Why The U.S. Army Really Needs The Precision Strike Missile

Dan Goure

A little over two years ago, then Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark Milley surprised most of the defense community by announcing a new modernization strategy focused on six priority areas: Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF); the Next Generation Combat Vehicle; Future Vertical Lift; Networks, Air and Missile Defense; and soldier lethality. To ensure these priorities would receive adequate attention and support, the Army leadership decided to radically restructure its acquisition organization, creating a series of Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) to support these priorities and standing up a new four-star command, Army Futures.

According to multiple sources, LRPF is the Army’s number one modernization priority. The reasons for this are simple: today, the U.S. and its closest allies are outnumbered and out-ranged by Russian and Chinese long-range surface-to-surface strike capabilities. A recent RAND Corporation study warned that the U.S. and NATO are seriously outmatched by the Russian Army's artillery, rockets, and missile systems in terms of both range and the total volume of fires that can be generated. China, too, has a large and growing arsenal of air, land, and sea-based missiles of increasing range and lethality. This massive investment in long-range precision fires, when coupled with their extensive air and missile defenses, provides both countries with a potent Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capability.

If the U.S. is to deter conflict with both of these great power competitors and defeat any attempted aggression by either, it absolutely must modernize its long-range fires capabilities so as to achieve not merely parity, but what military planners call overmatch, which is another word for superiority. According to General Robert Brown, U.S. Army commander Pacific and the senior mentor to the LRPF CFT, the primary objective of the LRPF Cross-Functional Team is to develop “cannons that can go as far as rockets today and rockets that can go as far as today’s missiles and missiles that can go out to at least 499 kilometers and maybe beyond, depending on the [Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty.”

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