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This article was Originally Published on Aug 01, 2002 in Volume: 1  Issue: 4

Missile Programs Support a Changing Army

New systems platforms will change the traditional concept of combat operations.

By Scott R. Gourley

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The recent Association of the United States Army (AUSA) technology symposium served to highlight a wide range of Army missile activities conducted in support of the ongoing "Army transformation" process.

The well-known "trident chart" frequently represents that process, first outlined by Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki in October 1999. Here the tridents prongs represents Legacy Force activities, Interim Force activities and Objective Force activities.

Legacy Force Applications

Legacy Force transformation activities are currently focused on the recapitalization of a selected number of critical weapon systems projected to remain in Army inventories well into the foreseeable future.

Although the current list of "recap" candidates has decreased to 17 systems (down from 21 recap candidate systems last year), it includes both the Patriot missile system and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

In the MLRS example, recap activities are focused on enhancements to the existing M270/M270A1 series launcher, while parallel munitions development efforts hold the promise of expanding the utility of that launcher in future operations. One key recap enhancement to the M270A1 MLRS involves an upgrade to the launcher's mechanical system.

"It's called the Improved Launcher Mechanical System [ILMS], which helps us to elevate and slew the launcher," Ben Collins, Lockheed Martin business development manager, explained.

Briefing on the MLRS and related program activities, Collins said, "We've been able to take that elevation and slew time down from over a minute to just seconds. We actually decreased it from 73 seconds: From about a minute and a half we're down to just 16 seconds. That was done purposefully for survivability of the launcher system." 

Current plans include the enhancement of 327 launchers with new ILMS platforms, just starting to enter the field.

Additional system enhancements include Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation capabilities that will allow the firing platform to initialize future generations of GPS-guided smart munitions and smart sub-munitions.

A relatively new derivative of the MLRS, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), places a single pod of MLRS munitions on the back of a 5-ton truck.

The system features C-130 aircraft roll on/roll off capabilities for ease of both strategic and tactical deployment, along with GPS navigation to facilitate the employment of future generations of smart munitions.

Although initially developed as part of the Rapid Force Projection Initiative (RFPI)/Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), HIMARS is uniquely positioned to span all three points of the Army's transformation trident.

"We've taken those M270A1 improvements and applied them for the HIMARS," Collins said. "We actually built four HIMARS prototypes and sent them to 18th Airborne Corps four years ago. The systems were only supposed to be there for two years but [the 18th Airborne Corps] refused to give them up, saying, â??We'll give up the prototypes when you give us an Engineering and Manufacturing Development [now Systems Development and Demonstration] version.' That presented a unique problem for the program manager who has to provide logistics support for four prototypes that he's not going to build anymore. The user refused to give them up because everyone loves the system."

The system has recently expanded to multiple service application. As of this writing, Lockheed Martin is building six Systems Development and Demonstration (SDD) launchers with four slated for delivery to the Army and two to the Marine Corps.

Interim Force Applications

One current tactical missile activity supporting the development of the Army's Interim Forces involves the Army's modification of approximately 500 TOW missiles with "bunker busting" warhead characteristics.

The modified missiles will reportedly be used to provide the Interim Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) with some level of battlefield bunker attack capability while the units await completion and fielding of the Mobile Gun System variant of the "Stryker" Interim Armored Vehicle (IAV) family.

In addition to its potential Legacy Force applications, the HIMARS platform holds the possibility of enhancing Interim Force combat capabilities.

Specifically, the system's C-130 roll on/roll off capabilities position the platform as a "slice element" that could be provided to the brigade combat teams during future deployments.

Although the IBCTs have organic fire support through their current M198 (and future M777) 155 mm howitzers, the HIMARS would provide those units with expanded fire support options from the expanding array of the MLRS Family of Munitions (MFOM).

Examples of this recent MFOM expansion include the Guided MLRS rocket, the Guided Unitary MLRS rocket, Unitary ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System), and the Loitering Attack Missile (LAM).

The Guided MLRS rocket, for example, which Collins described as "a good success story for international programs," uses GPS guidance technology to achieve "meter-level accuracy" at firing ranges of more than 60 km. Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) is slated to begin in FY03 with Initial Operational Capability projected for FY06.

Another guided MLRS munition under development is the Guided Unitary Rocket. Instead of delivering sub-munitions over the target, the Guided Unitary design will deliver a single 200 lb. unitary warhead with tri-mode fuze to ranges in excess of 60 km. Army leaders approved the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) for the rocket in September 2001.

Lockheed Martin representatives hope to demonstrate the system in August of this year but note that the effort is competing for funding in the current Program Objective Memorandum (POM).

Objective Force Applications

Lockheed Martin MLRS, HIMARS and MFOM activities are also supporting tomorrow's Objective Force structures and capabilities.

