Marine Corps Artillery Rockets: Back Through The Future
SUBJECT AREA Artillery
Author: Mazzara, Andrew F. Major USMC
TiTle: Marine Artillery Rockets: Back Through The Future
Date: 6 May 1987
Rockets are, by some accounts, older than cannon artillery.
Down through the ages, military professionals have had an "on-
again, off-again" love affair with artillery rockets. With the
joint development by NATO forces of the Mutiple Launch Rocket
System (MLRS) and the introduction of the BM-27 rocket launcher
by the Soviet Union, the King of Battle is at the dawn of a new
era. Ranges of conventional ordnance far exceeding anything
known before, accuracy for point destruction with terminally
guided warheads, and area saturation capability for a single
weapon equaling that of cannon battalions are not some futuristic
vision of combat technology. The battlefield is now more lethal
and violent than at anytime in the history of warfare. This paper
walks the reader through the origin and development of the
artillery rocket to the state-of-the-art technology.
The first chapter, by way of introduction, sets the stage
and scope for the rest of the treatise. Basic concepts,
terminology, and framework are established. The technique and
limitations of research are explained.
The next three chapters deal with the historical evolution
of artillery rockets from the invention of gunpowder to the
present day. Chapter 2 spans the early period since the first
"Chinese fire arrows" through the turn of the twentieth century.
Although not much occurred circa World War I, Chapter 3 brings
the reader through the 1900's by focusing primarily on the rapid
proliferation of multiple rocket launchers during the Second
World War excepting only the American involvement. Chapter 4
describes the modern experiences of the United States with
artillery rockets, but narrowing the scope to the U.S. Army
projects and then closing on the United States Marine
The last three chapters introduce the reader to the newest
American battlefield rocket system, the MLRS. Chapter 5 is a
compendium of technical data, tactics, and general background to
include a survey of Marine field commanders. Chapter 6 is a
technological assessment based on defense weapon systems
acquisition criteria of the relative merit of the MLRS from a
Marine Corps perspective. There is no doubt as to the tremendous
benefit that would accrue to the Corps if the MLRS were to be
fielded. However, in light of fiscal and political realities, a
new acquisition strategy is proposed that will allow Marine
artillery to close or at least maintain the firepower gap with
its Warsaw Pact adversaries and their surrogates.
MARINE CORPS ARTILLERY ROCKETS:
BACK THROUGH THE FUTURE
Major Andrew F. Mazzara
United States Marine Corps
Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134
6 May 1987
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Plates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii
List of Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Azimuth of Fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Chapter 2 - "THE SOUL OF ARTILLERY" . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
The Origins of Rockets . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
The Congreve Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
"The Rockets' Red Glared". . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Hale's Influence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Chapter 3 - INTO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY . . . . . . . . . . 25
Unplanned Obsolesence . . . . . . . . . 25
Nebelwerfers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
The Katyusha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
The Dunkirk Factor . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Chapter 4 - AMERICA'S MODERN WAR ROCKETS . . . . . . . . . 48
The Re-birth of the U.S. War Rocket . . . . . 48
U.S. Army Ground Rockets . . . . . . . . . . 50
The Marine Buck Rogers' Men. . . . . . . . . . .55
Chapter 5 - THE STATE OF THE ART . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Today's Battlefield . . . . . . . . . . 77
The Threat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Developing a Combat Multiplier . . . . . . . . 81
System Characteristics . . . . . . . . . 85
The MLRS and the Marine Corps . . . . . . . . 89
Input from the Field . . . . . . . . . . . . .94
Chapter 6 - A MARINE MLRS: IS IT NEEDED ? . . . . . . . . .101
Redefining the Requirement . . . . . . . . . .102
Concept of Employment. . . . . . . . . . . . 104
System Value Assessment . . . . . . . . . . 105
Chapter 7 - THE FUTURE FOR THE MARINE MLRS. . . . . . . . . 116
Appendices: A - Chronology of Events
B - First Rocket Table of Organization
C - Marine Field Commanders' Survey
D - BM-27 Specifications/Capabilities
E - Logistic Vehicle System Characteristics
F - MLRS Configurations
G - Proposed MLRS Battery Table of Organization
H - Additional Photographs
LIST OF PLATES Page
3.1 The German "Nebelwerfer" . . . . . 32
3.2 BM-13, the Katyushau. . . . . . . . . 38
4.1 USMC truck-mounted MRL's . . . . . 58
4.2 Tank-mounted MRL at Guadalcanal. . . 60
4.3 MRL barrage at Iwo Jima . . . . . 64
4.4 USMC rocket launchers, Korea . . . 69
4.5 Marine heliborne MRL's . . . . . . 72
4.6 North Vietnamese rockets, 1968 . . . 75
LIST OF FIGURES Page
3-1 German-Russian Multiple Rocket Launchers (WWII). . 42
4-1 U.S. Army Multiple Rocket Launchers (WWII) . . . .54
5-1 Illustration, Multiple Launch Rocket System. . . .84
5-2 Launcher (SPLL) Characteristics . . . . . . . . .86
5-3 System Comparability Analysis. . . . . . . . . .87
5-4 USMC Organizational Comparison . . . . . . . . . . 88
It was only last Tuesday when Sergeant McGurk had guided his
multiple launch rocket system, MLRS, ashore at Esbjerg, Denmark.
