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US Army’s new Precision Strike Missile almost ready to deploy

Nov 24, 2023

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The U.S. Army’s Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is the gold standard for modern precision strike artillery. When it comes to staying on top, however, what works today won’t work tomorrow. So, the Army is developing a new long-range weapon called the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM).

Like the ATACMS they are replacing, PrSMs are ground-launched tactical ballistic missiles. The Army said the new missile just marked another major milestone in its development — successfully completing what’s called the Minimum Short-Range Qualification Test. It’s an exercise designed to push the missile’s guidance system to its limits, forcing the weapon to lock on to its target quickly.

Short-range launches also give the missile less space to maneuver. Sharper turns and quick corrections are harder on the missile’s components than a smooth flight. The test also proved PrSM’s structural integrity as well.

The PrSM shares some similarities to the missile it’s replacing, but it is a significant step forward for the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires program. The PrSM’s planned range will be between 37 and 403 miles — more than double the effective range of ATACMS.

The PrSM can also be fired from the M270 and HIMARS launchers, like ATACMS. The PrSM pods hold two missiles compared to the one missile launch pods ATACMS use.

The new PrSM features an open-architecture and modular design for easy upgrading. The Army said the initial tranche of PrSMs will be armed with an optimized unitary warhead designed to achieve the same effects as ATACMS. PrSM will also comply with the United States’ cluster munitions policies.

After some more testing, the Army says it plans to equip the PrSM with what it calls enhanced lethality payloads. The missile will also be able to engage targets on land or at sea, a prospect which is piquing the interest of the United States Marine Corps.

The Marines are rethinking power projection in the Pacific and are looking at all sorts of ways to put as many missiles on as many islands as possible. The Marines also use HIMARS launchers, and containerized versions of the PrSM are in development. Both would go a long way in creating a relatively inexpensive layered defense in the Pacific.

Once the PrSM is operational, U.S. allies will likely see some benefits as well. The missile was developed in coordination with Australia. The Australian government wants to establish some long-range strike capabilities of its own to counter China.

It’s likely Ukraine is also anxiously awaiting the PrSM’s arrival, but not because its armed forces will get any of the missiles. Once the PrSM is deployed, many military analysts say the U.S. won’t need its stockpile of ATACMS anymore. Ukraine, on the other hand, could use every long-range weapon it can get.

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Robertson: THE US ARMY’S TACTICAL MISSILE SYSTEM IS THE GOLD STANDARD FOR MODERN PRECISION STRIKE ARTILLERY. WHEN IT COMES TO STAYING ON TOP, THOUGH, WHAT WORKS TODAY WON’T WORK TOMORROW. SO, THE ARMY IS DEVELOPING A NEW LONG-RANGE WEAPON CALLED THE PRECISION STRIKE MISSILE.

LIKE THE ATACMS THEY ARE REPLACING, PrSMs ARE GROUND-LAUNCHED TACTICAL BALLISTIC MISSILES. THE ARMY SAYS THE NEW MISSILE JUST MARKED ANOTHER MAJOR MILESTONE IN ITS DEVELOPMENT; SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETING WHAT’S CALLED THE MINIMUM SHORT-RANGE QUALIFICATION TEST. IT’S AN EXERCISE DESIGNED TO PUSH THE MISSILE’S GUIDANCE SYSTEM TO ITS LIMITS, FORCING THE WEAPON TO LOCK ON TO ITS TARGET QUICKLY.

SHORT-RANGE LAUNCHES ALSO GIVE THE MISSILE LESS SPACE TO MANEUVER. SHARPER TURNS AND QUICK CORRECTIONS ARE HARDER ON THE MISSILE’S COMPONENTS THAN A SMOOTH FLIGHT. SO, THE TEST ALSO PROVED PrSM’S STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY AS WELL.

THE PrSM SHARES SOME SIMILARITIES TO THE MISSILE IT’S REPLACING, BUT IT MARKS A SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD FOR THE ARMY’S LONG-RANGE PRECISION FIRES PROGRAM. THE PrSM’s PLANNED RANGE WILL BE BETWEEN 37 AND 403 MILES, MORE THAN DOUBLE THE EFFECTIVE RANGE OF ATACMS.

THE PrSM CAN ALSO BE FIRED FROM THE M270 AND HIMARS LAUNCHERS, LIKE ATACMS. BUT THE PrSM PODS HOLD TWO MISSILES COMPARED TO THE ONE MISSILE LAUNCH PODS ATACMS USE.

LIKE SO MANY MODERN WEAPONS SYSTEMS WE’VE DISCUSSED AT STRAIGHT ARROW, THE NEW PrSM FEATURES AN OPEN ARCHITECTURE AND MODULAR DESIGN FOR EASY UPGRADING. THE ARMY SAYS THE INITIAL TRANCHE OF PrSMs WILL BE ARMED WITH AN OPTIMIZED UNITARY WARHEAD DESIGNED TO ACHIEVE THE SAME EFFECTS AS ATACMS. PrSM ALSO COMPLIES WITH THE US’ CLUSTER MUNITIONS POLICIES.

AFTER SOME MORE TESTING, THE ARMY SAYS IT PLANS TO EQUIP THE PrSM WITH WHAT IT CALLS ENHANCED LETHALITY PAYLOADS AS WELL. THE MISSILE WILL ALSO BE ABLE TO ENGAGE TARGETS ON LAND OR AT SEA, A PROSPECT WHICH IS PIQUING THE INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS.

THE MARINES ARE RETHINKING POWER PROJECTION IN THE PACIFIC AND ARE LOOKING AT ALL SORTS OF WAYS TO PUT AS MANY MISSILES ON AS MANY ISLANDS AS POSSIBLE. THE MARINES ALSO USE HIMARS LAUNCHERS, AND CONTAINERIZED VERSIONS OF THE PrSM ARE IN DEVELOPMENT. BOTH WOULD GO A LONG WAY IN CREATING A RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE LAYERED DEFENSE IN THE PACIFIC.

ONCE THE PrSM IS OPERATIONAL, US ALLIES WILL LIKELY SEE SOME BENEFITS AS WELL. THE MISSILE WAS DEVELOPED IN COORDINATION WITH AUSTRALIA. THE GOVERNMENT THERE WANTS TO ESTABLISH SOME LONG-RANGE STRIKE CAPABILITIES OF ITS OWN TO COUNTER CHINA.

IT’S LIKELY UKRAINE IS ALSO ANXIOUSLY AWAITING THE PrSM’s ARRIVAL, BUT NOT BECAUSE ITS ARMED FORCES WILL GET ANY OF THE MISSILES. NO, ONCE THE PrSM IS DEPLOYED, MANY MILITARY ANALYSTS SAY THE US WON’T NEED ITS STOCKPILE OF ATACMS ANYMORE. UKRAINE, ON THE OTHER HAND, COULD USE EVERY LONG-RANGE WEAPON IT CAN GET.