UPDATE — This story has been updated to add comment from the U.S. Army.
WASHINGTON — In what was described as a mutual decision, Raytheon is exiting from the Army’s Precision Strike Missile technology maturation and risk reduction phase without a flight test under its belt, according to a company statement sent to Defense News on March 25.
“Although we remain confident in our resolution to the technical issue that delayed our DeepStrike flight test, the Army and Raytheon have mutually come to the decision to conclude our participation in the PrSM Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase,” the statement reads in full.
DeepStrike is the name Raytheon gave its missile meant to replace the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), which is built by PrSM competitor Lockheed Martin.
“The decision was made to not provide additional money to Raytheon to help them try to meet the requirements to get into the next phase of the competition and, really, that meant have a successful flight test,” Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, who is in charge of Army Long-Range Precision Fires modernization, told Defense News in a March 25 interview.
“Their period of performance ended on the 20th, last Friday, and so they dropped out of the competition because they didn’t meet the requirement for the next phase,” he said. “It has been a competitive program and all competitions end and this one ended in this way.”
Lockheed now has two successful test flights of its PrSM offering, but Raytheon had struggled with a technical issue since late last year when it was scheduled to execute its first test flight at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The company’s next flight test will be held April 30th, Rafferty said.
Replacing ATACMS with a new long-range precision missile is a top priority for the Army within its modernization portfolio because it is the centerpiece to how the service plans to operate against adversaries in the future where standoff will need to be greater.
While Raytheon may be out now, Rafferty said, “I think it’s important to remember that we view not just the base missile as the competitive part of PrSM.”
The Army intends to spiral in capability to the base missile later on. Spiral one adds a more capable seeker, and spiral two would enhance lethality of the weapon either through sub-munitions or “a couple of alternatives that we are considering for that," Rafferty said.
And the service plans to extend the range of the PrSM missile so there are opportunities for competition there “and we would welcome Raytheon as an important competitor,” Rafferty said, adding Raytheon’s design features a compelling propulsion system, which fundamentally differs from Lockheed’s design and could be considered down the road.
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.
But the Army believes the baseline missile could actually reach a range of 550 kilometers based on data from both Raytheon and Lockheed. The Army has said it wouldn’t consider adjusting its requirements until each company has had a chance to see how their respective missile behaves in real flight tests.
Lockheed’s third flight will test the missile’s performance at an even shorter range. The company is waiting on a potential award to conduct three more flights tests in a second phase of the program. Those tests will include a maximum range test as well as a salvo firing of two missiles.