It seemed like a lifetime ago. He remembered being annoyed then
that his battery, Battery O, Fifth Battalion, 10th Marines, did
not land until well into the on-call waves of the amphibious
operation. The ride to the beach in the LCAC ( Landing Craft Air
Cushion) had been faster than he expected, but it seemed like an
eternity before one was available to take him, his crew, and his
launcher from their ship, the U.S.S. Trenton (LPD-10), to the
landing site. Fortunately the beach gradient was good and they
only had a small stretch of surf about two feet deep to traverse
to finally make their grand entrance on Blue Beach.
Since his first memorable day in real combat, Sergeant
McGurk had grown tremendously in wisdom and experience on the
battlefield. He had served with the same MLRS battery since
leaving Boot Camp and, although he did not get as many
opportunities to fire his weapon as he would have liked, he did
get some valuable training at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg. He
was confident from the start that he could "do the job" when it
counted. It counted now.
It was the Fall of 1994. The Soviet Union in conjunction
with its client states of the Warsaw Pact had finally done what
had been anticipated for the past four decades. They had moved
quickly and forcefully through the Fulda Gap in Germany in a
"blitzkrieg"-type attack on Western Europe. In the first few
weeks of the war, the Soviets realized great success but now
seemed to be bogged down and confronted an Allied defense that
was growing stronger by the day. Sergeant McGurk did not know,
nor did he really care, what all the political reasons were for
his being in Denmark. All he knew was that this was the reason
he had walked into his recruiter's office that cold, winter's day
three year ago. Now, he and the rest of the 2nd Marine Division
were supposedly landing as part of the II Marine Amphibious Force
(II MAF) on the Jutland Peninsula to "turn the flank" of the
Soviet 10th Combined Arms Army.
After coming ashore, he had moved quickly inland to his
first pre-designated hide area in a small patch of trees just off
what had once been a small two-lane highway. His crew seemed
anxious to mix it up with the enemy. He felt the same
excitement, but had responsibilities now that required him to put
his emotions on hold. His first task was to establish digital
communications with his platoon commander and his Battery command
post. Having accomplished this task fairly quickly, he was able
to submit his LOST (location status) report.
On occupying his hide area, Sergeant McGurk had done his own
ground reconnaissance to determine his parking azimuth, the
terrain mask, and alternate hide areas and firing points within
the surrounding area. He entered the appropriate data into his
fire control unit. His launcher was ready to go and he soon
received word that he was to remain in a "HOT" status until
It wasn't long before he received the locations of his
reload and firing points. This was good news. Obviously, the
LVS (Logistic Vehicle System) had made it ashore with his
resupply of launch pod/containers. As soon as he had fired six
or more of his "rocks", as his Marines called them, he would move
to the reload point to obtain his replacement ordnance.
While he and his crew anxiously awaited their first combat
fire mission, his mind drifted back to his first days in Battery
"O" at Camp Lejeune. The Battalion Sergeant Major had nicknamed
him "Baseplate" during a NCO leadership training session in the
battery area. At first he didn't understand the meaning of his
new title and it was almost a month later when his CO answered
his query in the field with the information that "Baseplate
McGurk" had been some kind of fictional Marine Corps character
back in the 40's and 50's who was used to teach leadership
He was abruptly jerked back to reality when his gunner
* "Baseplate McGurk" was a creation of LtGen W. K. Jones, USMC,
the Marine Corps' youngest battalion commander in WWII. General
Jones wrote numerous leadership articles for the Marine Corps
Gazette using McGurk as a teaching vehicle to simplify
yelled, a little too loudly, in his ear, "Fire Mission !" After
acknowledging the mission, he directed his driver who was still
breathless from running in from his local security post to move
to their assigned firing point. They had received a "when ready"
mission and things began happening at a very rapid pace. McGurk
and his Marines at gone through this sequence which to him seemed
like a million times. Thus by now they each performed their
functions almost mindlessly, yet each aware and watching what the
others were doing.
He had 90 seconds to respond that his MLRS was capable of
firing this particular mission. As soon as his computed data
showed on the screen on his fire control panel, the gunner
transmitted his "WILCO" message indicating that his launcher
would comply. As the launcher moved into its pre-designated
parking heading at the firing point, the gunner now under
McGurk's critical, watching eye, pressed the INIT key on the
panel and when the display showed "ARM ROCKETS" he routinely
flipped the ARM switch. The next display, "FIRE ROCKETS",
sometimes gave McGurk the funny feeling that the launcher was
controlling them instead of the other way around. His gunner
looked quickly to his Section Chief and, after receiving a slight
nod, lifted the FIRE switch holding it up for two or three
The deafening roar and the large, rising cloud of dirt
surrounding them said more than the "SAFE ROCKETS END OF
MISSION" that appeared on the screen. They had fired their first
rockets in anger, so to speak. As the gunner annotated his
mission log, McGurk explained that the nature of the targets they
fired on and the Battle Damage Assessments would not be known
until he could get back to the battery or battalion command posts.
Little did Sergeant McGurk or his Marines know that they had
in fact become an anecdote in Marine Corps history. Their first
rocket fire mission against a fast-moving, Soviet armor column
was the first time since the Korean Conflict that Marines had
used multiple rocket launchers on the battlefield. It was
definitely not to be the last.
Azimuth of Fire
This paper is intended to document, from a United States
Marine Corps perspective, the historical trail of artillery
rockets from their birth until the present day. The Marine Corps
is presently drifting in and out of serious consideration of the
procurement of what some might classify as the most lethal ground
weapon system ever developed for the conventional battlefield,
the Multiple Launch Rocket System or MLRS. In order to better
understand the environment in which the Corps must make their
acquisition decision, this history of war rockets will follow a
series of successively narrower paths from the origin of rockets
to their coming of age during World War II to finally a review of
the Marine Corps vacillating interest in this type of weaponry.
