A unit of the US Army’s 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, Strategic Long-Range Fires battalion has deployed from its home station at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This deployment was part of Thunderbolt Strike, a full rehearsal of expeditionary hypersonic launch capabilities. In it the unit deployed over 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) replicates the unit’s intended employment in a crisis.
Part of the US Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force, it is envisioned as a critical component of the US Army’s response to the challenges of building an Indo-Pacific deterrence capability.
The unit is equipped with the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) which was developed and fielded in an accelerated program conducted in cooperation with the US Navy.
The Strategic Long-Range Fires Battalion is organized with a LRHW battery consists of four Transporter Erector Launchers on modified M870A4 heavy semi-trailers. Launcher has two missiles in pods for a total of eight missiles in the battery. Each battery also has one Battery Operations Center (BOC) for command and control and a BOC support vehicle.
The launcher systems are road-mobile and can be transported by C17, by sea and by rail. The deployed LRHW is prototype system intended to gain operational and hands-on experience on the design and its employment.
The LRHW is a ground-launched, heavy truck-trailer mounted missile system using a hypersonic glide-body missiles that can travel over Mach 4.9 (3,800 miles per hour/2361 kmph) to engage strategic high value targets at ranges beyond 1,700 miles (2775 km).
The missile employs a large booster that carries the unpowered Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) developed by Dynetics in the nose. The releases the C-HGB when it reaches altitude which glides at hypersonic speeds descending to its target. Lockheed-Martin also built the launcher and booster which draws from the common two-stage booster that will be used in both the Army’s LRHW and the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) systems.
Brigadier General Bernard Harrington, commander of the 1st MDTF, sated “Our Soldiers are ready to deploy and employ this critical capability forward. Thunderbolt Strike proved the power of interagency cooperation to build the multi-domain force of the future. The second half of the Army’s year of long-range precision fires will continue to represent groundbreaking strides toward integrated deterrence in the Pacific.”
The LRHW launch during the Thunderbolt Strike exercise tested the capabilities of the system to be forward deployed when required and to reliably execute its assigned missions in support of the theatre objectives.
by Stephen W. Miller