Means of the LRHW ground complex on the slide of the official presentation
Over the past few years, the United States has been developing a promising long-range hypersonic missile system LRHW (Long Range Hypersonic Weapon). Regularly reports on the implementation of certain works and discloses various plans. At the same time, the key characteristics of the complex have so far remained unknown. The other day they were revealed, which allows us to understand the potential of the new missile and determine its place in the future structure of the army's weapons.
The first reports on the study of issues of creating a new missile system with a hypersonic warhead appeared in 2016-17. The LRHW project was officially presented in 2018, and in the future the Pentagon has repeatedly announced this or that information. Also, various assessments and information from unnamed sources were published in the foreign press.
According to known data, the LRHW complex will include several main products. The main thing is an AUR (All-Up-Round) rocket in a transport and launch container, carrying a C-HGB (Common Hypersonic Glide Body) warhead. A mobile launcher and a mobile missile battery command post are being developed. In addition, it is expected to create a modification of the complex for placement on submarines and surface ships.
The C-HGB product belongs to the boost-glide class and is a hypersonic glider. The launch vehicle must accelerate it to operating speed, after which an independent gliding flight begins. According to the Pentagon, the speed of the C-HGB block will exceed 5M. More precise values are not disclosed.
More detailed graphics
Range parameters have remained virtually unknown until recently. Officials talked about flying "thousands of kilometers", and this formulation did not reveal the issue in any way. On May 12, Breaking Defense, referring to a representative of the US Army, gave more accurate numbers. According to the source, the LRHW's range will exceed 1725 miles or 2775 km.
Missiles in the troops
According to recent reports, the first launch of an LRHW rocket will take place this year. In the near future, they plan to carry out the necessary tests, and in 2023, the first missile battery of a new type will be deployed in the combat unit. At the same time, the appearance in the army of several other promising samples of various kinds is expected. With their help, the Pentagon plans to significantly change the structure of the missile forces and artillery, as well as improve their capabilities.
Recent reports have revealed the desired structure of missile and artillery weapons based on existing and future systems. In it, self-propelled howitzers M109 and ERCA, as well as M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS rocket systems, will be responsible for hitting targets within a radius of several tens of kilometers. With the help of promising shells and unguided rockets, they will attack objects at ranges of at least 40-70 km. Systems with such capabilities will be used at the level of ground brigades and divisions.
The existing ATACMS tactical missiles for MLRS and HIMARS will be removed from service in the future and replaced with new PrSM products. The latter will be used against targets at ranges of at least 500 km. In the future, it is planned to create more long-range modifications. The use of PrSM will be decided by the corps command.
Model of the hypersonic warhead C-HGB
The most advanced and effective weapons will be under the control of the theater of war command. The LRHW and MRC complexes are assigned to this category. The first will be able to attack targets at 2775 km, the second is designed to destroy objects at a distance of about 1800 km. It is assumed that LRHW will be deployed in Europe and the Pacific Ocean, taking into account the current military and political challenges and threats.
Thus, in the future, the US ground forces plan to receive a whole system of modernized and new weapons of various kinds, capable of effectively hitting various targets in a wide range of ranges. Through the use of ready-made samples and advanced technologies, high flexibility and effectiveness of combat use will be ensured. This takes into account the specificity of various targets and enemy defense systems. So, in the tactical radius they plan to make do with artillery, and at ranges from 1000-1500 km, they will have to use hypersonic warheads.
The LRHW and C-HGB are expected to enter service with the naval forces. Bearers of this weapons will be surface ships and submarines. In this case, the hypersonic complex will also become part of the general weapons system, capable of complementing other samples.
Without breaking contracts
The declared characteristics make it possible to classify the LRHW complex as a medium-range missile. It should be recalled that until recently, the development, testing and adoption of such a system for service was impossible - they were prohibited by the previously existing Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles.
Over the past several years, the United States has accused Russia of violations of the INF Treaty, and in 2019, on this basis, withdrew from the agreement. Immediately after that, the development of several new samples began, the appearance and characteristics of which did not comply with the Treaty. At the same time, the first research and design work that formed the basis for future projects began during the period of the INF Treaty.
C-HGB missile test launch, March 2020
Thus, a very interesting picture is emerging. It turns out that a few years ago the Pentagon recognized the need to create new ground-based missile systems, incl. hypersonic, with a range of more than 500 km and less than 5500 km. However, the creation of such samples was impossible due to the existing Treaty. And this problem was solved in the simplest way: they accused the partner of violations and then withdrew from the agreement, after which they began to openly develop new projects.
Formally, the United States has not violated anything, and with the right emphasis, it even looks like the guardians and defenders of the INF Treaty and world peace. At the same time, the "forced measure" caused by the "Russian violations" now allows them to create new weapons with high performance and close important, but still empty niches.
Questions and Answers
According to the approved plans, the first tests of the LRHW should take place this year, and already in 2023 the first battery of such complexes will go to the troops and take up combat duty. Together with it, a whole range of new models of artillery and missile weapons will appear in the ground forces. In the future, the number of such novelties in the units will gradually increase, increasing the strike potential of the army.
It is easy to see that, as development work continues, certain features of promising projects become known. So, in the context of LRHW, the main features of the appearance and composition of the complex, the flight characteristics of the missile and the warhead, the tactical role and other features have already been announced. Apparently, new messages will appear in the near future, complementing the known picture.
However, not all data will be published. So far, the real timing of testing and adoption, as well as the real cost of the program and its ratio with the calculated one, remain in question. In addition, the complex has not yet confirmed the declared flight and combat characteristics. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is optimistic about the future and expects to complete current projects on time and in full. Whether it will be possible to do this and get a missile with a range of more than 2775 km will become known in the coming years.