MGM-140 ATACMS

The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is a surface-to-surface missile manufactured by the U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin. It has a range of up to 190 miles (300 km),[7] with solid propellant, and is 13 feet (4.0 m) high and 24 inches (610 mm) in diameter. The ATACMS can be fired from the tracked M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), and the wheeled M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). An ATACMS launch container has a lid patterned with six circles like a standard MLRS rocket lid, but contains only one missile[1] – the identical pattern makes it more challenging for enemy intelligence to single it out as a high-value target.

MGM-140 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System)
ATACMSMay2006 (cropped).jpg
An ATACMS being launched by an M270
TypeRocket artillery
Tactical ballistic missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1991–present[1]
Used by
  • United States
  • South Korea
  • Greece
  • Turkey
WarsPersian Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, Iraq War
Production history
DesignerLing-Temco-Vought
Designed1986
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
No. built3,700[2][3]
Specifications ([5][6])
Mass3,690 pounds (1,670 kg)
Length13 feet (4.0 m)
Diameter24 inches (610 mm)

Maximum firing range190 mi (300 km)

Wingspan55 inches (1.4 m)
Flight ceiling160,000 ft (50 km)[4]
Maximum speed In excess of Mach 3 (0.6 mi/s; 1.0 km/s)[4]
Guidance
system
GPS-aided inertial navigation guidance
Launch
platform
M270, HIMARS

HistoryEdit

The concept of a conventional tactical ballistic missile was made possible by the doctrinal shift of the late Cold War, which rejected the indispensability of an early nuclear strike on the Warsaw Pact forces in the event the Cold War went hot.[8] The AirLand Battle and Follow-on Forces Attack [de] doctrines, which were emerging in late 1970s and early 1980s, necessitated a conventional-armed (hence much more accurate) missile to strike enemy reserves, so the US Army Missile Command sponsored the Simplified Inertial Guidance Demonstrator (SIG-D) program.[8] Within this program, Ling-Temco-Vought developed a solid-fuel analog of the MGM-52 Lance designated T-22,[9] with a new RLG-based inertial guidance package which demonstrated unprecedented accuracy.[8] In 1978, DARPA started the Assault Breaker technology demonstration program to attack armor formations with many mobile hard targets at standoff ranges. It utilized the T-22 missile and also the Patriot-based Martin Marietta T-16 missile with cluster warheads.

Development of the missile now known as ATACMS started in 1980, when the U.S. Air Force decided to replace Lance with a similar nuclear- (but also chemical- or biological-) tipped solid-fuel missile dubbed the Corps Support Weapon System (CSWS). Concerned that two branches were developing too many similar missiles with different warheads, the Department of Defense merged the program with U.S. Army's Assault Breaker in 1981, and with USAF's Conventional Standoff Weapon (CSW) in 1982–1983. The new missile system, designated Joint Tactical Missile System (JTACMS), soon encountered USAF resistance to the idea of an air-launched ballistic missile. As a result, the following year the Air Force ended its participation in the non-cruise missile portion of the program, leading to the missile being re-designated as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).[10]

In March 1986, Ling-Temco-Vought won the contract for the missile design. The system was assigned the MGM-140 designation. The first test launch came two years later, thanks to earlier experience of the company with previous programs.

The first use of the ATACMS in combat was during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, in which a total 32 of the missiles were fired from the M270 MLRS.[11] During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, more than 450 missiles were fired.[12] As of early 2015, over 560 ATACMS missiles had been fired in combat.[2][3]

VariantsEdit

  • M39 (ATACMS BLOCK I) missile with inertial guidance. It carries 950 M74 Anti-personnel and Anti‑materiel (APAM) bomblets. Range: 25–165 kilometres (16–103 mi). 1,650 M39 were produced between 1990 and 1997, when production ceased in favor of the M39A1. During Desert Storm 32 M39 were fired at Iraqi targets and during Operation Iraqi Freedom a further 379 were fired.[13][14] The remaining M39 missiles are being updated to M57E1 missiles.[15][16] This is the only variant that can be fired by all M270 and M142 launcher variants.
  • M39A1 (ATACMS BLOCK IA) missile with GPS-aided guidance. It carries 300 M74 Anti-personnel and Anti‑materiel (APAM) bomblets. Range: 20–300 kilometres (12–186 mi). 610 M39A1 were produced between 1997 and 2003. During Operation Iraqi Freedom 74 M39A1 were fired at Iraqi targets.[13][14] The remaining M39A1 missiles are being updated to M57E1 missiles.[15][16] The M39A1 and all subsequently introduced ATACMS missiles can only be used with the M270A1 (or variants thereof) and the M142.
  • M48 (ATACMS Quick Reaction Unitary [QRU]) missile with GPS-aided guidance. It carries the 500-pound (230 kg) WDU-18/B penetrating high explosive blast fragmentation warhead of the US Navy's Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was redesignated as WAU-23/B warhead section when used in ATACMS. Range: 70–300 km (43–186 mi). 176 M48 were produced between 2001 and 2004, when production ceased in favor of the M57. During Operation Iraqi Freedom 16 M48 were fired at Iraqi targets and a further 42 were fired during Operation Enduring Freedom.[13][14] The remaining M48 missiles are in the US Army and US Marine Corps' arsenal.
  • M57 (ATACMS TACMS 2000) missile with GPS-aided guidance. It carries the same WAU-23/B warhead section as the M48. Range: 70–300 km (43–186 mi). 513 M57 were produced between 2004 and 2013.[13][14] Accuracy is 9 m (30 ft) CEP (Circular Error Probability).[17]
  • M57E1 (ATACMS Modification [MOD]) missile with GPS-aided guidance. The M57E1 is the designation for upgraded M39 and M39A1 with re-grained motor, updated navigation and guidance software and hardware, and a WAU-23/B warhead section instead of the M74 APAM bomblets. This variant includes a proximity sensor for airburst detonation.[15] Production commenced in 2017 with an initial order for 220 upgraded M57E1s.[13][14]

