WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $358 million production contract for the Army Tactical Missile System, which allows for a service life-extension program for old missiles, the company announced Monday. The firm will also produce new missiles for a Foreign Military Sales customer, Lockheed added.
ATACMS is the Army’s only surface-to-surface, long-range, 300-kilometer missile system. According to a Lockheed spokesperson, the missile system performs well in operations and is highly reliable.
But the Army is burning through a variety of its precision missiles in operations that have been heating up in various theaters, and the service is taking steps to ensure its inventory is refreshed and robust going forward.
The service life-extension program, or SLEP, will allow customers to be able to upgrade existing Block 1 and Block 1A missiles with new technology and double the range, a Lockheed statement notes.
When an old ATACMS comes through the SLEP line, it’s “essentially a brand-new missile, and it’s reset to [a] 10-year shelf life,” a Lockheed spokesperson told Defense News.
In December 2014, the Army awarded Lockheed a contract to modernize the ATACMS weapon system, and the company embarked on an effort to upgrade and redesign all the internal electronics, developing and qualifying a new capability for a proximity sensor that enables ATACMS to have a height of burst.
ATACMS has a 500-pound class Harpoon warhead intended for point detonation, but giving the missile a height-of-burst capability increases its area effects for imprecisely located targets, the spokesperson said.
As part of the SLEP program for expired or aging ATACMS, Lockheed will clean up the old motors and then go through a remanufacture and final assembly process that incorporates the installation of the upgraded electronics.
Lockheed is set up, under the current contract, to update or build new missiles at a rate of 320 a year at its Camden, Arkansas, Precision Fires Production Center of Excellence, but there is a surge capacity of 400.
Still, the company is posturing to reach a rate of 500 new and upgraded ATACMSs per year based on interest and anticipated orders, the spokesperson said.
Lockheed has produced over 3,850 ATACMS missiles, and more than 600 of them have been fired in combat.
ATACMSs are packaged in a Guided Missile Launch Assembly pod and is fired from the Multiple Launch Rocket System family of launchers.
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.