WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is planning to field its first mobile medium-range missile battery no later than September 2023 with three more batteries to follow, according to FY22 budget justification documents.
Defense News was first to report that the Army was pursuing a Mid-Range Capability (MRC) to fill the gap in the service’s fires portfolio between the Precision Strike Missile’s (PrSM) initial capability of roughly 499 kilometers and ranges it expects to achieve with ground-launched hypersonic missiles.
Having a deep portfolio of range capabilities in the Pacific provides a mix of options because there are so many different locations from which to fire missiles, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty told Defense News in an interview last year. Rafferty is in charge of Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) modernization. Mixing and matching ranges from a wide variety of locations “creates an incredible dilemma for the enemy,” he said.
The Army could start the project in between budget requests with roughly $88 million added through congressional appropriations in FY21 and by asking for $286.46 million in FY22, a critical year for the capability’s development. The service has already awarded Lockheed Martin with a contract to develop and build a ground-launch system for the U.S. Navy’s Standard Missile-6 missile and Tomahawk missiles as the MRC solution.
According to the documents, the Army plans to use FY22 funding to deploy the prototype battery, which includes integration work and purchasing hardware and other materials to fabricate the system and perform component-level and system-level qualification.
The effort is being led by the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) but once the first battery is fielded, the program will transfer to the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles & Space.
Next year, the Army will assemble both the MRC launcher payload deployment system and the first Battery Operations Center (BOC) for the first battery, according to the budget documents.
A battery will consist of four launchers and one BOC, the documents lay out, but the number and distribution of missiles included in the battery is classified.
The Army plans to spend $46.5 million on the launcher system, $100.2 million on ground support equipment and $139.74 million on missiles in FY22.
A system integration and checkout is scheduled for the third quarter of FY22 followed by initial fielding and training to the first unit beginning in the first quarter of FY23 and wrapping up in the second quarter of FY24.
The Army will seek a release to deploy the system in the third quarter of FY23, according to the schedule in the documents and will conduct an SM-6 test and a Tomahawk test also in the third quarter of FY23.
And while the Army develops the MRC capability rapidly, it is also beginning funding in FY22 to extend the range of PrSM out to 1,000 kilometers as part of its layered approach.
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 in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.