MGM-140 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System)
ATACMS being launched by a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in 2012
TypeRocket artillery
Tactical ballistic missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1991–present[1]
Used by
  • United States
  • South Korea
  • Morocco
  • Romania
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Poland
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
Wars
Production history
DesignerLing-Temco-Vought
Designed1986
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Unit costM39: $820,000 (FY1998)[2] (or ~$1,476,000 FY2022)
M57: ~$1,700,000 (FY2021)[3]
No. built3,700[4][5]
Specifications ([7][8])
Mass3,690 pounds (1,670 kg)
Length13 feet (4.0 m)
Diameter24 inches (610 mm)
Wingspan55 inches (1.4 m)

Maximum firing range190 mi (300 km)

Flight ceiling160,000 ft (50 km)[6]
Maximum speed Supersonic, in excess of Mach 3 (0.6 mi/s; 1.0 km/s)[6]
Guidance
system
GPS-aided inertial navigation guidance
Launch
platform
M270, HIMARS

The MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS; pronounced /əˈtækəms/) is a tactical ballistic missile designed and manufactured by the US defense company Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV), and later Lockheed Martin through acquisitions. It uses solid propellant, is 13 feet (4.0 m) high and 24 inches (610 mm) in diameter, and the longest range variants can fly up to 190 miles (300 km).[9] The missiles 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.

History

Demonstration of firing

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.[10] The AirLand Battle and Follow-on Forces Attack doctrines, which emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, necessitated a conventional-armed (hence much more accurate) missile to strike enemy reserves, so the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command sponsored the Simplified Inertial Guidance Demonstrator (SIG-D) program.[10]

Within this program, Ling-Temco-Vought developed a solid-fuel analog of the MGM-52 Lance missile, designated T-22,[11] with a new RLG-based inertial guidance package, which demonstrated unprecedented accuracy.[10] 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 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. Army decided to replace the 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 DARPA's Assault Breaker in 1981, and with United States Air Force (USAF)'s Conventional Standoff Weapon (CSW) in 1982–1983.[12]

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, in 1984 the USAF ended its participation in the non-cruise missile portion of the program, leading to the missile being redesignated as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).[13]

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, where 32 of them were fired from the M270 MLRS.[14] During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, more than 450 missiles were fired.[15] As of early 2015, over 560 ATACMS missiles had been used in combat.[4][5]

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.[needs update][16]

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.[4][5] The first modernized Tactical Missile System (TACMS) was delivered in September 2016 with updated guidance electronics and added capability to defeat area targets using a unitary warhead, without leaving behind unexploded ordnance.[17][18] Lockheed was awarded a production contract for launch assemblies as part of the SLEP in August 2017.[19] 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.[20]

A plan announced in October 2016 to add an existing seeker to enable the ATACMS to strike moving targets on land and at sea[21] was terminated in December 2020 to pursue other missile efforts.[22]

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 authorized the production and procurement of up to 1,700 additional ATACMS, but this was not funded by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2023, so no additional ATACMS have entered production.[23][24]

War in Ukraine

In October 2023, a year and eight months after the Russo-Ukrainian War escalated to a Russian invasion, Ukraine received ATACMS from the United States.[25]

The use of these missiles threatened the entirety of the Russian land corridor in southern Ukraine.[26] It further placed within reach the vast majority of the air bases operated by Russia inside Ukraine (north of Crimea), and complicated Russia's use of attack helicopters against Ukrainian targets.[27][28]

On February 19, 2024, NBC News reported that U.S. President Joe Biden is considering providing Ukraine with longer-range ATACMS.[29]

Variants

Specifications[30][31]
M39 Block I M39A1 Block I M48 QRU M57 Block IA Unitary
Mass 1,667 kg (3,675 lb) 1,318 kg (2,906 lb) (est) Unknown Unknown
Length 3.975 m (13 ft 0.5 in)
Diameter 610 mm (24 in)
Guidance
type
INS GPS aided INS
Warhead 950 x M74 bomblets[note 1] 300 x M74 bomblets WAU-23/B unitary warhead
Warhead
weight
591 kg (1,303 lb) 174 kg (384 lb) 214 kg (472 lb)
Fuze M74 APAM bomblets each initiated by an M219A1E1 fuze FMU 141/B point detonating fuze Tri-mode (point detonating, proximity, and delay) fuze
Motor Solid-propellant rocket motor
Max speed Mach 3 (1,000 m/s; 3,300 ft/s) Unknown Unknown Unknown
Min range 25 km (16 mi) 70 km (43 mi)
Max range 165 km (103 mi) 300 km (190 mi) 270 km (170 mi) 300 km (190 mi)

Future

Precision Strike Missile

Main article: Precision Strike Missile

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,[43] while also being thinner and sleeker, increasing the loadout to two per pod, doubling the number that can be carried by the M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS launchers.[44][45]

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.[46] With the United States withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August 2019,[47] it was announced that the range of the PrSM would be increased beyond the '499 km' limitation previously placed upon it by the treaty.[48]

In June 2020, the Army had begun testing a new multi-mode seeker — an upgrade for the Precision Strike Missile. The missile will enter service in 2023. The upgraded seeker is expected to be part of a major program improvement planned for 2025.[49] 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 agency, and contributed US$54 million.[50][51] The United Kingdom announced its intentions to field the PrSM starting in 2024 as part of an upgrade to the British Army's M270 MLRS.[52]

Operators

Operators:
  Current
  Future

Current operators

Future operators

Failed bids

See also

Comparable missiles

Notes

  1. ^ The M74 APAM (Anti‐Personnel Anti‐Matériel) bomblet weighs 590 g (21 oz) and is 58.9 mm (2.32 in) in diameter. It has a Composition B High‐Explosive shaped charge. It is initiated by an M219A1E1 fuze with a booster pellet which also creates an incendiary effect, and is surrounded by a tungsten fragmenting wall.[30]

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