WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin sailed through its second flight test of its version of the Precision Strike Missile, or PrSM, intended to replace the Army Tactical Missile System, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on March 10.
The missile’s range in the test was 180 kilometers, which was shorter than the first flight test but more challenging, as the missile must go up and come down quicker, Gaylia Campbell, Lockheed’s vice president of precision fires and combat maneuver systems, told Defense News shortly after Tuesday’s test.
The missile’s launch, trajectory, guidance and impact performed exactly as expected, she added.
Lockheed and Raytheon are locked in a head-to-head competition to replace the ATACMS. Lockheed now has two flight tests under its belt, but Raytheon is lagging. The latter company was supposed to test its version of PrSM late last year, but technical difficulties delayed the test and it still has yet to be rescheduled.
“Raytheon has resolved the technical issue that delayed our planned DeepStrike flight test last November. The company is working with our US Army customer to plan next steps in the competition for the PrSM program," the company said in a statement sent to Defense News on March 9. DeepStrike is the company’s name for its PrSM offering.
Lockheed’s PrSM had its first flight test on Dec. 10, 2019, from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher, during which it flew roughly 240 kilometers to the target, a release stated.
The Army has a goal to initially field a PrSM in 2023; it is one of the major development efforts within the service’s long-range precision fires portfolio. LRPF is the Army’s top modernization priority.
The service has accelerated PrSM’s fielding timeline by several years and will stick to the baseline requirements for the missile to get there.
Each company will have multiple flight tests to garner further data for development and refinement, which will help the Army choose a winner.
The Army also plans to adjust its maximum range requirement following critical test shots of the two PrSMs. The missile’s current maximum range requirement is 499 kilometers, which is the range that was compliant under the now-collapsed Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia. The United States withdrew from the treaty in August, and so the Army no longer has to adhere to the range limit for its missiles.
The baseline missile could reach a range of 550 kilometers based on data from both companies competing to build the PrSM. But the Army won’t consider adjusting its requirements until each company has observed how their respective missile behaves in real flight tests.
Lockheed is gearing up for a third flight test in May that will test the missile’s performance at an even shorter range, Campbell said. The company is waiting on a potential award to conduct three more flights tests in a second phase of the program. According to Campbell, those tests will include a maximum range test as well as a salvo firing of two missiles.
It is uncertain whether the maximum range test will be conducted at White Sands, she said, or at a test facility that might allow for more range, but the service and the competitors are working to finalize details.
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.