The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is fielded with the US Army as a deep strike precision weapon, capable of engaging time critical targets at high precision under all weather conditions. The missile is deployed from the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) family of launchers, including the MLRS M270A1 launcher and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher. The US Army fired over 100 ATACMS missiles in Iraq, since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Most missiles were expended against air defense targets and C4ISR nodes. Even against a sophisticated enemy, equipped with early warning capabilities, ATACMS can maintain an element of surprise, due to its capability to launch attacks off axis. (shaping the ballistic trajectory to ‘hide’ the objective and target it is aimed at).
The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)’s Universal Dispenser is capable of delivering various types submunitions from a single dispenser foundation. These systems include radial, aft and spinning dispense in single, staggered and multiple dispense options at subsonic and supersonic velocities. Missiles and Fire Control has extensive experience dispensing Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM), Anti-Personnel/Anti-Materiel (APAM), Sense and Destroy Armor (SADARM) and Northrop Grumman’s Brilliant Anti-Armor (BAT) submunitions in subsonic and supersonic dispense environments. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has studied several candidate submunitions for the Universal Dispenser. These include the Low Cost Autonomous Attack System (LOCAAS), SADARM, BAT, Wide-Area Munition (WAM), SMArt155 and BLU-108. In the four-quadrant configuration, the Universal Dispenser can carry four LOCAAS submunitions, 32 SADARMs or skeet warheads (BLU-108), eight BATs or 16 WAM submunitions. Integration of alternate submunitions, both domestic and foreign, will provide future growth opportunities for the ATACMS Universal Dispenser.
Block 1A Unitary Missile warhead is the latest addition to the ATACMS family of munitions. This variant is designed to launch precision attack under all weather conditions, from ranges of 300 kilometers. The missile has a unique “vertical impact” capability, designed to improve penetration and optimize fragmentation coverage while reducing collateral damage. In October 2006 the US Army ordered a first batch of Block 1A Unitary Warhead missiles to replenish its tactical missile stocks, under US$47 million contract awarded to Lockheed Martin.
An enhanced version of Army Tactical Missile System (Army TACMS) specially designed for deep penetration strikes is also underway. This weapon will be optimized for the attack of deeply buried targets, such as command posts and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) storage caches. The two-stage weapon, developed by the U.S. Navy will utilize exoatmospheric transition to augment speed. Despite the devastation it creates underground, the weapon’s effect will be localized to around 328 ft (100 m’) from the impact point.