One key component is the LAM. Currently in technology demonstration status, LAM will provide a 280-km range with 45-minute loiter time.

Initial design activities indicate that 12 LAMs could be packaged in a single HIMARS launch pod. Tactical missile systems like LAM are also seen as providing a key component of the emerging "system of systems" structure that will comprise the pivotal Future Combat System (FCS).

During his AUSA presentation, Dr. Allen Adler, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), noted, "We will have a network of sensors and we will also have a network of fires."

He described a key concept within the network of fires that would feature "a vertically launched missile system that could be brought in close in the theater [of operations] to engage targets very quickly."

Known as "Netfires," the DARPA-managed network of fires program (jointly funded by DARPA and Army Science and Technology activities) targets the development and tests a containerized, platform-independent multi-mission weapon concept as an enabling technology element for FCS.

Government program descriptions note that Netfires will provide rapid response and lethality in packages requiring significantly fewer personnel, decreased logistical support and lower lifecycle costs, while increasing survivability with respect to current direct fire gun and missile artillery.

Netfires will allow FCS to defeat all known threats; will be air deployable in C-130 (and smaller) aircraft; and will enhance the situation awareness and survivability of FCS by providing standoff target acquisition and extended-range, non-line-of-sight engagements.

The program will develop and demonstrate a highly flexible modular, multimission precision missile and a loitering attack missile that can be remotely commanded. Both missile types will have a self-locating launcher and a command and control system compatible with FCS.

"The Netfires systems that we're developing in this program include a precision attack munition, basically a vertically-launched munition that heads right for the target, closes in very quickly, and passes target updates," Adler said. "The other missile that we're developing is the loiter attack munition."

Adler complimented the work to date performed by the two participating contractors, Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Division, adding, "As we move forward into the FCS, this is the type of program that we want to accelerate."

Netfires' proof-of-principle flight tests are scheduled to begin in FY03.

Paying the Bills/Positioning for the Future

One of the greatest challenges in any service-wide transformation effort involves paying the bills that invariably accompany that process. It's a challenge for military planners as well as for contractors supporting the process through technology investigation and hardware development. 

Army planners, for example, point to the termination or restructuring of 18 different Army programs to generate the initial $9 billion being used for transformation activities. One of those cancellations was the "Fire-and-Forget TOW" missile program, under development by Raytheon.

"We were disappointed about Fire-and-Forget TOW, there's no doubt about it," said Paul Walker, vice president of Raytheon Electronic Systems. "That program was doing very, very well but leadership made a decision and we're going to move on."

Walker highlighted the positive aspects of Raytheon's positioning and activities during the Army's ongoing transformation process.

"There are a couple of dimensions that you have to think about," Walker said. "One is that the inventory of TOW missiles - and Hellfire missiles for that matter - is aging.

And there will reach a point in time, somewhere in the 2005 to 2008 time period, where the reliability of that inventory would be such that you would logically want to replace it. Bradleys [Bradley Fighting Vehicles] are going to be on the battlefield for 25 years and Apaches are going to be out there as well. It's the Army's intent, I believe, to fill that need with Common Missile.

The Common Missile will effectively engage and destroy a variety of targets, ranging from buildings and bunkers to advance armor on the digital battlefield well into the future. It will be designed to achieve greater range and survivability, while decreasing the missile's weight and size.

"So then the dimension is, can you get Common Missile - you can call it Block I - into the field in time to fill that inventory problem that the Army will have?" Walker asked. "And the Army's problem is not just now with its Legacy Force systems, but by 2010 there has to be some lethal device on an FCS. Certainly there has to be something to replace TOW on IAV-AT [Interim Armored Vehicle-Anti Tank (variant)]. I believe the Army is committed at this time to Common Missile as that capability. Certainly Common Missile is designated as the lethal mechanism on Comanche. FCS is open, I guess, to what the LSI [Lead Systems Integrator] decides to do."

"The other dimension comes along as you look further down the road and you've got systems like Netfires coming into play and you've got systems like CKEM [Compact Kinetic Energy Missile] coming along for FCS," he said. "And then it's a matter of â??How do you divide the battlespace?'  Is everything line of sight dealt with by a CKEM-like weapon and everything non-line of sight dealt with by Netfires?  In that case you don't need a â??just beyond line of sight' kind of weapon like Common Missile, except perhaps for aviation."

He described the potential expansion of several weapon systems, to include the possibility of placing the man-portable Javelin anti-armor missile in a vehicle-mounted configuration.

"I think we're positioned in all of those areas," Walker concluded. "The biggest thing that the Army and the LSI that they have selected need to do is to figure out the CONOPS [Concept Of Operations] for FCS and sort out how those weapons fit into that CONOPS. So we're going to go pursue the technologies; we're going to build the stuff that we think they are going to need. They just have to sort out the CONOPS part."

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