WASHINGTON — The Army wants to fund ways to extend the range of its Precision Strike Missile – which is still under development – out to 1,000 kilometers or more in fiscal 2022, according to documents accompanying the service’s budget request.
The service wants to spend $5 million to begin the effort that will investigate and develop “critical technologies” that would extend the range of the PrSM capability while increasing its survivability, the documents said.
While a timeline is not outlined, this is the first funding the Army would receive to pursue such a project.
The Lockheed Martin-developed PrSM missile has had four flight tests as part of the program so far and broke a range record in May – flying out to 400 kilometers or roughly 250 miles.
The missile is a priority program for the Army and is intended to replace the Army Tactical Missile System to play an important role in the service’s future deep-strike capability.
While PrSM was developed to fire out to 499 kilometers, the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty has spurred a drive to enhance the missile’s range capability. The INF Treaty prevented the development of missiles that ranged between 499 and 5,000 kilometers.
The Army now plans to see how much farther it can fire PrSM in a test planned for August this year out at Vandenberg Air Base, California.
While the Army is planning to initially field the capability in 2023, it will incrementally add more capability including an enhanced seeker, increased lethality and extended range. The priority for PrSM in the nearer term is to pursue a maritime, ship-killing capability as well as enhanced lethality.
Lockheed expects the service to make a decision on whether to go into the engineering and manufacturing development phase this summer, possibly as soon as this month, and hopes to be awarded a contract for that phase as well as an early operational capability set of missiles in the third or fourth quarters of FY21.
And while the Army launches its effort to extend the range of the PrSM missile, it is rapidly acquiring a smaller number of medium-range missile to fill the gap between PrSM’s current capability and hypersonic missile ranges.
According to budget documents, the Army plans to buy 110 PrSM missiles for a total of $166.3 million in FY22, should it have a favorable decision this year to move forward.
The Army is also requesting $188.5 million in research and development dollars for PrSM that would support the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program and the integration of the Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile (LBASM) seeker.
The service had originally planned in its FY21 budget to spend $145.6 million in FY22, but gave it a boost this year in order to cover the new development costs associated with adding the seeker capability, according to the budget documents.
The technology maturation and risk reduction phase of the program will wrap up halfway through FY22 while the EMD phase will pick up in the last quarter of FY21, according to budget documents.
The initial operational test and evaluation for PrSM appears to have slipped from the end of FY24 to the first half of FY25 followed by a full-rate production decision in the third quarter of that fiscal year, according to a comparison of budget documents from FY21 and FY22. In FY21 budget documents, the Army had planned to make a full-rate production decision by the end of FY24.
PrSM will reach initial operational capability in the fourth quarter of FY25. It is unclear from the documents why the schedule is delayed.
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.