Home Defense US Army Fires Up New Era with First Delivery of PrSM Missile

US Army Fires Up New Era with First Delivery of PrSM Missile

The United States Army stated on December 8, 2023, that it had received the first batch of the new Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) in the initial manufacturing configuration, Increment 1 Early Operational Capability. Lockheed Martin’s high-precision “shorter-range” missiles will likely replace the US Army’s operational tactical ATACMS missiles.

The PrSM missile is fired from modified M142 HIMARS and M270A2 MLRS ground-based rocket launchers. The M270A2 MLRS launcher is specifically engineered to transport four PrSM missiles instead of the two ATACMS. The M142 HIMARS launcher accommodates two PrSM missiles rather than a single ATACMS. Although the PrSM missile’s official range is 499 kilometres, its actual range is estimated to be at least 550 kilometres and possibly 700-800 kilometres.

Based on publicly accessible data, the solid-fuel PrSM missile has the following dimensions: length of 4 metres, body diameter of 430 mm, and payload mass of 91 kg; the GMLRS missile’s warhead may have been used in its creation. In the initial Increment 1 configuration, an inertial-satellite guidance system is used. In contrast, the next PrSM variant, Increment 2, which features a combined multi-channel homing head and is being developed under the Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile (LBASM) programme, has been in progress since 2020. This improvement will empower the missile to intercept and engage targets in motion, predominantly air and maritime defence systems.

PrSM programme

The US Army has been working on the PrSM programme since 2016. The program’s objective is to develop a high-precision next-generation missile with an initial declared range of up to 499 kilometres. This missile is intended to replace the family of American operational-tactical Lockheed Martin MGM-140 ATACMS missiles currently in service.

Launch of the new American Lockheed Martin PrSM - Precision Strike Missile - missile from a combat vehicle of the M142 HIMARS missile system
Launch of the new American Lockheed Martin PrSM – Precision Strike Missile – missile from a combat vehicle of the M142 HIMARS missile system. (c) US Army.

There was a contract-based competition between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to develop the PrSM missile. In June of 2017, the US Army granted contracts to both companies that were worth approximately 116 million dollars. Flight tests for both competitors were supposed to start in July 2019; however, they were postponed because of the lengthy development of various subsystems by subcontractors. 

In the end, Lockheed Martin was the first to commence missile testing; on December 10, 2019, it executed the initial test launch of its PrSM variant. Following contractual obligations, Raytheon developed a missile bearing the designation DeepStrike as part of the PrSM programme. However, the commencement of tests for this missile has been repeatedly postponed and remains uncommenced. Before this, the deadline was set for the initial quarter of 2020. The US Army determined in March 2020 that Raytheon’s continued participation in the PrSM programme was impractical, leaving Lockheed Martin as the program’s solitary prime contractor. Raytheon cited “technical issues” as the reason for the decision.

In November 2023, PrSM qualification tests were effectively executed at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Beginning in 2025, the US Army expects to attain Initial Operational Capability (IOC) through the distribution of PrSM Increment 1. Furthermore, they aim to acquire the upgraded Increment 2 variant in 2027, which will have the capability to engage mobile maritime targets and ground-based air defence systems. Australia formally joined the PrSM Increment 2 programme in July 2021.

The potential inclusion of lethal payloads in the subsequent PrSM Increment 3 variant is under consideration. Regarding the PrSM Increment 4, alternatively known as Long Range Manoeuvrable Fires (LRMF), which could potentially be operational before Increment 3, the US Army is investigating the feasibility of developing a novel missile form factor, potentially featuring an innovative propulsion system, with the capability to engage targets situated at altitudes surpassing one thousand kilometres. This innovative propulsion system may function as an air-breathing ramjet engine. The US Army awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, and the Northrop Grumman consortium in early 2023 to develop a propulsion system and missile form factor for the PrSM Increment 4 (LRMF) variant.

In the US defence budget for the fiscal year 2024, $377.8 million is allocated to acquire 110 PrSM Increment 1 missiles. Further, there is authorization to enter multi-year contracts to deliver 1100 missiles. Additionally, the United States Army must immediately present a strategy for increasing production to 400 missiles annually. An additional $5 million has been designated to develop manoeuvring submunitions for PrSM, most likely in preparation for the Increment 3 iteration.



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