The reader will be taken on a rapid journey through time
copvering more than seven hundred years. The "story" will end at
Headquarters Marine Corps.
While conducting research for this paper, there were clearly
some hurdles to surmount. There has been apparently no single
work dedicated specifically to this topic. Most of the
information discovered concerning war rockets was fragmented,
piecemeal, and sometimes contradictory. As the research moved
closer to the present day, it actually became more difficult to
uncover reliable historical data.
Of particular note is the flippant usage by many historians
of the terms "rocket", "missile", and "mortar". For our purposes,
a rocket is distinctly different than a missile which might best
be described as a projectile with a guidance system that follows
a controlled flight path. A rocket, in the true sense, is a
self-contained system with a motor that follows Newton's Third
Law of Motion. As the forces build up inside the rocket casing
they escape rapidly through the rear exhaust port. There is a
reactive force acting equally on the forward, closed end of the
rocket which propels it through the air on a ballistic
trajectory. Rockets, not missiles, follow what is called a "free
flight" path. Much like a bullet fired from a rifle, they go
where they are aimed subject to their environment (i.e. wind,
precipitation, humidity). Mortars may be used to fire rockets or
mortar shells which, like artillery shells, usually use
separately loaded propellants.
For the purposes of this paper, the terms "war rocket",
"artillery rocket" and "rocket artillery" will be used
interchangeably to specify those rocket systems that were fired
from the ground either singly or multiply launched as a
supporting arm on the battlefield. This is to avoid confusion
with those rocket systems that were also developed at various
times to be fired from a sea-based platform or from an aircraft
at either air or ground targets. Finally, the historical topic
of primary interest throughout the paper is the multiple rocket
launcher and how military technology advanced to where it is
today with the new MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System).
During the course of the research both primary and secondary
sources were used. The majority of the primary sources were
personal interviews or telephone conversations. Some original
documents written and signed by Marine rocket battery commanders
during the Korean conflict were uncovered and found useful, as
well as a very well-documented letter from a former rocketeer to
Headquarters Marine Corps (Historical Division). The Air
University Library at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama was an
excellent assistance in confirming some data and uncovering new
information. The Breckinridge Library at the Marine Corps Command
and Staff College, Quantico provided the starting point for my
research and much of the initial background.
There were, however, some gaps in the historical trail of
rockets, particularly at the juncture where the Marine Corps
decided to employ multiple rockets launchers for the first time
in the Pacific during World War II. This also occurred again at
the point when the Corps decided to get out of the rocket
business after the Korean Conflict. For both events, there was a
paucity of information. The National Archives, the Marine Corps
Historical Archives, and Headquarters Marine Corps Central Files,
as well as the files of specific Headquarters Marine Corps
project sponsor offices (Codes POG, LMW, and RDS), were all
surveyed without success. The exact time and substance of key
policy decisions by the Marine Corps to adopt and then to
terminate the employment of multiple rocket launchers seems to
have been lost within the bureaucracy.
In the final two chapters dealing with the state-of-the-art
technology, principally the MLRS, the extensive work that has
been done by both the U.S. Army and the United States Marine
Corps in the development of a concept of employment as well as
tactics and techniques for the system was not re-gurgitated but
rather summarized to highlight the current thinking. The last
chapter is a consolidation of the opinion and ideas of others
into which the author has blended his own as a basis for
conclusions and recommendations.
"THE SOUL OF ARTILLERY"
The Origins of Rockets
As far back as the second or third century, there are some
vague references to "rocket attacks" on Greek soldiers fighting
in the Orient. However, these "accounts" are more suggestive
than factual in their content and, as with many ancient sources,
must be critically evaluated. There have been some historians
who have taken reports that the soldiers were "repulsed with
storms of lightning and thunderbolts hurled on them from above
as evidence to the beginnings of rocketry which, more likely,
were incendiaries of some type (i.e. pitch, naptha) projected by
catapult. Despite their efforts to expand some very weak
historical data into a meaningful thesis, there is almost nothing
of substance found anywhere on rockets until at least the 13th
Although black powder and firecrackers can be dated much
earlier and are generally accepted as Chinese in origin, the year
1232 A.D. is the first validated record of rockets being used in
combat. The date and the events surrounding this historical
milestone have received consensus agreement from most scholars.
Even though there were earlier written accounts of Chinese "fire
arrows" by French missionaries in China, no specific dates are
listed. Most of the French writings on the subject were based on
second-hand reports and hearsay from these missionaries who had
been based in the Orient since the 16th century.2
Five years after the death of Ghengis Kahn, the first
recorded use of "war rockets" by the Chinese against the Mongols
took place at the seige of Kai-fung-fu (Pien-king). This event
was described in some detail by a French Jesuit. Speculation
based on his translation of the employment of these "fe-se-ho-
tsiang" or "arrows of flying fire" indicated the possible
employment of a type of incendiary rockets that were attached to
arrows.3 The arrows appeared to provide some ballistic direction
to the rocket which increased its effectiveness against wooden
fortifications or tarred riggings. Some historians express
skepticism even here as to whether or not the quality of the
reports truly indicated that "war rockets" were actually used.
However, it is generally accepted that rockets existed and were
probably employed in battle in China during this period.
From 1232 on, occasional mention of rockets appeared in
historical writings of the Chinese, Arabs, French and others.
