires air-breathing missile prototypes.”

    The Army did not immediately respond to Breaking Defense’s questions about the competition, including the number of competitors, but industry and budget documents have shed some light on plans to build the new weapon under what has been known as PrSM Increment 4.

    Lockheed Martin is currently producing PrsM Inc 1 to replace the company’s MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and hit targets at least 500 km away. That missile, along with future missile increments, can be launched from both the M270A2 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

    Under the future PrSM Inc 2, the service is designing a multimode seeker to integrate into PrSM, known as the Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile (LBASM) seeker, PrSM Inc 3 then seeks to add in enhanced lethality payloads. 

    For PrSM Inc 4 — which may be ready before Inc 3 — the Army is eyeing a new missile form factor possibly with a new propulsion system to strike targets at least 1,000 km away. This new propulsion system could potentially be a ramjet, an airbreathing jet engine that uses the forward motion of the engine to produce thrust. 

    While recent budget justification documents do not detail exact plans for PrSM Inc 3 and Inc 4, ones from 2023 noted that the service planned to request $237 million for fiscal 2024 for research and development of its PrSM line and another $19 million for Long Range Maneuverable Fires advanced tech.

    For that second pot of money, the Army wrote at the time that it supports “developing, maturing and demonstrating next generation multi-domain operations extended range weapon system technology for [the] Precision Strike Missile to increase survivability, penetration, and range in complex anti access/area denial (A2/AD) and denied environments.”

    “This project also includes both the maturation and demonstration of advanced extended range missile technology and autonomous, unmanned launcher technology,” the service added. “The combination of these technologies offers the potential to dramatically increase force projection through increases in range, firepower, and magazine depth.”

    Starting Line

    So far, only two teams have said they have received Army contracts for PrSM Inc 4, but it is possible additional, currently unknown teams could also be working on the development program.

    “Phase 1 focuses on design and risk-reduction activities, with optional follow-on phases leading to flight test demonstration,” Lockheed wrote in a March 27 press release. “Following flight tests, LRMF will transition to the US Army’s Strategic and Operational Rockets and Missiles (STORM) project office to inform the design of an extended-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) Increment 4.”

    During a March 24 interview with Breaking Defense, Raytheon and Northrop officials also provided additional insights into the competition but declined to discuss specific details about their “Deep Strike-Extended Range” weapon or the competition’s structure. 

    “The focus of this [technology maturation & risk reduction] phase, from a Raytheon perspective, is maturing our system design and working with our partner Northrop, specifically, to focus on co-designing, building and testing its advanced propulsion system, which is a key enabler for reaching the extended range that’s been defined by the Army,” said Brad Barnard, Raytheon’s executive director of precision fires and maneuver.

    “We’re still going through some of the key design and requirements … but we have a baseline that we think is going to be uniquely qualified to meet the aggressive requirements,” he later added.

    Chris Gettinger, Northrop’s director of Advanced Propulsion and Systems, declined to disclose the team’s proposed propulsion system but said the missile will build on the work the company has done on ramjet/scramjet solutions.

    “Whether it’s… solid rocket motor propulsion or air breathing systems, we can bring all that to bear along with controllable solid propulsion solutions and subsystems for thrust vectoring and altitude control systems,” Gettinger added. He noted that the company has demonstrated prototype versions of its proposed propulsion system and the subsystem, and it is now about integrating those into Raytheon’s new missile formfactor.

    Caliber.Az

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