WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is launching a new effort in fiscal 2022 to design and develop a long-range precision munition for its future aircraft and will choose industry-born designs to move forward into a roughly five-year development program in fiscal 2023, according to FY22 budget documents.
The service is requesting $29.2 million to ramp up the development effort while it fields its interim solution — Israeli company Rafael’s Spike non-line-of-sight missile — that will deliver long-range lethality to the current fleet. Spike has a 30-kilometer range and was extensively demonstrated on foreign and U.S.-owned AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.
Long-range munitions for the service’s future aircraft will be critical to engage the enemy’s defensive positions from a comfortable standoff — or out of range of enemy detection.
“Army aviation requires a Long Range Precision Munition (LRPM) that is integrated with the firing platform that can provide leap ahead capability in the penetration and dis-integration phases of Joint All Domain Operations,” the budget documents stated. “LRPM will provide Army aviation with an improved long range munition system that can rapidly respond in a combat environment in order to improve the survivability of the warfighters and weapon systems, including aviation platforms in an [anti-access, area-denial] A2AD and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) denied environment.”
The funding in FY22 will set up a demonstration and validation of munition systems “with capability to complete the assigned mission in environments that could include cyber-attack, countermeasures, counter precision guided munition systems and anti-access area denial environment,” the documents noted.
The Army plans to conduct technical assessments, concept studies and risk-reduction efforts as well as technology maturation, engineering design and development, and prototype hardware testing and integration in the first several years of the program.
The service will conduct a shoot-off in the fourth quarter of FY22 with selected vendors. The designs will inform the LRPM capability development document.
After the shoot-off ends, the service will select “one or more vendors” to refine, mature and qualify the munition in the fourth quarter of FY23.
The munition’s development phase will last until the third quarter of FY28, according to budget documents. The Army does not lay out the schedule farther than the development phase in the documents reviewed.
In the meantime, the Army plans to buy 179 Spike NLOS missiles in FY22 for $44.7 million. The service bought 170 of the missiles in FY21 for $38.1 million.
The procurement plan for Spike beyond FY22 is unknown based on the available budget documentation from both FY21 and FY22. The Army did not supply its five-year budget plan with the release of its FY22 budget request and will not release another five-year plan until the FY23 budget request comes out.
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.