The Chinese were known to have used them across the Asian
continent from Persia (Iran) to Japan in battle usually against
the Tartars or Mongols. Arab writers make mention of "Chinese
fire arrows" from the mid-13th century on.4 It seems that the
Tartars and Mongols both may have adopted the war rocket in its
Chinese form after experiencing its effects in combat.
Beginning during the nascency of the rocket, we regularly
witness a general confusion in the use of terminology. Rockets,
bombs, incendiary arrows and other less descriptive terms were
used indiscriminately in reference to rockets. Both drawings and
translated writings were unclear whether the devices were rocket
launched arrows, fire-tipped arrows, or conventional arrows that
carried rocket-type incendiaries. Even as recently as the 20th
century, rockets are often called missiles and their launchers
have been called mortars.5
There are clear indications that rocketry quickly spread
from Southern Asia to Europe and Russia by the 14th century
through the spread of commerce and the increasing appearance of
merchant sailing ships.6 By the 1420's, the French had already
begun developing a tradition of war rocketry. They used rockets
both in the defense of Orleans in 1429 and later at the seige of
Pont-Andemer in 1449. Rockets in combat were again employed by
France at Bordeaux and Gand in 1452 and 1453 respectively. Their
effectiveness is a matter of some dispute, but they remained at
least a curiosity among military professionals that sustained
their acceptance, albeit meager.
While rockets entered into dormancy in the Orient, their
development and use saw a brief surge in Europe. In addition to
the French, the Italians, Dutch and Germans experimented with war
rockets with varying degrees of success. During the period 1350
- 1700, the rocket had the potential to impact significantly on
the future of armed conflict. However, about this time its
technological adversary, cannon artillery, appeared in increasing
numbers on the battlefield. As smooth bore artillery became more
advanced and more accurate with improvements in range, rockets
essentially remained unchanged in their technical aspects since
the time of their arrival in western Europe from the Orient.
In accordance with their developing nature, war rockets began to
drift in and out of vogue relegated to a position of only
secondary interest on the part of military professionals.
The Congreve Era
Three years before the United States Marine Corps was
established, William Congreve, who was to have a major impact on
the growth of artillery rockets, was born in Great Britain. The
importance of his appearance in history would only be realized
some thirty -two years later when war rockets burst spectacularly
back on to the battlefield. Congreve is now in retrospect
considered as the "Father of Modern War Rocketry". The
background of Congreve's involvement in rocketry is worth
At about this time, cannon artillery development had
essentially reached the limit of its technological advance
with smooth bore guns and mortars. There were no significant
engineering contributions to either the range or accuracy
capabilities of the heavy guns which were still essentially used
in a direct fire mode on the battlefield. This fact combined
with the British colonial wars in India during the 1700's
produced the circumstances for the resurgence of artillery
During the period of 1780 - 1784, the British Army first
experienced rockets on the receiving end in the Mahratta Wars in
India. The Indians initially under the Sultan of Mysore, Hyder
Ali, and later under his son, Tippo Sultaun (Sahib), had formed a
rocket corps consisting of as many as 5000 men. Then, in 1799, at
the seige of Seringapatam, they employed six to twelve pound
rockets attached to ten foot stabilizing poles against the
British. Despite their short range of 1000 yards and their
apparent inaccuracy, the rockets quickly gained the attention of
the British military. It is also thought that a variation known
as "ground rockets" was used.7 This weapon essentially fired
wildly moving projectiles along the ground with good effect in
demoralizing and confusing enemy soldiers along with causing
secondary incendiary damage. Although the danger of physical harm
was apparently slight, this ordnance served well to disrupt the
opposing force and, as a result of its noise and visual effects,
also produced a debilitating psychological result on
inexperienced or unsuspecting troops. Reports that eventually
reached William Congreve stated that the attackers suffered more
from the rocket barrage then they had from the artillery, which
today may seem questionable.
The British clearly became interested at this point in the
possibilities of this "new" weapon. William Congreve, later to
be appointed a colonel in the Hanoverian Army, was the only
individual the government was able to identify with a serious
interest, if not expertise, in rockets. It also helped that his
father was also the comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at
Woolwich where several unsuccessful experiments in rockets had
been conducted some years earlier.8
Congreve's strength rested in his earnest determination to
see rockets work in combat. It was through his aggressive spirit
and dogged efforts that he was able to succeed where others
before him had failed. By 1805, he had developed a six pound
rocket with a paper case that had a range of 2000 yards which
until then was by far the greatest distance achieved. He saw that
the major advantage in rockets was the lack of recoil forces on
the carrier which would allow such a weapon to be fired from
boats or light carriages. Most of the artillery of the day still
used rather large and cumbersome platforms to absorb the reactive
forces from firing projectiles which required they be manhandled
and made them unsuitable for shipboard use. Congreve himself
stated, "... It (the rocket) is ammunition without ordnance, it
is the soul of artillery without the body; and had therefore from
the first principles of its flight, a decided advantage for the
conveniency of use ...". He also saw the rocket as potentially
exceeding the gun in terms of range and accuracy. He designed
rockets that went beyond the historical incendiary-type,
developing shrapnel and case shot warheads. His early work was
frustrating because the weapon development never matched his
expectations and was also financially costly to him personally.
But, through perseverance he increased the range of his early
rockets from 500 yards to the then very impressive range of
In the midst of this, the most significant and largest war
in a century occurred. Between 1793 and 1815, Britain was almost
continually at war with revolutionary and Napoleonic France.This
now provided an impetus to the Congreve rocket program. By the
fall of 1806, Congreve had what he felt was a final design of a
steel-cased rocket with a tail shortened from an original 25 feet
to 15 feet. The rocket had not only increased its weight to 32
pounds but had also increased it range now to almost 3000 yards.
