Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS)

In May 2010 the Army canceled the Non-Line of Sight-Launch System, a billion-dollar missile program under development by Tucson, Arizona-based Raytheon Missile Systems and Lockheed Martin. The Navy was still evaluating its options for the system, which it had been considering for use aboard the Littoral Combat Ship. The modular system, known as NLOS-LS or simply NLOS, features 15 all-weather missiles in a common launcher that can be mounted on an array of military vehicles. The NLOS-LS was part of the Army's Future Combat Systems program, which was canceled last year.

Raytheon makes the NLOS-LS's Precision Attack Missile (PAM) and Lockheed Martin makes the launch unit, under a joint venture called Netfires LLC. "It's disappointing that the U.S. Army has decided to cancel the NLOS-LS program," Raytheon said in a prepared statement to the Star. "After a more than $1 billion investment over ten years, the program stands at 92 percent complete." The cancellation came after test failures and an examination of the program by a Pentagon review board, which recommended cancellation last month. The missile failed in four of six flights in a critical Army "limited user test" at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in late January and early February 2010. The missile had succeeded in 12 of 17 prior tests, and Raytheon said the recent problems have been fixed.

The NLOS-LS, previously known as NetFires and as the Advanced Fire Support System, was a technology demonstration program focused on beyond line-of-sight fires for the Army's Future Combat System. The program was formerly DARPA (NetFires) managed using combined DARPA-Army S&T funding. On March 19, 2004 NetFires LLC, which was established by Raytheon Missile Systems and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control was awarded a $1.1 billion, six-year contract for the System Design and Development (SDD) phase of the NLOS-LS.

The NLOS-LS program is developing and testing a containerized, platform-independent multi-mission weapon concept as an enabling technology element for the FCS. The NLOS-LS provides rapid response and lethality in packages requiring significantly fewer personnel, decreased logistical support and lower life-cycle costs, while increasing survivability compared to current direct fire gun and missile artillery. The original concept was called "Rockets in a Box."

The NLOS-LS allows FCS to defeat all known threats, is air deployable in C-130 (and smaller) aircraft, and enhances the situation awareness and survivability of FCS by providing standoff target acquisition and extended-range, non-line-of-sight engagements. The program is developing and demonstrating a highly flexible modular, multimission precision missile and a loitering attack missile that can be remotely commanded. Both missile types have a self-locating launcher and a command and control system compatible with the FCS.

The NLOS-LS is one alternative system the Defense Department is looking at to provide artillery support in place of the Crusader artillery system. Defense officials want to stress accuracy in artillery fire and bring to Army and Marine Corps groundpounders the same capabilities that precision- guided munitions have brought to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aviators.

It is a concept for a vertical-launch set of missiles with a command and control system in a box. It is designed to be platform-independent. Normal cannon and other rocket artillery systems depend on their launch platforms. The round in its launch canister is a complete entity. Being in a box means NLOS-LS can be mounted on a Humvee or a truck, or set up on the ground. The idea is to let the Army's Future Combat System integrate NLOS-LS into the different launch configurations. Furthermore, the NLOS-LS can be utilized in the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and in the Army's Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV).

The system as designed today is a box with 16 sections. Fifteen hold rockets, and the last contains command and control gear. The box has its own power system. The rockets fire from the canister like the Navy's Vertical Launch System. Back-blast follows the missile out the front of the launcher so there's no impact on any transport vehicle.

The rocket system is "soft launch," meaning that the rocket doesn't experience high G's as would an artillery shell traveling at high speed. There's just enough to get (the missile) out of the box and move it forward. Planners have found that vertical launch is better from the standpoint of tactical deployment. This also enables the system to engage targets in all 360 degrees.

NLOS-LS has two missiles.

The first is a Precision Attack Missile (PAM), which was formerly developed by Raytheon Corporation alone. The missile travels at high speed for minimal time to target or to reach maximum range. It has a variable thrust motor, an uncooled infrared laser seeker and a multi-mode warhead. The PAM can be utilized for both hard and soft targets.

  • 7-inch diameter 120 lb class (formerly 100 lb class)
  • Range support: 40-60 kms (formerly 0.5-50 km)
  • Variable thrust solid rocket motor
  • Dual-mode precision end game seeker
  • Large multi-mode warhead
  • In-flight updates, retargeting and image capabilities

The second is a Loitering Attack Missile (LAM), which has continued to be developed by both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. It carries a laser detection and ranging ("ladar") seeker, a turbojet motor, and wings that extend on launch. The missile has a 70-kilometer range with a 30-minute loiter time. It is able to loiter over targets of interest, do automatic target recognition and attack targets on its own.

  • 7-inch diameter 120 lb class (formerly 100 lb class)
  • Large area search capability using a LADAR seeker with
  • automatic target recognition (ATR)
  • 45 minute cruise with micro turbojet engine
  • Networks with CLU and maneuver/control elements for
  • redirect, target acquisition, down-linked images

Both missiles have an onboard datalink. With proper integration into the Future Combat System, which is one of the challenges of the project, Tousley said, Net Fires rounds could be directed to the target by forward observers, unmanned sensors or "whoever is forward."

Any needed target updates could be sent to the missile through the datalink. The missiles then would be fired into a Global Positioning System "basket." On the way there, the rounds are handed off to forward personnel or unmanned sensors such as a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. This gives the capability to interact -- if the target is moving there is a need to update the location. It gives capability, but it is going to mean challenges operationally.

Lockheed Martin successfully conducted the first test flight of a prototype NetFires Loitering Attack Missile (LAM) at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on November 11, 2002. The LAM vertically launched flawlessly, transitioned to stable flight and performed several maneuvers during the short flight test. Test objectives were successfully achieved. The Lockheed Martin-designed LAM was flown without a Laser Radar (LADAR) seeker or warhead.

A solid rocket motor vertically launched the 7-inch, 100-pound missile from a closed breach canister mounted in a Lockheed Martin prototype launcher. Control surfaces and a pivoting wing deployed as planned as the missile began its programmed assent-phase roll and pitch maneuver. Protective covers on the forward dome, scoring camera and turbojet inlet were ejected properly and engine start sequence began as scheduled. Turbojet ignition sequence completed approximately five seconds after launch, and the engine came up to speed as the prototype approached apogee. For the next eight minutes, the LAM prototype executed preprogrammed maneuvers over the Eglin test range, demonstrating impressive stability and validating aerodynamic performance, navigation and autopilot performance design parameters. Subsequent tests on additional prototypes have utilized the LADAR seeker with automatic target recognition (ATR) algorithms and radio data links.

When completely developed, NLOS-LS LAMs will enable the Army, with a single shot, to search large areas for specific targets or identify exact locations (and types) of targets encountered. The networked feature of LAM will provide for redirection in-flight and downlinked images of targets discovered. LAM is envisioned as an autonomous, loitering hunter-killer with a 200+ kilometer range and a 45-minute flight time. It will include a LADAR seeker with ATR, and up to an eight-pound multimode warhead. Prospective LAM targets would be moving or stationary missile launchers, mobile air defense equipment, artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Join the mailing list