WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is set to conclude a shoot-off for its Long-Range Precision Munitions effort in mid-November, according to a service spokesperson, with Lockheed Martin revealing the results of its demonstration.
The service launched its effort in fiscal 2022 to design and develop an LRPM for its AH-64E Apache attack helicopter and its future attack reconnaissance aircraft, with a shoot-off taking place at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The Army will then choose industry-born designs to move forward into a roughly five-year development program in FY23, according to FY22 budget documents.
The Army said earlier this year that it planned to take three vendors into the fall shoot-off, but the service would not reveal the capabilities and contractors involved in the evaluation.
The company fired four missiles in three test scenarios and was “four-for-four” in the successful execution of the test shots, according to Tom Bargnesi, senior program manager for precision fires at Lockheed.
The shoot-off for Lockheed took place the week of Oct. 17, he said, and “we demonstrated all of the government’s objectives.”
”We demonstrated integration to the Modular Effects Launcher, that we could successfully communicate and launch off that particular piece of equipment,” he added. “We also demonstrated the range that they asked us to demonstrate, and we also demonstrated our technologies in a GPS-denied environment.”
The shoot-off will be complete in mid-November, according to a spokesperson with the Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space and for the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team.
The results will inform the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, the Army Aviation Center of Excellence’s capability manager for reconnaissance and attack, and the Research and Analysis Center’s efforts as they come to together to inform a capability development document and future acquisition decisions, the spokesperson told Defense News in an Oct. 4 statement.
The Army is not releasing the total number of competitors, nor the competitors participating in the shoot-off capability demonstration, with the spokesperson citing that information as “sensitive.”
Long-range munitions for the Army’s future aircraft will be critical to engage an enemy’s defensive positions from a comfortable standoff — or out of range of enemy detection.
So far, the data gathered in the shoot-off has been “extremely beneficial,” the spokesperson said.
“Information gathered to date has [proved] existing technologies and capabilities achieve desired extended range as well as [proved] integration on the Modular Effects Launcher,” the spokesperson added, noting the Army plans to complete its capability development document by the spring.
The munition’s development phase will last until the third quarter of FY28, according to budget documents. The Army does not lay out the schedule beyond the development phase in the documents reviewed by Defense News.
In the meantime, the Army is fielding an interim solution — Israeli company Rafael’s Spike Non-Line-Of-Sight missile — that will deliver long-range lethality to the current fleet. Spike has a 30-kilometer range and was extensively demonstrated on foreign and American-owned AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.
Lockheed Martin, the integrator of the Spike NLOS system, received the contract in November 2021.
The Army has received the requisite hardware from Lockheed and is preparing for its first flight tests, Bargnesi said this month.
Earlier this year, he told Defense News that the first Apache equipped with the Spike NLOS for testing would begin flying in November and will fire its first missile in January. The company will outfit two test birds, then the Army will install Spike on the remaining Apaches — the latest V6 variant — for the first unit by the end of 2023.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.