Congreve's rocket was ready for war.
Colonel Congreve proposed the use of rockets against the
French at Boulogne. But first he had to demonstrate their
effectiveness in the countryside outside Woolwich to the Prime
Minister, William Pitt, and then he gained approval for his plan.
The first attempt to employ Congreve's rockets against the French
was delayed. The reasons are not clear, but conjecture indicates
that the winds and weather, possibly combined with other
technical difficulties postponed the initial bombardment.10 The
next attempt was then planned for the summer of 1806, but was
once again delayed.
Rather than becoming discouraged, Congreve continued
developing the war rocket. He added a number of different weights
and warheads to his inventory. He was confident that the rocket
would find its place as a practical instrument of modern warfare.
Finally, on the 8th of October 1806, the first rockets were
used by the British in combat. They were launched from aboard
British naval barges towed by warships and manned by Royal Marine
Artillery.11 Approximately 200 were fired against the city of
Boulogne. The effect of the barrage is the subject of some
dispute. They appear to have done little direct damage and
allegedly were ridiculed by French soldiers. However, they did
cause considerable secondary damage through fires and were
considered a success by both Congreve and the British
One year later, the British fired a reported 25,000 rockets
at the French Fleet in Copenhagen burning the city to the ground.
The war rocket was proving itself an effective implement of
battle. The enemy wasn't laughing anymore.
The British soon formed two Royal Marine Rocket Troops and
Congreve developed equipment, drill and training methods, and
tactics for attacking and defending fortified positions,
ambushing, and what might be considered rudimentary amphibious
operations. Eventually, a Rocket Brigade was established. But,
despite Congreve's increasing favor with the Government, Lord
Wellington was not a proponent of his weapon. Britain's greatest
combat hero did not care for the rocket's erratic behavior when
it occasionally exploded over the heads of his soldiers with a
detrimental effect on the physical safety of his men as well as
their morale. He reluctantly permitted their use on "his"
Regardless of his detractors, Congreve continued to promote
the employment of his rockets. Their use at the Battle of
Liepzig in October 1813 was credited by some historians with
inflicting extensive casualties and damage on the French. The
Rocket Brigade saw considerable combat up to and including
Waterloo; however, afterwards Wellington was rumored to have
directed his rocket commander to trade his rockets in for field
Wellington notwithstanding, a Rocket Corps was formed as
part of the British Army in early 1814. Similar rocket units
began appearing across the European continent and in Russia.*
Congreve's contribution to his Country were eventually
recognized by his knighting and were, in fact, significant in
many conflicts to come. His vision and ingenuity were clearly
the foundation for the development of military rocketry which has
evolved into contemporary state-of-the-art technology for
* It is interesting to note at this point that the Soviet Union
claims that rockets were first used by Russians as early as the
15th century. They also contend that in the early 1600's in a
publication, "Code of Military, Artillery and Other Matters
pertaining to the Science of Warfare", authored by a Russian
gunsmith, Onisim Mikhailov, refernce to "... cannon balls which
run and burn ..." indicates the use of military rockets.(15)
However it is also interesting to note that at the Battle of
Liepzig in 1813, the Russians were supported by a British Rocket
Brigade against Napoleon with very impressive results.(16)
"The Rockets' Red Glare"
During the growth of war rocketry in Britain, The United
States expressed only a passing interest in this "new" weapon
system. The recently-formed Republic had a host of other
concerns that made serious study of a topic as frivolous as
rocketry impossible. Yet, like the British, their attention
would be gained as the result of finding themselves on the wrong
end of a battlefield rocket barrage.
In 1812, an unnecessary war occurred between Britain and the
United States, one which started by both nations blundering into
it. After a repulse of an American invasion of Canada, the
British in turn landed military forces on America's shore. In
1814, their offensive included a threat to the American's new
capitol in Washington. The Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland,
outside Washington, D. C., saw the first recorded use of rockets
on American soil, and the United States Marines were there.
On 24 August 1814, a vacillating confrontation between a
British Regiment and an American battalion of militia, reinforced
by a contingent of Marines and sailors under the command of the
American naval hero, Captain Joshua Barney, turned into an
eventual rout when the British employed their Congreve rockets.
Although the rocket barrages produced primarily a psychological
effect on the troops, they were quite successful in disrupting
the formations of the American militiamen. Barney had some
experience with naval rockets while fighting in the Chesapeake,
but the militia and the Marines were receiving their baptism
under rocket fire. The Marines who were credited by the British
with an aggressive battle and tenacious spirit were commanded by
Marine Captain Samuel Miller assisted by Captain Alexander
Sevier. The militia troops broke and ran almost immediately upon
confronting this new, terrifying weapon of war. However, the
Marines and sailors steadfastly held their ground stubbornly
refusing to yield until their flank was exposed by the rapidly
Neil H. Swanson in his book The Perilous Fight, which is a
detailed account of the Battle of Bladensburg, provides some
excellent insight into what it was like for these Marines who
first experienced artillery rocket fire:
There is something personal about these
hurtling, fire-spouting things. You can see
them come...The truth is that aiming is large-
ly a matter of hope and intention. This new
weapon is atleast as inaccurate as it is fear-
inspiring... They fly every which way. But
that is part of their terror...you can't know
that it won't gush flame in your face and take
three idiotic leaps and come darting back to
bury it's red-hot metal tip in your guts.....
