The MGM-140 Army tactical missile system, or ATACMS, is a long-range guided missile that gives operational commanders the immediate Firepower needed to win battles Behind Enemy Lines.
With a range of over 300 kilometers, a barrage of attack missiles can wreak havoc on hostile ground formations, artillery batteries, Supply Depots, communication centers, and other strategic objectives far away from the combat zones.
Each ATACMS missile is packaged within a multiple-launch rocket system look-alike launch pad, and it can be launched with different Warheads to tear apart all kinds of facilities, armored vehicles, and ground formations with devastating effects.
What’s more, the Army has announced that a more powerful variant is already under development, and it is expected to have a jaw-dropping range.
MGM 52 Lance
The MGM-140 Army tactical missile system, or ATACMS, was developed to replace the Aging MGM-52 Lance missile. Introduced into service in 1972 during the last days of the Vietnam War, the Lance was a novelty for its time.
The system was envisioned as America’s ultimate mobile field artillery tactical surface-to-surface missile, and it could carry both conventional and nuclear payloads if necessary.
The Lance had a mass of over 3 500 pounds, a length of 20 feet, and a diameter of 22 inches. The payload comprised either a w78 nuclear warhead with a yield of over 100 kilotons or conventional m251 high explosive submunitions.
In addition, its maximum operational range was up to 75 miles, and it could travel at Mach 3. a system battery of two fire units comprised of two M752 launchers with one missile each and two m688 auxiliary vehicles, plus the standard fire rate was three missiles per hour no matter the type of Warhead used.
The U.S., Italy, Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, and West Germany all Employed the land system throughout the Cold War to deter a possible Soviet attack. However, most retired from service in early 1992 when ATACMS was introduced.
Army Tactical Missile System ( ATACMS)
The development of the army technical missile system or ATACMS began in 1978 when DARPA and the Army worked on the assault breaker technology demonstration program. The objective was to attack hostile armor formations using long-range mobile hard targets.
This was part of Cold War era doctrines involving All American military branches, and in 1980, the U.S. Air Force replaced the Lance with a similar nuclear-tipped solid-fuel missile. It was dubbed The sizz Whiz or core support weapon system.
Even so, while the Army and the Air Force continued developing such missile systems, the Department of Defense decided to step in and merge both programs. The result was the joint technical missile system or JTACMS.
But the Air Force eventually quit because the idea of an air-launched ballistic Missile was not part of its strategic employment. Consequently, the JTACMS was redesignated as the Army tactical missile system or ATACMS, and Ling-Temco-Vought won a contract in 1986 to develop it.
The missile was designated MGM-140 and was tested for the first time in 1988. a low-rate initial production contract then started the following year, but further testing and modifications were required before the ATACMS was officially introduced into service in January of 1991 on its way to the war against Iraq.
Ultimately over 32 ATACMS missiles were fired from the M270 MLRS during Operation Desert Storm, and when the United States returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the use of ATACMS skyrocketed, and more than 450 missiles were fired during the operation.
In fact, according to Army statistics from 2015, more than 500 missiles were fired against the enemy after the Americans landed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The block I
The ATACMS resembles its predecessor in some ways besides the physical similarities; both are deployed from modified multiple-launch rocket systems or MLRS launch vehicles.
There are different variants of the missile, but block one is the standard version of the ATACMS with a range of 165 kilometers. It can swiftly attack high-value targets such as artillery emplacements, airfields, Sam sites, Supply Depots, and other objectives located Behind Enemy Lines.
Block 1 carries a single 560-kilogram Warhead with 950 m74 munitions. Their anti-personnel and anti-material weapons carry a round ball wrapped in a Tungsten fragmenting wall with incendiary pellets and a steel casing.
This combination is extremely effective against infantry, lightly armored vehicles, equipment, and support facilities. The total affected area depends on the height at which the missile is detonated. It can either be a small Target area with severe damage or a large area with light damage.
The block 1 can be launched from an MLRS 270 AV MRL and a high Mars xm142 wheeled Light vehicle, and it began to be phased out in 2009 in favor of the improved block 1A.
This variant has an increased range that varies between 100 and 300 kilometers depending on the Warhead. It can also be equipped with 300 m74 submunitions or a unitary high explosive Warhead.
Block 1A also features an inertial guidance system combined with the GPS that provides an unparalleled level of accuracy. The variant was introduced in 1998, and the Army announced that its service would be extended by 10 years in 2016.
Block 2 was tested in 2002 and was meant to be an anti-tank version of the ATACMS. It was armed with brilliant anti-tank or bat p-31 improved submunitions or anti-armor bat-guided submunitions.
In addition, it had a range of 140 kilometers and carried a warhead of 268 kilograms. However, development on the Block 2 was soon canceled despite the critical role it was expected to play against armored vehicles.
Block 3, also known as the Tacoma’s penetrator, is basically a block 1A with a range of 250 kilometers and is equipped with an MK4 re-entry vehicle with a high explosive penetrating Warhead. Finally, a block 1A unitary carries either a 247-kilogram high explosive blast penetration Warhead from the slam E.R. missile or a 25-kilogram AGM RGM 84 Harpoon Warhead.
The unitary has a range of 300 kilometers and stands out because of its intent to minimize collateral damage and attack targets under all weather conditions.
New Precision strike missile
Production of the ATACMS ceased in 2007, with a total of 3 700 missiles built by then. However, the Army has been improving the system to increase its accuracy and reliability for new combat scenarios.
In 2015, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to develop new hardware for block 1 in its variants resulting in updated guidance electronics and other upgrades.
Then in 2020, the Army announced it had conducted the third test of the PRSM or Precision strike missile. the successor Of the MGM-140 ATACMS. although no official information has been shared to this day, analysts speculate that the Precision strike missile will have a range of at least 499 kilometers.
Other Elite sources indicate the Army placed an order for 54 PRSM missiles with Lockheed Martin for about 78 million dollars in December of 2021, and the Pentagon expects this missile will enter service in 2025.
As the war in Ukraine rages on, the nation’s government has received countless armaments from NATO Partners, especially the United States.
Recently the Ukrainian military acquired HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems or MLRS. Even so, the armed forces have been pressing the U.S. for more powerful missile systems such as the ATACMS.
The Biden Administration has yet to respond to the demands to avoid a direct confrontation with Vladimir Putin. In a briefing on September 15, 2022, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, ” if Washington decides to supply longer-range missiles to keep, then it will be crossing a red line and will become a direct party in the conflict.”
The fact that the ATACMS has a range of up to 300 kilometers is the main cause of concern. as this capability would allow Ukraine to strike targets deep inside Russia, and it would be seen as an escalatory measure in the conflict.
Only time will tell if the Biden Administration will comply with the demands and provide Ukraine with such powerful missiles.