WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is still deciding how much farther out it might extend the range requirement for its Precision Strike Missile that is already capable of reaching 499 kilometers (310 miles), according to Col. Rory Crooks, the service’s Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team lead.
One year ago this month, the Army conducted a long-range flight test of PrSM that is believed to have exceeded the current range requirement of 499 kilometers. The Army has not disclosed the distance it traveled during its Oct. 13, 2021, test at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, but the goal was to see how far the weapon can travel beyond its previous set requirement.
The original intent was to reach a maximum of 499 kilometers, but 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 and 5,000 kilometers.
The long-range tests taught the Army “that the most promising attribute of PrSM so far has been its growth potential,” Crooks told Defense News in a recent interview. “We have a lot of [science and technology] efforts that are addressing how we can capitalize on this growth potential within the program with respect to [range extension].”
The Army’s Aviation and Missile Center is partnered with industry to extend the range. “They’ve got some very viable designs that we’re exploring right now, so it looks very promising that we’re going to be able to continue to extend beyond 499 [kilometers],” Crooks said.
Having a longer range for PrSM makes the capability “decisive” in both the Indo-Pacific and European theaters, Crooks added. The colonel recently served as chief of staff of V Corps, spending time in Europe with a front-row seat to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“With 499 kilometers ... you could probably interdict almost all the targets you wanted to in [U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility] with those ranges,” Crooks said.
But “to be important or even decisive in [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility] you have to go beyond that,” he added.” It’s just the tyranny of distance.”
“I don’t think it’s an accident that we have interest from other allies like Australia [and] the U.K., not only to potentially buy these systems, but to actually help us in the science and technology end of it.”
In August 2021, Australia and the U.S. Army announced a partnership to develop a precision missile capability. Australia contributed $70 million to the $907 million PrSM program, according to an announcement from the Australian government.
The Pacific nation chose to acquire the High Mobility Rocket Launcher System, which aligns well with its plans to potentially buy PrSM because it is the same system the Army uses to fire that munition.
The United Kingdom plans to field PrSM in 2024 as part of an upgrade to its M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, according to a March 2021 release from the British government.
The U.S. Army approved the PrSM program to move into the engineering and manufacturing development phase on Sept. 30, 2021, and awarded Lockheed Martin a $62 million contract for early operational capability production.
In September 2022, the Army awarded Lockheed another $158 million contract to produce additional early operational capability Precision Strike Missiles. More flight tests are planned for fiscal 2023, the company said in a statement.
The Army plans to initially field the weapon in FY23 and will spiral in more technology later, including an enhanced seeker, increased lethality and extended range. The priority for PrSM in the near term is to pursue a maritime, ship-killing capability.
The Army also plans to begin integrating the Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile seeker into PrSM in FY23, giving it the capability to destroy ships. Crooks’ predecessor, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, told Defense News last year that the Army was realistically aiming to field the capability in FY26.
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.