US Army deploys midrange missile for first time in Philippines

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The Mid-Range Capability missile has landed in Luzon, Philippines, as part of the Salaknib exercise taking place there, marking the first deployment of the new capability deemed vital for the U.S. Army’s strategy in the region.

The 1st Multi-Domain Task Force brought the MRC weapon to the country on April 11, traveling more than 8,000 miles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state for over 15 hours via a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft, according to an April 15 statement from U.S. Army Pacific.

“This landmark deployment marks a significant milestone for the new capability while enhancing interoperability, readiness and defense capabilities in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the statement read.

“This creates several new collaboration opportunities for our bilateral training and readiness,” Brig. Gen. Bernard Harrington, who leads the multidomain unit, said in the statement.

During an April 16 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George commented on the deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

“We’ve seen just how effective and hard to target land-based, long-range precision fires are, and we are continuing to add those, and right now we have the medium-range capability that is actually out and exercising with our partners,” he said.

Defense News first reported the Army’s plan to pursue the midrange missile in September 2020.

The Army gave the job of finalizing and moving forward with a weapon to the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, and it also set a goal to field the chosen missile in less than three years — by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2023, which meant it could not start from scratch.

The office received the mission in July 2020 following a strategic fires study conducted by the Army’s force development arm earlier this year. The development team had found a gap in the service’s ability to reach enemy targets in the 500- to 2,000-kilometer (311- to 1,243-mile) range.

The midrange missile fits in the Army’s fires portfolio between its Precision Strike Munition, designed to hit targets 499 kilometers away, and its ground-launched hypersonic missiles.

The service chose Lockheed Martin in November 2020 to build the midrange missile prototype, landing a nearly $340 million contract to take elements from naval missiles to forge the new weapon.

The MRC weapon consists of a vertical launch system and uses the Navy’s Raytheon-built Standard Missile-6 and Tomahawk missiles. The full MRC system has a battery operations center, four launchers, prime movers and modified trailers, the statement noted.

A variant of the Tomahawk missile was used in a land-based cruise missile capability test in 2019. The SM-6 is a long-range, anti-air missile that has a surface mode.

Salaknib is an exercise with the U.S. and Philippine armed forces meant to build readiness and improve operational capabilities as part of “the longstanding and strong U.S.-Philippine Alliance,” the statement read, adding that it also enhances “bilateral U.S. land power capacity and capabilities for joint operations.”

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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