MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System), United States of America
The combat-proven multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is a rocket artillery system manufactured by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. The system is operational in the US Army, while fourteen countries have fielded or ordered MLRS: Bahrain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and United Kingdom. The system has also been built in Europe by an international consortium of companies from France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
In January 2006, it was agreed that two batteries of MLRS (nine launchers per battery) were to be transferred from the Netherlands to Finland. The systems were delivered in February 2007.
MLRS was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March / April 2003. The US Army fielded the upgraded M270A1 launchers and the new ATACMS quick reaction unitary missile in February 2011, the US Army placed a $22.1m order for M270 launcher upgrade kits.
In May 2011, the Finnish Army placed a $45.3m order to upgrade its 22 M270 MLRS launchers. The upgrade enables the launchers to fire precision GPS-guided munitions.
Multiple launch rocket system details
The multiple launch rocket system is a high-mobility automatic system based on an M270 weapons platform. MLRS fires surface-to-surface rockets and the army tactical missile system (ATACMS). Without leaving the cab, the crew of three (driver, gunner and section chief) can fire up to 12 MLRS rockets in fewer than 60 seconds.
The MLRS launcher unit comprises an M270 launcher loaded with 12 rockets, packaged in two six-rocket pods. The launcher, which is mounted on a stretched Bradley chassis, is a highly automated self-loading and self-aiming system. It contains a fire control computer that integrates the vehicle and rocket-launching operations.
The rockets can be fired individually or in ripples of two to 12. Accuracy is maintained in all firing modes because the computer re-aims the launcher between rounds.
The MLRS can be readily transported to the area of operations, for example by the C-5 transporter aircraft or by train. MLRS has excellent cross-country mobility and a road speed of 64km/h.
MLRS tactical rocket warhead and munitions
The basic MLRS tactical rocket warhead contains 644 M77 munitions, which are dispensed above the target in mid-air. The dual-purpose bomblets are armed during freefall and a simple drag ribbon orients the bomblets for impact. Each MLRS launcher can deliver almost 8,000 munitions in fewer than 60 seconds at ranges exceeding 32km.
Other mission-oriented rockets include the extended-range (ER) rocket, the reduced-range practice rocket (RRPR) with a range of eight kilometres to 15km and the AT2, which dispenses 28 antitank mines per round. The extended-range rocket, first fielded in 1998, carries 518 improved munitions in excess of 45km.
Rocket artillery system fire control
The MLRS computerised fire control system enables a reduced crew, or even a single soldier to load and unload the launcher. A portable boom control device and cable hook assembly is used for loading and unloading. The fire control computer allows firing missions to be carried out either manually or automatically.
In a typical fire mission, a command post transmits the selected target data directly to the MLRS computer.
The computer aims the launcher and prompts the crew to arm and fire a pre-selected number of rounds. Multiple mission sequences can be pre-programmed and stored in the computer.
ATACMS (army tactical missile system)
MLRS also fires the long-range Lockheed Martin Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) guided missiles. The ATACMS family includes the block 1, block 1A and block 1A unitary missiles. Block 1, which was used during Operation Desert Storm, carries 950 baseball-sized M74 submunitions to ranges exceeding 165km.
The block IA missile extends the range to more than 300km by reducing the submunition payload and adding GPS guidance. The block 1A unitary missile, with a single-burst warhead, was first deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March / April 2003. Lockheed Martin was awarded a first US Army contract for production of the unitary missile in February 2004 and a second, for 50 missiles, in January 2005.
The programme to develop the block II missile, with GPS and 13 BAT (brilliant anti-tank) submissiles, and Block IIA missile, with six improved BAT submissiles, was cancelled in February 2003. The BAT submunition, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, is an unpowered glider which has acoustic sensors for target detection and infrared sensors for terminal guidance. Maximum range is 140km.
GMLRS (guided multiple launch rocket system)
Lockheed Martin developed a new extended-range guided MLRS (GMLRS), which has a range of more than 70km. The GMLRS XM30 rocket has a GPS (global positioning system) and inertial guidance package and small canards on the rocket nose to enhance accuracy.
GMLRS completed system development and demonstration (SDD) tests in December 2002 and entered low-rate initial production in April 2003. 156 GMLRS rockets were produced under the LRIP I contract (deliveries completed May 2005), 840 under the LRIP II (awarded in March 2004) and 1,014 under LRIP III (awarded February 2005).
IOC was achieved in 2006, but the system has been operationally deployed since September 2005 in Iraq. The GMLRS is an international programme involving UK, Italy, France and Germany as well as the US. The industrial team includes Diehl, MBDA and FiatAvio.
GMLRS orders and deliveries
In August 2005, the UK placed a contract for GMLRS, becoming the first international customer. GMLRS entered service with the UK Army Royal Artillery in April 2007 and began deployment to Afghanistan in June 2007.
First deliveries of a unitary variant of GMLRS, with a single 81.6kg (180lb) warhead and a range of up to 70km, were made in May 2005. In October 2003, Lockheed Martin was awarded an SDD contract for 86 unitary variant rockets, delivered in June 2005.
The programme was accelerated following a US Army 'urgent need' statement in January 2005, and the first 72 GMLRS unitary rockets were delivered in June of that year. Lockheed Martin conducted 17 tests on the unitary variant in 2006. In June 2007, GMLRS Unitary entered low-rate initial production (LRIP). Operational testing was completed in April 2008. A follow-on contract was awarded in August 2008.
MLRS, nicknamed 'Steel Rain'
In January 2008, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $512m contract to supply GMLRS and HIMARS launchers to the US Army and US Marine Corps.
In February 2009, the US Army placed a $603m order for GMLRS and HIMARS launchers. Full-scale production began in 2009. Lockheed Martin delivered the 10,000th GMLRS to the US Army in April 2010. In June 2011, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $445m follow-on contract by the US Army for 735 GMLRS unitary rocket pods and 508 RRPR pods. The US Department of Defence placed a $79.4m order for the development of a new GMLRS variant with a new warhead in April 2012.
In July 2012, the US Army placed a $353.2m order for the seventh production lot of GMLRS unitary rockets. The 20,000th GMLRS unitary rocket was delivered to the US Army in August 2012.
In January 2013, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $197m contract option by the US Army bringing the GMLRS production lot 7 contract value to $550.8m. Deliveries are scheduled to start in September 2014.
M270A1 (upgraded MLRS launcher)
In December 2000, a low-rate initial production contract was placed with Lockheed Martin for 66 upgraded M270A1 launchers to be delivered by 2004. MLRS launchers upgraded to M270AI status have improved fire control systems (IFCS) and improved launcher mechanical systems (ILMS).
The M270A1 launcher completed operational testing in October 2001 and was first fielded in May 2002. Lockheed Martin also received a FMS (foreign military sales) contract for the new launchers from the Republic of Korea.
The IFCS provides additional capacity to accommodate complex munitions and modern computer electronics, including video display, onboard navigation with global positioning system, architecture for ultrafast signal processing and advanced mission software. ILMS reduces the time to aim the launcher to 16 seconds (compared to 93 seconds). The reloading time is cut from four to three minutes.
UK systems also received the IFCS. The first 15 systems for the UK were ordered in March 2005 for delivery by the end of 2006. Italian, German and French MLRS systems have the European fire control systems (EFCS) developed by EADS / Dornier.
Pinaka is a multibarrel rocket launch (MBRL) system used by the Indian Army. It was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The Uragan or Hurricane 9K57 is a 16-round 220mm multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) manufactured by the Splav State Research and Production Association, Tula, Russia.