FutureEdit

In 2007, the U.S. Army terminated the ATACMS program due to cost, ending the ability to replenish stocks. To sustain the remaining inventory, the ATACMS Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) was launched, which refurbishes or replaces propulsion and navigation systems, replaces cluster munition warheads with the unitary blast fragmentation warhead, and adds a proximity fuze option to obtain area effects; deliveries were projected to start in 2018. The ATACMS SLEP is a bridging initiative to provide time to complete analysis and development of a successor capability to the aging ATACMS stockpile, which could be ready around 2022.[18]

In January 2015, Lockheed Martin received a contract to develop and test new hardware for Block I ATACMS missiles to eliminate the risk of unexploded ordnance by 2016.[2][3] The first modernized Tactical Missile System (TACMS) was delivered on 28 September 2016 with updated guidance electronics and added capability to defeat area targets using a unitary warhead, without leaving behind unexploded ordnance.[19][20] Lockheed was awarded a production contract for launch assemblies as part of the SLEP on 2 August 2017.[21] In 2021, Lockheed Martin was contracted to upgrade existing M39 munitions to the M57 variant with a WDU-18/B warhead from the Harpoon missile by 2024.[22]

A plan announced in October 2016 to add an existing seeker to enable the ATACMS to strike moving targets on land and at sea[23] was terminated in December 2020 to pursue other missile efforts.[24]

Speculated Ukrainian useEdit

There was speculation in August 2022 that ATACMS (among a number of possibilities) was used by Ukraine for attacks on Crimean airbases that month.[25] On 24 August, Undersecretary of Defense For Policy, Colin Kahl said: "It's our assessment that they don't currently require ATACMS to service targets that are directly relevant to the current fight. You know, we'll obviously continue to have conversations with the Ukrainians about their needs, but it's our judgment at the moment that we should be focusing on GMLRS, not ATACMS."[26]

Precision Strike MissileEdit

In March 2016, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon announced they would offer a missile to meet the U.S. Army's Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) requirement to replace the ATACMS. The missile will use advanced propulsion to fly faster and farther (originally out to 310 miles or 500 kilometres)[27] while also being thinner and sleeker, increasing loadout to two per pod, doubling the number that can be carried by M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS launchers.[28][29] Lockheed and Raytheon were to test-fire their submissions for the renamed Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) program in 2019, with the selected weapon planned to achieve Initial Operational Capability in 2023; the initial PrSM will only be able to hit stationary targets on land, but later versions will track moving targets on land and sea.[30] With the United States withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August 2019,[31] it was announced the range of the PrSM would be increased beyond the '499 km' limitation previously placed upon it by the treaty.[32]

In June 2020, the Army had begun testing a new multi-mode seeker — an upgrade for the Precision Strike Missile — even though the missile would not enter service until 2023. The upgraded seeker is expected to be part of a major program improvement planned for 2025.[33] In July 2021, the U.S. announced that Australia had become a partner in the PrSM Program with the Australian Army, signing a memorandum of understanding for Increment 2 of the program with the US Army's Defense Exports and Cooperation and had contributed US$54 million.[34][35] The United Kingdom also announced its intentions to field the PrSM starting in 2024 as part of an upgrade to the British Army’s M270 MLRS.[36]

OperatorsEdit

 
Map with MGM-140 operators in blue

Current operatorsEdit

Future operatorsEdit

  •   Australia: Ordered 20 M142 HIMARS launchers for the Australian Army with 10 M57 ATACMS unitary rockets and other MLRS munitions in an AU $545m (US$385m) contract.[51]
  •   Estonia: A request to buy up to 18 M57 was approved on 18 July 2022[52]
  •   Lithuania A request to buy 18 M57 ATACMS missile pods was approved 9 November 2022[53]
  •   Taiwan: On 21 October 2020, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of 64 M57 ATACMS to Taiwan.[54]

Potential operatorsEdit

  •   Ukraine: As of July 2022, the U.S. and Ukrainian governments are discussing the possibility of an ATACMS acquisition.[55]

Canceled ordersEdit

  •   Finland: Finnish contract for 70 missiles was canceled due to high prices in March 2014.[56]

See alsoEdit

Comparable missilesEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit