Rocket System M270 MLRS

Rocket System M270 MLRS

The combat-proven multiple launch rocket system (MLRS 270) is a rocket artillery system manufactured by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

The system is operational in the US Army, while Bahrain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the UK have fielded or ordered MLRS. 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 a 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, placing 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 enabled the launchers to fire precision GPS-guided munitions.

MLRS 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 M270 MLRS can be readily transported to the area of operations, for example, by the C-5 transporter aircraft or by train. MLRS offers optimal cross-country mobility and a road speed of 64km/h.

Multiple launch rocket system 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 8km to 15km, and the AT2, which dispenses 28 antitank mines a round. The extended-range rocket was first fielded in 1998 and carries 518 improved munitions in excess of 45km.

M270 MLRS 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 May 2011, the Finnish Army placed a $45.3m order to upgrade its 22 M270 MLRS launchers.”

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 the 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. Its maximum range is 140km.

Guided multiple launch rocket system (GMLRS)

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. A total of 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 the UK, Italy, France and Germany, as well as the US. The industrial team includes Diehl, MBDA and FiatAvio.

M270A1 (upgraded MLRS launcher)

In December 2000, a low-rate initial production contract was placed with Lockheed Martin for 66 upgraded M270A1 launchers for delivery 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 feature the European fire control systems (EFCS) developed by EADS / Dornier.

Versions

  • M270 is the original version, which carries a weapon load of 12 rockets in two six-pack launch pod containers. This armored, tracked mobile launcher uses a stretched Bradley chassis and has a high cross-country capability.
  • M270 IPDS was an interim upgrade applied to a select number of launchers to provide the ability to fire the longer-range GPS-aided ATACMS Block IA, quick-reaction unitary and Block II missiles until sufficient M270A1 launchers were fielded.
  • M270A1 was the result of a 2005 upgrade program for the U.S. Army, and later on for several other states. The launcher appears identical to M270, but incorporates an improved fire control system (IFCS) and an improved launcher mechanical system (ILMS). This allows for significantly faster launch procedures and the firing of new types of munitions, including GPS guided missiles.
  • M270B1 is a British Army upgrade, similar to the A1, but it also includes an enhanced armor package, which gives the crew better protection against IED attacks.
  • M270C1 was an upgrade proposal from Lockheed Martin involving HIMARS Universal Fire Control System (UFCS) instead of IFCS
  • MARS2 / LRU is a European upgrade of M270 involving Germany, Italy and France. MARS2 is equipped with a new fire control system (EFCS – European Fire Control System) designed par Airbus Defense and Space. EFCS enables firing of M31, M31A1, M32, AT2 and 110 mm rockets, but not of M26, M26A1, and M30, so as to ensure full compliance with the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
  • M270D1 includes a new fire control system that allows for firing GPS-guided rockets, such as GMLRS and ATACMS. The update package consists of a new computer, locating device, GPS antenna, launch control unit, displays and remote control device. Current operators include United States, United Kingdom, Bahrain, and Finland.

MLRS rockets and missiles

The M270 system can fire MLRS Family Of Munition (MFOM) rockets and artillery missiles, which are manufactured and used by a number of platforms and countries. These include:

  • M26 (United States): Rocket with 644 M77 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) submunitions, range of 32 km.
    • M26A1 (United States): Extended Range Rocket (ERR), with range of 45 km and 518 M85 submunitions (an improved version of the M77 DPICM submunition).
    • M26A2 (United States): As M26A1, but using M77 submunitions. Interim use until M85 submunition entered service.
    • Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb: Boeing and Saab Group have modified the Small Diameter Bomb with a rocket motor to be launched from ground-based missile systems such as the M270 MLRS. With the Army demilitarizing cluster munitions from M26 rockets, the company says a special adapter kit could be used to repurpose the rocket to launch the SDB.
  • M27 (United States): Completely inert training Launch Pod/Container to allow full loading cycle training.
  • M28 (United States): Training rocket. M26 with three ballast containers and three smoke marking containers in place of submunition payload.
    • M28A1 (United States): Reduced Range Practice Rocket (RRPR) with blunt nose. Range reduced to 9 km.
  • XM29 (United States): Rocket with Sense and Destroy Armor (SADARM) submunitions. Not standardized.
  • M30 (United States): Guided MLRS (GMLRS). A precision guided rocket, range over 60 km with a standard load of 404 M85 submunitions.
    • M30A1 (United States): Guided GMLRS Alternate Warhead (AW). Version of the M30 that replaces submunitions with tungsten balls for area effects without unexploded ordnance.
  • M31 (United States): Guided Unitary MLRS. Derivative of the M30 with a 90 kg (200 lb) unitary high-explosive warhead for use in urban and mountainous terrain.
    • M31A1 (United States): Evolved version of M31.
  • GMLRS-ER (United States): Extended range version increased to 150 km (93 mi). Rockets use a slightly increased rocket motor size and tail-driven guidance while still containing six per pod. Will come in unitary and AW variants and be tested through 2021 with production by 2022.
  • M32 SMArt (Germany): Retrofit of M30 rocket by Diehl Defence with 4 SMArt anti-tank submunitions and new flight software. Demonstrated but never ordered. M32 was not an official designation
  • AT2 MLRS rocket (Germany): SCATMIN Rocket derived from M26 with 28 AT2 mine anti-tank mines and range of 38 km
  • 110 mm rocket (Germany): explosive warhead 110 mm rocket from phased out LARS2 system reused for training purpose. It requires a training kit, which includes a specific 6 rocket pod.
  • M39 (MGM-140) (United States): Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). A large guided missile using the M270 launcher, with a variety of warheads.
  • XM135 (United States): Rocket with binary chemical warhead (VX (nerve agent)). Not standardized.

Specifications

Mass 55,000 lb (24,950 kg)
Length 22 ft 6 in (6.85 m)
Width 9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)
Height 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Crew 3

Rate of fire Rockets: 12 rounds in < 40 sec Missiles: 2 rounds in 10 sec
Effective firing range M26: 32 km (20 mi)
M26A1/A2: 45 km (28 mi)
M30/31: 70 km (43 mi)
Maximum firing range ATACMS: 165 or 300 km (103 or 186 mi)

Main
armament
M269 Launcher Loader Module
Engine Cummins Diesel engine
500 hp (368 kW)
Operational
range
300 miles (480 km)
Maximum speed 40 mph (64.3 km/h)

Operators

  • Egyptian Army – 42.
  • Royal Bahraini Army – 9 ATACMS operational.
  • Finnish Army – 22, called 298 RsRakH 06. Upgraded to enable GMLRS and ATACMS, the rest (12 former Danish M270A1) are used for driver training only.
  • French Army – 13, called LRU Lance-Roquette Unitaire. Upgraded to GMLRS European standard.
  • German Army – 50+202, called MARS Mittleres Artillerie Raketen System. Upgraded to GMLRS European standard.
  • Hellenic Army – 36 ATACMS operational.
  • Israel Defense Forces – 64, called “Menatetz” מנתץ, “Smasher”
  • Italian Army – 22, called MLRS improved. Upgraded to GMLRS European standard.
  • Japan Ground Self-Defense Force – 99. GMLRS and ATACMS operational.
  • Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia – 180.
  • Republic of Korea Army – 58, 48 M270s and 10 M270A1s. ATACMS operational.
  • Turkish Army – 12 ATACMS BLK 1A operational.
  • UK Army – 42, upgraded to M270B1, which is A1 + enhanced armor package. GMLRS operational.
  • United States Army – 991, 220+ upgraded to M270A1. GMLRS and ATACMS operational.
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