Army’s Oldest Missiles Still Ready For Battle
by U.S. Army John Hamilton
White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs
May 18, 2022
Soldiers came to White Sands Missile Range
on December 14, 2021 to conduct live-fire testing of old missiles to
confirm the older weapons are still reliable and ready for use.
The Soldiers, from the 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery
Regiment of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade out of Fort Bragg NC,
visited the New Mexico range to conduct reliability tests of early
versions of the Army Tactical Missile System.
The ATACMS was
developed in 1991 to provide the Army with a long-range tactical
artillery missile. Utilizing the same launch vehicle as other Army
rockets and missiles, the ATACMS holds long history of use and saw
extensive testing over the years on WSMR.
December 14, 2021 - Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade out of Fort Bragg NC visited the New Mexico range to conduct reliability tests of early versions of the Army Tactical Missile System that were developed in 1991. (U.S. Army photo by John Hamilton, White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs)
This test was what is called a stockpile
reliability test. For tests of this type, older missiles are pulled
out of inventory and fired. The shots are then evaluated, and if the
missiles prove they can still perform to Army specifications, then
that can inform the Army about the longevity of other missiles in
the same stock from the same production run.
this make sure that the missile and the launcher communicate, and
the software is working properly,” said Mia Fitch, test officer with
the Materiel Test Directorate at WSMR.
The result is that the Army can identify weapons that
are still good and able to be deployed, saving the Army money on
disposal and replacement of the older missiles, while improving
readiness by certifying that the weapons could still be used in a
“(These missiles) are already past their
prime, so we need to make sure they are still reliable, they still
work, and they have the impact pattern and can reach the distances
we need so we can still use them,” Fitch said.
missiles used in this test were manufactured over 27 years ago,
making them older than the Soldiers operating the launcher vehicle.
Lockheed Martin engineers who were sent to support test said these
missiles represented some of the oldest ATACMS missiles still in the
To conduct the test, the two missiles were
launched at two different target areas on WSMR allowing the test to
include different distances and flight types. The missiles were also
temperature conditioned, heated and cooled, prior to the shot.
“We had a cold one and a hot one, and that was to represent
different conditions around the world,” Fitch said.
cheering an applause, the missiles successfully hit the target and
deployed their payloads of small bombs as expected resulting in a
satisfactory mission outcome and certifying the missiles are still
suitable for use by Soldiers.
“Both of them did great,”
Fitch said. “They have bomblets inside, so they were able to
accomplish a pattern and distance required.”
While not all
tests require active duty Soldiers to conduct them, there’s always a
benefit to getting the end-user involved.
“I’ve never been
able to fire a live ATACMS before, so just the experience alone has
value,” said Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Wells, a launcher chief with the
ATACMS is a long-range weapon system and a larger
missile than the smaller, more common Low Cost Reduced Range
Practice Rocket the Soldiers can more easily train with.
bang and the package on these missiles are way bigger than we’re
used to,” said Spc. Michael Diaz, an artillery crewman with the
WSMR, with its large range area and controlled
airspace, allowed the test to double as a chance to not only conduct
a test with an end-user at the controls, but also to get the
Soldiers some valuable live-fire experience.
“We can go
short, medium or extended range, and we have the ability to test
different patterns and lengths (of flight),” Fitch said. “So White
Sands is prime because we can go with the longest range for
WSMR regularly conducts reliability tests of this
type, testing various weapons from different stockpiles. In addition
to the testing of existing stockpiles, similar testing is conducted
with newly built missiles to test the manufacturing.
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