The Army will consider increasing the maximum range for its future Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) from 499 to potentially 800 kilometers, the service’s lead for long-range precision fires (LRPF) said Tuesday, with plans to study adjusting requirements following initial flight tests later this year.

Col. John Rafferty, director of the LRPF cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference, following the dissolution of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, the Army has lifted the cap on exploring previously banned ranges for PrSM, which is set to replace the legacy ATACMS missiles.

Lockheed Martin’s Precision Strike Missile (PrSM)

“After our first couple of flight tests, which will take place in November and December, with the two competitors, then we’ll look at how they’re able to validate the models that will show the maximum capability of these missiles. And then we’ll look at the objective range to beyond 500 kilometers,” Rafferty said. “We haven’t changed that yet, but we definitely aren’t limited by it anymore. And we’re pursuing the extended ranges beyond what was in the INF treaty.”

Raytheon [RTN] and Lockheed Martin [LMT], which builds ATACMS, are both vying for PrSM, which is headed to a downselect decision in 2021 ahead of initial fielding in 2023. 

The CFT will study how far to push the PrSM maximum range following initial test shots at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, beginning with Raytheon in November then Lockheed Martin in December. Two subsequent tests are then scheduled under this phase for spring 2020.

Rafferty noted that the pushing beyond 499 km may require adjustments to the current considerations for PrSM’s propulsion capability.

“Extended range propulsion is a big investment for us. It’s important to remember that the 499 km restriction wasn’t just about putting the capability in the field, it also was where we were putting our dollars for S&T. So no one was really looking at those extended range spaces. But what we’ve learned over the last year from the initial investments was what we thought might be 600-650 really could get out to 750 even 800 km,” Rafferty said.

Becky Withrow, director of business development for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, told reporters Wednesday at the AUSA conference in Washington, the company has not received changes to PrSM’s specific requirements and adjustments to their offering would depend on how far the Army is looking to push the weapon’s range.

“If, for instance, they want to go just a little bit farther we’ll probably figure out how to tweak the existing performance of the current baseline missile. If, however, they decide they want to go a lot longer then you’ll have to go look at some new rocket motor propulsion technologies and figure out how you could get there,” Withrow said. “When the Army picks a number, we’ll figure out how we get there.”

Withrow added that Lockheed Martin anticipates the Army will want to field PrSM with the current baseline range capability before working with the eventual manufacturer to adjust range considerations in the future.

“I suspect that we’re going to field a baseline capability, because the current baseline capability goes farther than anything the Army has right now in a surface-to-surface missile, and range is critical to what they need to do,” Withrow said. “I’m assuming that as they figure out what range they want we’ll start to work toward a modernization of the existing program to give them the capability they need for the future.”