That is the weakness of rockets: their flight
can not be controlled. But the rocket barrage
scarcely aimed, is not aimless....The rockets
come with a hoarse, whooping roar. They pass
close overhead with a roar like a storm wind
In a chimney....Oh, God...rockets again....
not rockets...God, don't let them use rockets.(18)
As a result of this encounter, the British were able to
breakthrough the meager American defenses, continue their attack
to the north, bombarding Fort McHenry in Baltimore where the
employment of their rocket ship, the H.M.S. Erebus, inspired
Francis Scott Key to pen our National Anthem. Eventually, they
would lay seige to the city of Washington, burning it to the
ground, but sparing the house of the Marine Commandant. It has
been theorized that this building was not destroyed out of
respect to the Marines gained from their valiant stance at
Sir General William Congreve died in May 1826 , and with his
death ended the first phase of modern rocketry. The legacy of his
desire and motivation to make rockets an integral part of modern
weaponry soon began to fade. The next resurgence would again
intertwine the British and Americans.
The next stage again involved the Royal Laboratory in
Woolwich. In 1846, an English inventor, William Hale, entered
rocket history by taking the Congreve rocket and improving its
design. Rockets known for their erratic behavior in flight and
their poor accuracy were improved significantly by Hale with his
addition of fins at the base of the rocket. These fins, or
"curved vanes", were used in conjunction with "tangential holes
at the periphery of the base" (developed by an American inventor
named Court) to replace the stick used by Congreve for stability
in flight. The Hale rockets had a little less range (2000 yds)
than Congreve's but provided a quantum jump in accuracy. Some of
their erratic flight behavior was reduced and the ability to hit
their assigned target was beginning to approach that of cannons.
The Americans became more interested than the British military
and with Hale's help began manufacturing rockets after purchasing
the rights for $20,000.19
The Arsenal in Washington, D.C., under the supervision of
the Ordnance Department of the U.S. War Department was
responsible for the development of the Hale war rocket. In
December 1846, the first American rocket battery was formed at
Fort Monroe. Lieutenant General Winfield Scott then in command of
the U.S. Army in Mexico had briefly experienced Congreve rockets
years before in 1814. Based on that, the General authorized a
rocket troop be sent to his army at Vera Cruz in early 1847. Six
rocket "dischargers" and soldiers joined Scott in Mexico.
The rocketeers as they were called for the first time were
assigned as a contingent of the mountain howitzer batteries.
There is very little recorded information but they are said to
have fired their Hale rockets at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo,
Contreras, Molino Del Ray and Chapultepec. This last battle
employment of rockets was apparently the first time United States
Marines were fighting in combat associated with the offensive use
of artillery rockets. The Mexican Army of Santa Anna is also
reputed to have used Congreve rockets against the Americans with
minimal effects. Most probably as a result of their inherent
disadvantages, particularly range, logistics and battlefield
signature, the U.S. rocket-howitzer troop was disbanded in
From 1848 - 1862, the U.S. acquired improved versions of
rockets and listed two types of Hale and one type of Congreve
rocket in the inventory at the outbreak of the Civil War.21 It
was also now possible to find a very precise definition and
description of war rockets in Scott's "Military Dictionary" in
At the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, an
experimental battery known as the 24th Independent Battery, New
York Light Artillery, U. S. Volunteers, was formed in Albany New
York. Its armament consisted of dischargers or launchers
described as "breech-loading field pieces with a range of 5300
yards". The launcher was constructed of an eight foot length of
wrought iron tubing which was perforated with 1 inch holes over
its entire length. Another 3 inch diameter launcher made of 3/4
inch spirally-coiled wire was also developed. Both launchers were
initially mounted on tripods with plans to adapt them to standard
The results of the tests with the battery which were
conducted at the Washington Arsenal under the eye of the Ordnance
Department were conflicting, depending on which one was read.
Some observers termed the firings "perfect", others cited them as
a dismal failure. The accuracy was considered acceptable; the
range was phenomenal for that period ( with a test rocket going
almost three miles down the Potomac). Evidently, they were in
reality less than "perfect" since a week after the test the
battery was stripped of its rockets and refitted with standard
cannon artillery pieces. Supposition was that storage and
transportation difficulties along with manufacturing exactness
problems were considered as prohibitive. Regardless, it remains a
mystery today as to why even all experimentation was terminated
at this point.24
Although the Union apparently decided against using rockets,
they were not ignored completely. The Confederate Army reported
employing rockets under the command of J.E.B. Stuart, who fired
them at the Union troops of McClellan at Harrison's Landing on 3
July 1862. The South also used rockets sporadically in Texas from
1863 - 1864. The Confederacy purchased some of their rockets, but
it also had limited manufacturing capabilities initially at
Galveston and then at Houston.25
From 1866 to 1881, the Russians used a two inch diameter,
ten pound Hale rocket fired from rocket tube tripods called
"rocket stands". The Russians were only beginning their love
affair with artillery rockets which would continue until today.
Further detailed discussions of Soviet rocket development will be
discussed later in the paper.
Across the Atlantic, the Hale rocket was being used by the
Hungarians, the Italians and most notably by the Austrians. Each
country claimed victories as the result of their employment of
rockets in battle. The Austrians were known for their elite
Rocket Corps upon which they bestowed many honors before their
defeat by the Prussians in the Seven Week War of 1866.
It was during this period, 1850 - 1900, that the use of war
rockets began to decline more rapidly because of the invention of
rifled cannons and recoil mechanism for artillery. It soon became
obvious that artillery was now far more accurate than the rockets
and was quickly developing a range capability in excess of either
Hale or Congreve ordnance.
