|Weapons & Weapon Systems
|Multiple rocket launcher
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, and 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.
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.
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 twelve MLRS rockets in less 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 twelve. 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.
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 less 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 8km 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.
Lockheed Martin developed a new extended range guided rocket 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). Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is planned for 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.
In August 2005, the UK placed a contract for GMLRS, becoming the first international customer. GMLRS will enter service with the UK Army in 2007.
First deliveries of a unitary variant of GMLRS, with a single 81.6kg (180lb) warhead and a range of up to 70km were in May 2005. In October 2003, Lockheed Martin was awarded an SDD contract for 86 unitary variant rockets, to last until 2007. The program is being accelerated following a US Army Urgent Need statement and, in August 2005, the unitary variant began field testing in Iraq.
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.
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 preprogrammed and stored in the computer.
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 has 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 are also to receive 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 will have the European Fire Control Systems (EFCS), being developed by EADS/Dornier.
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