July 20, 2005 The US Army order an extra 106 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) Block 1A Quick Reaction Unitary missiles earlier this week, significantly upgrading its surface-to-surface missile arsenal. At US$745,000 each, they aren’t cheap, but the recently upgrade guidance, control and fuze system on these missiles is very special – they can take out a target (5.7MB video) with surgical accuracy at a range of 300 kilometres while almost completely eliminating collateral damage. ATACMS is the only long-range tactical surface-to-surface missile ever fired in combat by the U.S. Army. The ATACMS Block IA Unitary is a derivative of the ATACMS Block IA tactical ballistic missile, with the M74 submunitions replaced by a monolithic 500-pound warhead. This warhead reduces collateral damage likelihood and makes it particularly suitable to attack hardened targets such as fortifications and bunkers. When used in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, it destroyed or rendered inoperable every target it engaged. The new model with improved guidance is capable of flying over obstacles, such as mountains or tall buildings in a built-up area, then diving vertically to more accurately engage its target.
The ATACMS Unitary variant provides the capability to attack high-payoff, time-sensitive targets with limited collateral damage.
"The Quick Reaction Unitary variant will give the U.S. Army the firepower to engage enemy targets in urban and mountainous terrains, where collateral damage is a concern," said Scott Arnold, director - ATACMS Programs for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "This missile is extremely accurate and will reduce the number of munitions necessary to defeat targets."
The Army TACMS Unitary missile is a responsive, all-weather, long-range missile, with a high explosive, single-burst warhead fired from the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) family of launchers, including the MLRS 270A1 launcher and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
This spiral development program includes plans to develop a multi-mode warhead with three fuze options which will provide the capability to attack target sets of the current variants as well as hard targets. This phase of the program is expected to begin in FY'06.
ATACMS is an evolutionary family of missiles that includes the Block I, Block IA, Block IA Unitary and Penetrator missiles.
Proven in battle, each Block I missile delivers M74 antipersonnel/antimateriel (AP/AM) bomblets and has a range of 165 kilometers. See video.
The Block IA missile nearly doubles the Block I range by reducing the payload of AP/AM bomblets and adding Global Positioning System Inertial Guidance for increased accuracy with equivalent lethality.