The Buzz

By 2027, the Army Will Have a Missile That Could Wipe Out Anyone (Think Russia or China)

Long-range surface-to-surface fires, many contend, could likely be of great significance against an adversary such as Russia - a country known to possess among most advanced air defenses in the world. Such a scenario might make it difficult for the US to quickly establish the kind of air supremacy needed to launch sufficient air attacks. As a result, it is conceivable that LRPF could provide strategically vital stand-off attack options for commanders moving to advance on enemy terrain.

The Army plans to shoot off prototypes of a new, high-tech, long-range land rocket designed to destroy targets as far away as 500 kilometers, nearly three times the range of existing weapons.

The anticipated "shoot-off," to include weapon prototypes from both Raytheon and Lockheed, is slated to take place in roughly the 2020 timeframe, Army developers said.

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The emerging Long Range Precision Fires, slated to be operational by 2027, draws upon next generation guidance technology and weapons construction as part of an effort to engineer a sleek, high-speed, first-of-its-kind long-range ground launched attack missile able to pinpoint and destroy enemy bunkers, helicopter staging areas, troop concentrations and other fixed-location targets from as much as three times the range of existing weapons, service officials said.

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"Ultimately, it is about out-ranging the enemy. We are not necessarily guaranteed aerial superiority, and this extends our attack range much further out to be able to strike enemy logistics targets, supply nodes, force concentrations or command and control centers," Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch, Deputy Program Executive Officer, Missiles and Space, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

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While Rasch did not specify any particular Russian weapons or threats per say, he did explain that Russia's use of combined arms tactics in Ukraine was by no means lost on US Army weapons developers. Specifically, he mentioned that Russia's use of combined electronic warfare, cyber attacks, drones and long-range fires introduces a particularly challenging new kind of threat.

"It is utilizing these things in a combined arms aspect that is most worrisome. Anyone of those capabilities by themselves would be fairly easy when you start combining those effects -- cyber, followed by drones followed by EW and long-range fires -- it changes the scope of the battlefield," Rasch said. "This forces us to look outside of the ground arena we are in and work on multi-domain war with the other services."

Long-range surface-to-surface fires, many contend, could likely be of great significance against an adversary such as Russia - a country known to possess among most advanced air defenses in the world. Such a scenario might make it difficult for the US to quickly establish the kind of air supremacy needed to launch sufficient air attacks. As a result, it is conceivable that LRPF could provide strategically vital stand-off attack options for commanders moving to advance on enemy terrain.

In addition, there may also be some instances where a long-range cruise missile - such as a submarine or ship-fired Tomahawk - may not be available; in this instance, LRPF could fill a potential tactical gap in attack plans.

Raytheon and Lockheed recently won a potential $116 million deal to develop the weapon through a technological maturation and risk reduction phase, company officials said.  Moving Forward, Rasch said the Army plans to down select to one vendor as it moves into the next developmental phase of the weapon.

Raytheon refers to its new weapon as the DeepStrike missile.

“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.

A key aspect of the strategic impetus for the long-range LRPF weapon is to allow ground units to attack from safer distances without themselves being vulnerable to enemy fire, Army officials explained.

The new weapon is designed to replace the Army’s current aging 1980’s era MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, a ground-launched missile able to fire at least 160 kilometers.

LRPF missile will have a newer explosive warhead and guidance technology aimed at providing an all-weather, 24/7, precision surface-to-surface deep-strike capability, O’Boyle added.

“The LRPF will replace the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) capability, which is impacted by the age of the ATACMS inventory and the cluster munition policy that removes all M39 and M39A1 ATACMS from the inventory after 2018,” O’boyle added.

In addition, the LRPF will fire from two existing Army launchers, the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, O’Boyle added.

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