As the 19th century drew to a close, artillery rockets
essentially disappeared from warfare with only some occasional
experimentation from a few frustrated pioneers in Europe. An
interesting example was Alfred Nobel. He pursued the use of the
Hale rocket with a Swedish engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Baron von
Unge, in applications as both an aerial torpedo and a ground
launched weapon system. When Nobel died in 1896, his financial
support of the project ended. As a result of this and the
inability to improve the accuracy of the "mortar-launched"
system, von Unge dropped the concept in favor of working on air-
to-ground rockets. Friedrich Krupp later purchased the Unge
patents and tried unsuccessfully to convert the "torpedo" rockets
into a short-range artillery system in the early 1900's.26
INTO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
The progress of the rocket as an implement of war was
temporarily sidetracked bunt eventually enhanced by the Industrial
Revolution. As mentioned previously, the rifling of artillery
cannon barrels and the refinements made to the carriage's ability
to absorb the tremendous recoil forces of artillery shells
contributed as much to the demise of the rocket as they did to
the resurgence of cannon on the battlefield. The war rocket had
once again reached a technical plateau. Its capabilities
compared to the howitzer, particularly in both range and accuracy
and therefore effectiveness, were now clearly inferior in the
critical eye of the military professional.
Throughout the early 1900's, a few dedicated rocket men
continued to experiment with various uses for the weapon. As the
artillery cannon's accuracy and range improved rapidly, the war
rocket was unable to compete and quietly dropped from view.
However, those who believed in the future of rockets continued
their research, usually at their own expense since most
governments did not see any advantage to spending money on what
was now considered an inefficient and ineffective weapon system.
However, their experiments were oriented more towards commercial
uses of rockets for signalling and line-carrying.
Just prior to World War I and continuing through that
conflict, there were several minor efforts to develop rockets for
both underwater and aerial combat uses. The torpedo research
did not lead anywhere, but the work on air-to-air and air-to-
ground rockets for aircraft showed promise and a glimpse at the
future of air power. Both the French and the Russians
demonstrated during the war with varying degrees of success that
their pilots could launch rockets which were strapped to the
underside of the aircraft wings at targets and occasionally hit
something. The French were more interested in eliminating enemy
observation balloons and zepelins, while the Russians were
already understanding the value for close tactical air support
for their infantry on the ground. Some use was also made during
World War I of both signalling rockets and the commercials line-
carrying versions which helped certain units clear barbed wire
obstacles forward of their trenchlines.
In the United States during the first quarter of the 20th
century, there was little or no interest and activity in rocketry
with one major historical exception. A young engineer named
Robert H. Goddard was persevering in his lifelong ambition to see
rockets used for space exploration ! As the rest of the world
drifted precariously toward the Great War, Goddard's attention
remained fixed on the engineering problems that confronted the
rocket scientists. The Woodrow Wilson government, operating in an
atmosphere of national isolationism, showed little curiosity for
his work. However, the Smithsonian Institution did provide some
funding so his research into liquid propellant, nozzles and
combustion chambers could continue. In 1919, the United States
entered World War I and its priorities changed.
The Government almost immediately decided that Goddard's
work could be of some practical advantage and sent him to
California to conduct research and development of military
rockets. Goddard produced a variety of war rockets and was
successfully demonstrating their employment when the Great War
ended. Almost as quickly as it had gained interest, the United
States Government saw artillery and aerial rockets as an exotic
form of ordnance with some lingering engineering problems. This
fact combined with the peaceful post-war environment did not
encourage further development of this weapon of death. Military
research projects suddenly had no basis from which congressional
funding could be justified and the idea of American military
rockets faded once again.1
Up to this point in its history, The United States Marine
Corps could not have been any farther removed from the advances
of rocket science and technology. The brief encounters with
rockets on the battlefield at Bladensburg in 1814 and Chapultepec
in 1847 had absolutely no influence on the Marine Corps'
perspective of warfare and combat weaponry. The Corps was still
small in today's terms with very limited traditional maritime
missions that just did not "fit" with the idea of artillery
rockets. As the Marine Corps expanded during the First World War
and fought as a part of the American Expeditionary Force, it is
imaginable that some Leathernecks may have witnessed French
Nieuports attacking German airships. However, if they had any
experiences with war rockets or any visions about how the Marine
Corps might make use of this weapon, they kept them to
As is quite obvious, the attempts to resurrect the war
rocket were at best half-hearted and virtually unpublicized. It
wasn't until certain key events took place well into the century
that the artillery rocket again gained the interest, and
subsequent funding, of several governments. Both the Treaty of
Versailles and the British debacle at Dunkirk were critical
historical events. But only a few students of modern warfare
have recognized their importance in the changing face of
battlefield weaponry in general and war rockets in particular.
It is difficult to state unequivocally whether the Germans
or the Russians were the first to re-establish the vitality of
the artillery rocket. This is primarily due to the scarcity or
unavailability of Soviet records on their rocket development.
The German interest in rockets is extremely well-documented and
provides at least a good starting point.
