US to send Tomahawks, hypersonics, other long-range fires to Germany

US to send Tomahawks, hypersonics, other long-range fires to Germany

The U.S. will start deploying long-range fires units to Germany in 2026, according to a joint statement from both the U.S. and German governments released today amid the NATO Summit in Washington, D.C.

The new capabilities will “have significantly longer range than current land-based fires in Europe. Exercising these advanced capabilities will demonstrate the United States’ commitment to NATO and its contributions to European integrated deterrence,” the joint statement reads.

The long-range fires capabilities will include the SM-6 and Tomahawk missiles and “developmental hypersonic weapons,” the statement details.

The capabilities will be resident in the U.S. Army’s Multidomain Task Force already headquartered in Germany.

The announcement lines up with the Army’s plans to fill out its five MDTF units worldwide. Defense News first reported in April that the MDTF in Europe would be fully established in fiscal 2026 with the addition of a Long-Range Fires Battalion, or LRFB, in support of the European theater.

The Army stood up the 2nd MDTF in Europe in 2021. It has two other established MDTF units in the Indo-Pacific theater with plans to build out two more for a total of five MDTFs. Three will be focused on Pacific operations, one in Europe and one will be based in the U.S. at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, and will be capable of rapid deployment where it is needed.

The units are designed to operate across all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace — and are equipped with the Army’s growing capabilities, including long-range precision fires.

The Army’s plan is to complete all MDTF units by FY28, according to a document detailing the Army’s most recent round of force structure analysis obtained by Defense News earlier this year.

Long-Range Hypersonic batteries

The service will consolidate Mid-Range Capability and Long-Range Hypersonic batteries under a LRFB headquarters over the next five years. Long-Range Precision Fires units will also include the service’s Precision Strike Missile, or PrSM, the Army Tactical Missile System replacement, which can be fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher.

The 1st MDTF, based out of Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington State, has already deployed its Mid-Range Capability launcher to the Philippines earlier this year as part of a bilateral military exercise with the country, marking the first time the newly fielded system has been exercised outside of the U.S.

The MRC fits in the Army’s fires portfolio between its PrSM, designed to hit targets over 499 kilometers away, and its ground-launched hypersonic missiles. The Army’s 3rd MDTF recently fired the newly fielded PrSM from the Pacific island of Palau during a recent ship-sinking exercise.

The service chose Lockheed Martin in November 2020 to build the MRC prototype, landing a nearly $340 million contract to take elements from naval missiles – the SM-6 and Tomahawk – to forge the new weapon. The full MRC system has a battery operations center, four vertical launch systems, prime movers and modified trailers.

The Army’s hypersonic weapon capability has been delayed significantly due to testing troubles.

The service completed its delivery of the first hypersonic weapon capability, minus the all-up rounds, to I Corps’ 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state two days ahead of its end-of-FY21 fielding deadline.

The original plan was to train on the equipment and receive those rounds in the fall of 2023, but based on a series of failed or aborted tests, that timeline has slid further down the road.

The Army and Navy, which are jointly developing the common glide body for the weapon had to abort flight tests in March, October and November last year to due “challenges at the range,” according to Lt. Gen. Robert Rasch, the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office director.

The Army is gearing up for another flight test this summer. If the test is successful, the Army is aiming to field the first rounds to the first battalion at JBLM in FY25.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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