The U.S. Army said it fired its newly fielded Precision Strike Missile from the Pacific island of Palau and engaged a moving target at sea, marking the first time the weapon has been used outside of American-based testing sites.

The first set of Precision Strike Missiles, or PrSM, were delivered to the Army in December 2023 to begin replacing the legacy Army Tactical Missile System.

Soldiers from the 3rd Multidomain Task Force and the 1-181 Artillery Regiment of the Tennessee National Guard participating in Valiant Shield – a major U.S. Pacific Command exercise – launched two PrSMs from the Army’s Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML) and “was able to engage a moving maritime target in conjunction with other joint assets,” the Army said in a statement.

The participation of PrSM and AML in the Combined Joint Live Fire “SINKEX” in Palau is “a significant milestone in the Army’s development of long-range fires capabilities,” according to the statement.

The AML launcher, still in prototype form, will be able to operate in a convoy and use autonomous way point navigation, tele-operation and remote launcher turret and fire control operations.

The missile — which can launch from both the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the M270A2 Multiple Launch Rocket System — will be critical to the service as it seeks a deep-strike capability that can counter Russian and Chinese technologies. Both European- and Indo-Pacific-based U.S. commanders have been eager to receive the capability that can hit targets at standoff locations greater than 400 kilometers.

Hitting a moving target at sea from land is extremely challenging. For example, the Army’s HIMARS rockets missed a ship during a live-fire exercise off the coast of a Philippine training facility near Subic Bay in 2023. The service identified challenges with targeting because the munitions were not able to easily account for drift. Drifting at sea is a complex problem because ships can move 30 to 40 meters in the time it takes to lock in a target and fire a munition.

A PrSM with a ship-killing seeker would make the task much easier.

Lockheed development

The program originally began as a competition between Lockheed Martin and RTX (formerly Raytheon Technologies), but the latter struggled to get the weapon ready for flight tests during the program’s technology maturation and risk reduction phase. The Army and RTX mutually decided to end the effort in March 2020.

Lockheed continued alone in development and flight testing for the first increment. The Army approved the PrSM program to move into the engineering and manufacturing development phase in September 2021, awarding the company a $62 million contract for early operational capability production.

The service again awarded Lockheed another $158 million a year later for additional early operational-capability PrSMs.

The Army is planning add-ons, including an enhanced seeker to better defeat moving targets at sea as well as technology to provide increased lethality and extended range. The priority for the PrSM in the near term is to pursue a maritime, ship-killing capability.

Lockheed and an RTX and Northrop Grumman team will compete for a subsequent phase of the PrSM program. The Army awarded RTX a $97.7 million contract in February 2023 to advance its design for a Long Range Maneuverable Fires program, planned to become the PrSM Increment 4 effort.

Lockheed won a $33 million contract to develop capability for the increment around the same time. That increment focuses on dramatically extending the range of PrSM, possibly from its planned 499 kilometers (310 miles) to more than double that distance.

America’s 2019 withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia has allowed the U.S. Army to develop the missile to fly farther. The treaty had prevented the development of missiles with ranges between 499 kilometers and 5,000 kilometers.

In October 2021, the Army conducted a long-range flight test of PrSM that is believed to have exceeded the current range requirement of 499 kilometers.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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