The general appearance of the PrSM rocket from Lockheed Martin
Since 2016, in the interests of the US ground forces, a promising operational-tactical missile system Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) has been developed. Its first modification will go into trial operation in 2023 and will be able to hit stationary ground targets. In the future, it is planned to complete the development and put into service a new version of the PrSM with a homing missile. She will be able to hit moving objects, incl. ships.
From idea to project
The development of the PrSM project by several leading enterprises began in 2016-17. In parallel, two competing missile projects are being created, one of which will later be adopted. The PrSM is expected to replace the outdated ATACMS missile in arsenals and give the ground forces new capabilities.
According to current plans, the new OTRK in the first modification will be able to attack stationary targets with known coordinates. The firing range will reach 500 km – at the time of the development of the technical task, the restrictions of the INF Treaty were in force. Such a complex will become a more convenient, accurate and long-range replacement for the old ATACMS.
In the future, after 2023, it is proposed to complete a deep modernization of the PrSM with the replacement of all major components. First of all, they will improve the engine, which will increase the range to 700-800 km. It is also proposed to use a seeker with the ability to independently search for a target. At the moment, there is no weapon with similar characteristics and capabilities in the US arsenals.
At the testing stage
In December 2019, Lockheed Martin conducted the first test launch of its version of the PrSM product. The rocket was launched from the TPK aboard the M142 HIMARS MLRS and flew 240 km. The shooting was called successful, although the goals and objectives of the launch were not specified. With the first shooting, Lockheed Martin outstripped its main competitor, Raytheon. The next test launch took place in March this year.
First start-up of PrSM, December 2019
In early June 2020, on the basis of one of the laboratories of the US Army, the first tests of the GOS for the future modification of the rocket were carried out. The prototype was suspended under the wing of an aircraft flying laboratory, after which it performed a flight according to a given program. During the flight, the seeker was able to detect conditional targets on land and on water. Army representatives clarified some of the details of the project, and also said that the prototype used only half of its capabilities.
New tests should take place in the near future. In them, the GOS will work “100%” and for a typical goal. After that, the third test of this kind will take place, based on the results of which conclusions will be drawn. The next stage of work will be the introduction of the head into the design of the rocket. As previously reported, such events will end no earlier than 2023-25.
In the statements of officials, in press releases and on the resources of the competing developers, enough information has already appeared to draw up a general technical appearance of the promising OTRK PrSM. Obviously, in the future, we should wait for the publication of new data and clarification of the existing picture.
Like its predecessor, ATACMS, the PrSM complex is based on the serial M270 and M142 multiple launch rocket launchers. On the standard MLRS installation, it is proposed to place transport and launch containers with four missiles, on HIMARS – with two. The procedures for deploying into position, preparing for firing and launching are not fundamentally different.
Second tests, March 2020
The PrSM missiles from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are single-stage products with a cylindrical hull, pointed nose fairing and folding tail rudders. In terms of dimensions, they should be significantly different from ATACMS, due to which the serial launcher will use twice as much ammunition.
In the basic version, both missiles receive a solid-propellant engine with increased characteristics, due to which it is required to provide a firing range of 60 to 499 km. At the same time, according to various sources, a further increase in the range is possible without fundamental processing of the rocket.
The first version of the rocket will receive an autopilot with inertial and satellite navigation, with the help of which the attack of targets with known coordinates will be provided. In terms of combat equipment, the PrSM should not be inferior to the serial ATACMS products, which carry a 227-kg monoblock warhead.
The next modification of the PrSM will receive a seeker, which is now being tested. It is reported that the experimental seeker includes a radar (probably active) and infrared component. It is also possible that inertial and satellite systems will be used. The missile will enter the target area using navigation aids. The initial search for the target is assigned to the RGOS, and targeting in the final phase of the flight will be performed using the IKGOS.
Thus, in 2023, the US Army will receive an OTRK with a ballistic missile with a range of up to 500 km, and after 2025 it will have to master a complex with a quasi-ballistic ammunition with a range of up to 700-800 km. The first PrSM version will be a replacement for ATACMS missiles, which favorably differ in basic tactical and technical characteristics and combat capabilities.
ATACMS rocket launch from the M270 launcher
The next modification of the rocket looks much more interesting, for which key components are already being worked out. Precision Strike Missile with increased range and double seeker will be able to hit point and / or moving targets of all kinds. With the help of such a missile, it will be possible to attack ground objects, convoys of vehicles and combat vehicles, and even ships. A launch range of up to 800 km will give serious advantages in the preparation and conduct of a strike. It is important that such weapons go to the missile units of the ground forces.
In 2023-25. the US Army plans to receive several promising weapons of various kinds at once. Together with the first PrSM battery, a division of self-propelled howitzers M1299, the first medium-range missiles of a new type, the LRHW hypersonic complex, etc. are expected. Some of these developments are intended for missile forces and artillery.
Brigadier General John Rafferty, Director of Advanced Systems Modernization Command, recently indicated that the PrSM OTRK will become the main weapon of the army’s missile units in the future. In this case, the complex will merge into a larger weapons system, which includes all new developments.
The presence of several complexes for different purposes will allow the deployment to be carried out with the greatest conformity to plans and tasks. It will be possible to concentrate systems of different classes in one area, and the enemy will not know what opportunities the garrison has – until he conducts reconnaissance.
Necessity and opportunity
The need to replace ATACMS missiles, which are obsolete morally and physically, has ripened for a long time. In the mid-tenths, it was decided to phase out such weapons in favor of a promising model being developed as part of the new Precision Strike Missile program.
MLRS HIMARS uses ATACMS missile
Modern technologies make it possible to improve the performance characteristics of the PrSM in comparison with the predecessor rocket, and the range is not limited to the original 499 km. In addition, opportunities have been found for creating a GOS, which sharply increases the combat qualities and potential of the product.
It is curious that not only technical advances, but also a change in international obligations, allowed to raise the characteristics. Due to the current INF Treaty, the range of the missile being developed was limited to 500 km. After the collapse of the contract, you can create a new modification with higher characteristics.
Thus, a rather interesting situation has developed by now. It combined objective necessity, technical and technological capabilities, and then the absence of legal restrictions. Experimental missiles are already becoming the result of these processes, which in the future are capable of entering service.
Which of the proposed projects will receive Pentagon approval and go into service is unknown. However, it is already clear that Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, allied enterprises and the US Army have every opportunity to radically modernize missile units. As a result, in the second half of the twenties, MLRS and HIMARS will acquire new fighting qualities that can cause serious concern.