Asia Defense | Security

US Army Conducts Third Test of Precision Strike Missile

The test validated the missile’s performance at short ranges.

Ankit Panda
US Army Conducts Third Test of Precision Strike Missile
Credit: U.S. Army photo

The U.S. Army recently carried out a successful test of a precision strike missile (PrSM). The test, the third in the series for the PrSM, took place last Thursday and involved testing the missile’s short-range performance and precision, with the projectile flying over a range of 85 kilometers.

The test took place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a major proving grounds for new U.S. weapons systems. Gen. John M. Murray, commander of the U.S. Army Futures Command, said the test missile “performed perfectly [at] … a very nominal flight trajectory.” The success brought the ongoing testing record of PrSM to “three for three.” Two previous tests took place in December and March 2019.

In a statement, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, said the test was the “the shortest and most challenging yet” for the system. Explaining the challenge of a shorter-range test, Rafferty said that the missile “has to start tipping as soon as it comes out of the launcher. We started off with 240 kilometers, went to 180, and now we’re at 85.” Last week’s test lasted around “91 seconds or so,” Rafferty said.

PrSM is designed for longer ranges. Though no official upper bound is published, previously available estimates suggested the missile would be capable of flight to ranges of at least 499 kilometers. That number was likely based on the limits proscribed for ground-launched missiles in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, under which neither the United States nor Russia were permitted to possess ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The U.S. and Russia both left that treaty last year. As a result, PrSM may see testing to longer ranges in the future.

The missile is designed to replace the existing MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System or ATACMS, a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile. PrSM will be a smaller missile and will be compatible with the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launchers.

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Further testing of the PrSM is expected to continue tomorrow. According to a U.S. Army statement, testing in 2021 will involve sequential firing of two PrSM units as well as longer range testing. “Next year, three additional long-range tests are set to push the PrSM even further. In all, the Army will fire four PrSM missiles in 2021, with one test firing two missiles in sequence,” the statement noted.