As the focus of the US Army shifts from low intensity conflicts against guerrillas, non-state actors, and terrorists to near peers like Russia, China and North Korea which have mechanized ground forces, the Army is trying to boost its conventional firepower, both in lethality and range.
The United States Army is looking to replace older, Cold War era missiles with new ones capable of hitting targets up to three times farther than before. The new missile will also be more compact, allowing twice as many to fit into existing launchers, and feature precision guidance.
“We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today, we need rockets that fire as far as missiles, and we need missiles that push out to 499 kilometers and beyond,” Gen. Robert Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, told an Association of the U.S. Army audience in Huntsville, Alabama.
The US Army has completed the preliminary design review (PDR) of the new surface-to-surface missile known as DeepStrike. Developed by Raytheon, the DeepStrike missile fulfils the US Army’s Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) requirement. During the PDR, the new missile was evaluated on all of its characteristics, including advanced propulsion system, lethality package and guidance system.
In 2017, the U.S. Army has awarded Raytheon a contract to continue developing a new long range tactical missile system. Known as DeepStrike, the missile will replace the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS. The missile will be able to strike targets up to 309 miles away with precision, including moving targets both on land at sea. Raytheon’s contract is worth $116.4 million and will result in a series of live fire demonstrations in 2019. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Raytheon believes it can deliver the missile ahead of schedule.
That would make the Army capable of fulfilling PACOM head Admiral Harry Harris’ dream of getting the Army back into the business of sinking ships. The idea is that in any future air-land-sea conflict, particularly in the Pacific, Army forces could land on an island or coastline, bring DeepStrike with them, and immediately project a 309 mile “no-go” zone against enemy targets on both land and sea.
DeepStrike Long Range Precision Fires Missile ( LRPF)
Thee DeepStrike missile was originally developed for the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires program. Raytheon’s DeepStrike missile packs four missiles into each M270 and two missiles into HIMARS, doubling the number of missiles available for action.
With an ability to target threats at 60 km to 499 km (309) miles away, DeepStrike missile is more forceful and can fly long distances rapidly when compared to ATACMS. The missile’s range is a hard cap imposed by the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibits the U.S. and Russia from fielding tactical missiles like DeepStrike with ranges of more than 310 miles.
The DeepStrike missile is primarily meant to attack fixed ground locations, like helicopter staging areas or hardened bunkers. One interesting feature set: DeepStrike will likely gain the ability to hit moving targets on land and at sea. Last year, defense news site Breaking Defense pointed out that ATACMS is getting upgrades to do both, making it in part an anti-ship missile. While DeepStrike does not directly have a moving target requirement, it is more broadly required to do everything ATACMS does.
Raytheon is developing a long-range missile for the Army’s Precision Strike Missile requirement that will allow the Army to field twice as many missiles on its existing launch vehicles. Thin and sleek, it will fire two missiles from a single weapons pod, slashing the cost. The new missile also flies farther, packs more punch and has a better guidance system than the current weapon. In 2018, the company carried out the launch pod missile container integration into the army’s M270 multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) and M142 high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS).
Drawing from experience in missile defense and precision weapons, Raytheon has developed a missile that is capable and cost-effective. “One system can fire twice as many missiles, twice as fast, and it’s much cheaper because it uses one launcher with two missiles,” Horman said.
“The Long Range Precision Fires Missile will attack, neutralize, suppress and destroy targets using missile-delivered indirect precision fires. LRPF provides field artillery units with 24/7/365 long-range and deep-strike capability while supporting brigade, division, corps, Army, theater, Joint and Coalition forces as well as Marine Corps air-to-ground task forces in full, limited or expeditionary operations,” Dan O’boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office, Missiles & Space, told Scout Warrior.
An upgrade becomes even more urgent considering how quickly threats are evolving around the world. “Adversaries are already equipped with long-range weapons that could inflict substantial damage at distances beyond the Army’s striking power,” said former Army colonel John Weinzettle, now a program manager in Raytheon’s Advanced Missile Systems business.
Because current missiles have restrictions in size, payload effectiveness and range, a simple life-extension program cannot address long-term threats. Despite being a surface-to-surface weapon, the DeepStrike missile draws innovation from other Raytheon programs. “It is very similar to a lot of the missile designs we’ve done in the shipboard and the air defense roles,” Weinzettle said, citing Standard Missile-3 and Standard Missile-6 as examples. “We are bringing technology from both of those programs to bear on DeepStrike.”
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