WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is pursuing a new mid-range missile prototype capable of going after moving targets at land and at sea, an Army spokesperson has confirmed to Defense News. The effort is meant to fill a gap in the service’s long-range precision fires portfolio that includes the future Precision Strike Missile and hypersonic weapons capabilities.
Another anti-ship missile effort — a cross-domain upgrade to the Army Tactical Missile System — has been delayed due to technical problems, the Army’s Public Affairs Office confirmed in separate correspondence. The Army would not disclose the Cross-Domain ATACMS technical issues, citing operational security, but the service did say a new timeline for delivery is under review. The CD-ATACMS was an upgrade effort initiated by the Strategic Capabilities Office in 2016.
The decision to pursue a new mid-range missile was born out of a strategic fires study conducted by Army Futures Command’s Research and Analysis Center based at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The study was completed earlier this year and designed to “examine future strategic fires capabilities and provide emerging insights to inform procurement options and future materiel capability requirements,” said Robyn Mack, a command spokeswoman.
The study used combatant commander input, tabletop exercises with experts in key theaters, optimization modeling, cost and schedule analysis, and mobility and logistics considerations, she added. It recommended both near-term and long-term investment strategies for fires capabilities that would enable the U.S. to measure up against near-peer competitors.
The Army decided to pursue a mid-range capability to fill a near-term need that will “complement other critical systems” in the service’s LRPF portfolio in support of multidomain operations, Mack said. She could not offer more details on the prototyping effort, as it is still “pre-decisional.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville mentioned at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in July that the Army would pursue mid-range capabilities.
“We’re going to have mid-range missiles that can sink ships — we think that’s very, very important for the anti-access, area denial capabilities that we may need to face,” he said.
The service planned to pursue a mobile medium-range missile, or MIRM, in fiscal 2020, but canceled that effort in its fiscal 2021 budget request, saving the Army $90 million.
The Army originally planned over the next five budget cycles in FY20 to spend nearly $1 billion on MIRM, which was meant to be a land-based cruise missile with potential use in the Asia-Pacific region to address the medium-range (1,000-kilometer) gap in capability there. The plan was to move into a technology-maturation and risk-reduction phase in FY21.
The Precision Strike Missile — ultimately the ATACM replacement — will address the need to defeat maritime targets at long ranges (currently a range of 499 kilometers), but the Army is first developing a base missile as part of the program. The Precision Strike Missile effort was competitive, but when Raytheon exited the program, it left only Lockheed Martin in the mix. Lockheed has had three successful live-fire test events this year.
The weapon should reach a full-rate production decision in the third quarter of 2024. A critical design review is due in the first quarter of FY22.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.