WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is embarking on several new missile development programs while ramping up and accelerating other ongoing programs to deliver more fire power to the force at greater ranges, according to the service’s justification books for its fiscal 2020 budget request.
The service’s No. 1 modernization priority is Long-Range Precision Fires, or LRPF, because the Army believes it is central to future operations in environments where access to terrain may be difficult or entirely denied, or where soldiers lack the territorial advantage to counter threats.
And the LRPF capability plays an important role the service’s emerging doctrine — Multidomain Operations — where the Army and its sister services will work more in concert across sea, land, air, space and cyber domains to overtake the enemy.
The Army plans to begin the development of three major missiles beginning in FY20: a land-based hypersonic missile, a mobile medium-range missile, and a future interceptor for medium-range air and missile defense.
The service also intends to spend several billion dollars over five years to get the programs well off the ground.
Land-based hypersonic missile
The service plans to spend $1.2 billion across the next five years beginning in FY20 to develop a land-based hypersonic missile through Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command.
The project’s goal is to build a “prototype strategic attack weapon system to defeat Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities, suppress adversary Long Range Fires and engage other high payoff/time sensitive targets,” the Army’s budget documents read.
Hypersonic projects within the Army have been kept relatively close, and little about the effort is public.
The plan, according to the Army, is to integrate common hypersonic glide bodies with two-stage boosters into canisters to create an all-up round prototype.
The Army would like to spend $228 million in FY20 to conduct a systems requirement review and start a preliminary design review.
A total of $181 million is requested in FY21 to move through the preliminary design review, which will end in the first quarter of FY22.
In FY22, the Army will conduct a critical design review and then begin testing all-up rounds at the end of the fiscal year into FY23. The service has budgeted $137 million in FY22 to accomplish those tasks.
The service will then move into full-system flight tests in FY23 using a $359 million budget.
While the hypersonic weapons effort is not resident in the Army’s LRPF Cross-Functional Team, the CFT is closely watching the development, according to its director, Col. John Rafferty.
The service established CFTs as part of Army Futures Command, a new four-star command stood up last year to tackle the service’s top modernization priorities. Each CFT focuses on a different priority.
The Army’s new hypersonic program office will own the program, but the LRPF CFT will be “joined at the hip” with the office as well as Space and Missile Defense Command as the missile is developed. So many are involved because the technology will be useful in future development within the LRPF portfolio and is part of a “layered standoff” capability needed against future threats that the CFT is developing as a concept, Rafferty told Defense News in a March 19 interview.
Mobile medium-range missile
Over the next five budget cycles, the Army will spend nearly $1 billion on another new missile program it’s calling the mobile medium-range missile.
The missile has been called a variety of names in conversation, including the intermediate-range missile, the INDOPACOM missile and the land-based cruise missile; but its development is in response to a need in the Indo-Pacific area of operations to address a medium-range (1,000-kilometer) gap in capability there.
It’s unclear under what program office the MMRM would live, but it’s possible the LRPF CFT could host its development down the road.
According to the budget documents, the Army is developing the missile to provide the joint force commander a lower-cost strategic capability “that can attack specific threat vulnerabilities in order to penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit in the strategic and deep maneuver areas,” and it mitigates an “extremely high risk” capability gap.
The Army is requesting $20 million to get started in FY20. The service plans to develop acquisition and contract strategies, identify system requirements, and assess technology and component maturity.
In FY21, the service plans to move into the technology-maturation and risk-reduction phase, which will continue into the outyears beyond the Army’s five-year plan.
The service also plans to reach a milestone A decision point in FY21 to enter into the technology- and component-maturation phases.
An initial design review is scheduled for the end of FY22, and a preliminary design review at the end of FY24.
The Army is looking for its next missile for a medium-range air and missile defense system currently under development.
Though the service hasn’t chosen a new radar for the system, Northrop Grumman is continuing to build the brains of the system — the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System — which is expected to reach initial operational capability in FY22.
The Army’s legacy system — the Patriot air and missile defense system — fires a family of Patriot Advanced Capability missiles as well as the Guided Enhanced Missile used to defeat tactical ballistic missiles.
Not much is budgeted across the five-year funding plan — $232.9 million — but the program will kick off in FY20, using $8 million to start a competitive selection of a future interceptor for its Integrated Air and Missile Defense system.
The service will conduct an analysis of alternatives in FY20 and plans to use other transaction authorities — a special contracting mechanism — to work on competitive concept developments.
The Army will make a materiel development decision in the second quarter of FY20, and will then take a year to conduct the analysis of alternatives.
The service will work on concepts over a two-and-a-half-year period, ending in the beginning of FY23. The service will simultaneously produce a future interceptor capabilities development document.
A competitive request for proposals will drop in midway through FY22 with a competitive downselect in the second quarter of FY23, when the Army will also reach a technology maturation decision point.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.