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The US Army’s future long-range precision weapons are vital to the penetration and disintegration phases of multi-domain operations. Members of the Long-Range Precision Fires Panel at the virtual 2021 iteration of AUSA’s Global Force event provided updates on relevant programme developments: MON’s report focuses on three.

Hypersonics is one of the Pentagon’s highest priority modernisation areas. Robert Strider, Deputy, Army Hypersonic Project Office, US Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, stated that the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) “will provide the Army with its first capability to effect the operational and strategic fight since the [Cold-War-era] PERSHING [III] system.” LRHW’s anticipated range is 1,800km and, while it is a joint weapon system, being developed with the US Navy, the Army internally delivered the first training canisters earlier this month. These will be followed by the launchers and a battery operations centre by September. This initial prototype battery equipment, less the live rounds, will conceptually ensure soldiers are prepared, trained and resourced to support the plan to “deliver LRHW to the field in 2023,” added Brig Gen John L Rafferty, Director, Long-Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team.

Also figuring in the hypersonic portfolio will be a new intermediate-range weapon. Tyler Evans, Senior VP, Defense at Aerojet Rocketdyne, noted that in support of the demonstration phase of DARPA’s Operational Fires (OpFires) programme, the company developed a revolutionary ‘throttleable’ solid-rocket motor technology. An OpFires full-up flight test is expected in 2023. “We’ll be demonstrating those systems at an Army facility soon,” he revealed.

Elsewhere, at the operational level, the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) will be the replacement for the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS). The new missile will have a stated range of 500km and will be compatible with both the Multiple Launch Rocket System and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. PrSM has completed three successful test flights, with four more scheduled for the next phase of development. Gaylia Campbell, Deputy VP for Tactical and Strike Missiles, and VP, Fires/Combat Maneuver Systems at Lockheed Martin, pointed out her industry-led team is working to accelerate the programme by “combining, not skipping steps [to provide] an early 2023 early operational capability,” for the missile system.

Marty Kauchak reporting for MON from New Orleans

The Army’s PrSM, seen here under test, will start being fielded to replace the ATACMS system from 2023, on current plans. (Photo: US Army)

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