According to Defense News, the Army is pursuing yet another medium-range missile for land and sea strikes after a program to upgrade the service’s aging Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) hit an unexpected technical snag. The publication noted the Army’s Public Affairs Office was non-specific as to the problem.
Robyn Mack, a spokesperson for the Army Futures Command’s Research and Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, told Defense News the service had conducted a study earlier this year designed to “examine future strategic fires capabilities and provide emerging insights to inform procurement options and future materiel capability requirements.”
That study found a near-term need for a medium-range missile, but Mack said little other information was available for the public on the prototyping effort.
The ATACMS is due to ultimately be replaced by the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), but that isn’t expected to enter service until at least 2024, especially now that missile maker Raytheon has left the development program.
When the US left the INF Treaty in August 2019, it immediately set about developing and testing new missiles with ranges that would have been hindered by the treaty. The 1987 agreement between the US and Russia - then part of the Soviet Union - banned land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers in a bid to reduce tensions created by quick-strike missiles capable of delivering a nuclear attack in between six and eight minutes.
However, China was never party to the agreement and continued developing a slew of weapons with such ranges, enabling it to severely outclass the US in this field. Washington also claimed Russia had been secretly violating the INF Treaty by building missile systems with ranges banned by the agreement, but Moscow denied the accusations and countered that it was actually the US breaking the treaty by building Aegis Ashore missile systems.
According to Lockheed, the PrSM’s maximum range is 499 kilometers, but Defense News noted the gap the Army is looking to fill involves missiles with ranges near 1,000 kilometers.