WASHINGTON — Unlike the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Army's capability dominated the enemy's, the service will be fighting in domains that are hotly contested from the start, which means it will have to refocus on capabilities that previously were on the back-burner.
Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) is high on the Army's list.
The Army is emphasizing a new multi-domain battle concept, which assumes all domains are contested in a way the service hasn't seen in a long time, the Army's Capabilities Integration Center director, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said in a teleconference with reporters ahead of the Association of the US Army's annual conference.
"If all domains are contested, what that means is the Army can no longer rely on other service capabilities to do things that we assumed that they would be able to do," he said. During the peace dividend following the Cold War, the Army cut way back on certain capabilities like electronic warfare and long-range fires, assuming it could rely on another service to fill the gap, according to McMaster.
That thinking greatly reduce the Army's capability in long-range fires capacity, he noted.
"What we are endeavoring to do is to build capabilities into the Army to allow the Army what it used to do, and always has been able to do, which is defeat enemy forces on land, secure terrain to deny its use to the enemy, protect populations, consolidate military gains, but, increasingly, to project power outward from land into ... aerospace, maritime or cyber space and across the electromagnetic spectrum," McMaster said.
This means the Army needs cross-domain fires and artillery batteries to deliver surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and shore-to-ship capabilities, according to McMaster.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has stressed the importance of LRPF in order to establish air supremacy from the ground. McMaster said Russia has shown this capability, posing a major threat to the Ukrainian air force, for example.
The Army awarded two contracts through the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium to Lockheed Martin and Raytheon in August. "The contracts will initiate trade studies for systems and component-level requirements, analyze alternative technical solutions and contribute to risk identification for the program," Dan O’Boyle, an Army spokesman, told Defense News.
In addition, two technology-maturation, risk-reduction agreements for missile design and prototype development and testing are expected to be awarded in the second quarter of fiscal 2017, focusing on design of the missile, the launch-pod missile container, and will culminate with a flight test to validate the prototype’s performance, O’Boyle said.
The program will also hold an Extended Range Missile Technology Demonstration to conduct risk-reduction of potential LRPF technologies, he added, and General Dynamics, Orbital ATK and Raytheon have been invited to participate.
The demonstration will be conducted this fall, O’Boyle said, and will guide the Army toward decisions on LRPF cost, schedule and performance.
Raytheon’s JR Smith, director of Advanced Land Warfare Systems, told Defense News in a recent interview that the company was awarded a $5.7 million contract to study design concepts and various components over the course of nine months. The company also submitted a proposal in July for the next step, the technology maturation and risk reduction component of development.
The TMRR is expected to culminate in three to four years with a series of guided flight tests and the Army will likely downselect to one contractor to enter into the engineering and manufacturing development phase, Smith said.
But three to four years is a long time to wait to get to EMD and, therefore, Smith said, Raytheon is "really trying to work very hard with the Army to see what we can do to accelerate development without incurring significant risk to the effort."
LRPF is intended to ultimately replace the Lockheed Martin-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which was developed in the late 1970s and fielded in the early 1980s.
Misty Holmes, Lockheed Martin’s business development manager for LRPF, said the company, which also received a contract to run risk reduction for a future missile, is using its experience as the only remaining producer of long-range, tactical, surface-to-surface missiles employed by the Army today to develop its LRPF offering. Holmes said Lockheed could not disclose the contract amount.
The offering from Lockheed is expected to improve ATACMS range of 300-plus kilometers to 499 kilometers, the Army’s set requirement for a future missile, Holmes said, and will also have enhanced lethality and improved navigation systems.
Raytheon noted that the Army has indicated a strong desire to increase the rate of fire, so instead of fitting one missile per pod, the company plans to fit two in one pod with missiles that have 16-inch diameters, according to Smith.
The legacy ATACMS can be fired from multiple rocket launchers including the M270 Multiple Rocket Launch System and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
"We can make all kinds of warheads and payloads," Smith said, but striking the balance between lethality, rate-of-fire and cost is where the challenge lies. "We are going to be trying do that in the next nine months under this contract."
While Raytheon believes there’s a way to speed up procurement of LRPF, the Army said any project acceleration strategy is "pre-decisional at this time," according to O’Boyle.
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.