After the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922, there was extensive
German-Russian cooperation in many areas, including military
ordnance. Although there is no supporting evidence, one can
conclude that there was at least some technology transfer between
Russian rocket experts and the Germans. In the 1930's, the
Ordnance Department of the German Army developed an interest in
the rocket as a weapon of war. That interest was spawned more
from practicality than from any prophetic vision of the
battlefield. The Armistice signed in Versailles had made an
attempt to emasculate the German military so as to preclude its
resurgence in the future. The restrictions and limitations on
arms, particularly on artillery, suddenly made rockets appear a
logical, even cost-effective, alternative that might allow the
Germans to keep up with their neighbors in the ongoing arms
With unclear objectives and vacillating progress, the
Germans were to establish a Rocket Proving Ground in Kummersdorf
West by 1932. Eventually as the programs grew and the artillery
rockets became more of a sideshow for the much larger V-2
Program, Peenemunde, a remote area along the Baltic coast, would
become the center for rocket research and development in the new
When the Second World War began, the Germans learned from
their experiences in France. Hence, they saw an increasing need
for employing smoke on the battlefield. A German engineers by the
name of Nebel designed a large "smoke-shell mortar". This 150mm
mortar, or "werfer", was designated the Nebelwerfer 41. It fired
smoke and high explosive rockets from a six-barrel configuration
of launcher tubes on a split-trail, wheeled carriage. Its shells,
stabilized by axially offset gas nozzles, had a range of 6700
meters. The entire system fully loaded weighed almost 1700
pounds and was usually towed by German half-tracked vehicles.
After it went into full production in 1942, the rocket launcher
saw combat on all fronts. The rockets were fired singly every
two seconds by a four-man firing section who operated the weapon
electrically. The Nebelwerfer had one major drawback. When it
fired, it produced a brilliant flash of backblast that was not
only visible from a long distance, but also required its crew to
seek cover before firing the weapon.
This first modern, multiple rocket launcher (MRL), was
considered "one of the most effective and most sophisticated
pieces of rocket artillery used in the war."2 It was initially
employed on the Russian front where, in 1942, the Russians
reported a "new German minethrower". As its name implies, it was
originally intended to provide effective chemical and smoke. It
was just coincidental that its inventor's name, Nebel, was also
the common military term for "smoke" in Germany at that time.3
One noted authority, Major General J.F.C. Fuller, was not as
impressed as others with the German employment of their rocket
launchers in World War II where he felt they were intent on
using it against hardened or point targets. Fuller saw the rocket
as a "tactical gap spanner". He considered a tactical gap as that
spatial area of the battlefield which was not adequately covered
by bullets, shells or bombs. The rocket launchers should have
been developed and employed to bridge those gaps, rather than
aimed towards the destruction of distant cities. He states, "The
error the Germans fell into (with their large rockets) was due to
not asking themselves from the start, 'What is the problem?'. Had
they done so, they would have seen that it was to increase or
impede tactical mobility; for movement and not destruction is the
aim of tactics."4
As the Nebelwerfer's performance improved and its value was
realized, the Germans designed a number of variants. One version
saw the rocket launcher slightly re-configured and mounted
entirely atop a Maultier half-tracked vehicle. This became
necessary in order to ensure that the rocket launcher batteries
could keep up with Panzer units. The Panzerwerfer 41 could carry
its own ammunition and be fired from inside and was also used
extensively on all fronts.
The Germans continued their artillery rocket development and
employment through the end of the war. They designed and built
larger systems of the Nebelwerfer 4l, experimenting with
interchangeable carriages, sights and prime movers. The
Nebelwerfer 42 was a 2l0mm rocket launcher with five-barrels
rather than the six of the 150mm "41". Other than that
difference, the weapon was essentially identical to its older
brother. The larger rockets also provided a maximum range
increase to almost 10 kilometers. The Germans added 280mm,
300mm, and 320mm rocket systems to their inventory experimenting
with both wooden and steel structures as well as ground
platforms, towed carriages and half-tracked vehicles.
Click here to view image
Despite the German artillery rockets' reputed inaccuaray,
they nevertheless saw extensive action in the west after their
introduction to the Russian front. Artllery rockets were fired in
large numbers at Cassino where they were dug into the rockes and
hills, allowing Field Marshall Kesselring to "rain death on the
Allies in a tenacious defense . . ." .5 In France, Field
Marshall Rommel put 272 launchers (1632 tubes) into action in his
defense east of the Orne River. A yet larger system, classified
as a 420mm "mortar" using a fin-stabilized rocket projectile, was
developed late in the war but never saw any combat.
Artillery rockets were back in vogue. There were several
other combatants who also realized their value, and although they
acquired new rocket systens for different reasons than the
Germans, they all nevertheless found sufficient justification to
steadily build their rocket forces throughout the war.
The history of rocket artillery from a Soviet perspective
follows a sometimes divergent path than that written by the West.
As a result it is often difficult to blend the two versions into
one smoothly flowing historical account. The Russians, besides
demonstrating something less than today's "glasnos" or "open-
ness", were inclined to flavor their records with ideological and
patriotic gibberish that usually has a negative impact on the
reader and often tends to unintentionally discredit the real
facts. Having stated that disclaimer, it is nonetheless
important to detail the progress of rocket artillery in Russia
for it is within that framework that war rockets, and
specifically artillery rockets, have developed to the "state-of-
the-art" technology we have today. The Soviet Union has been the
single, continuous sponsor of multiple-launch rocket systems on
the battlefield since World War II. As such, their
contributions to the impetus, if not the hardware, of artillery
rockets is by necessity essential to this paper.
Within three months after the Germans invaded Russia in
World War II, the Soviet Union deployed their Katyusha rocket
systems nicknamed "Stalin's Organs" by Nazi's The Katyusha
was actually a name for a series of multiple artillery rocket
launchers that gained almost legendary fame in Russia during
the war and have a highly regarded position in the Red Army ever
The beginnings of Russian rocketry date back to the 15th
century. Although the evidence seems very slight, Ivan A.
Slukhai in his Russian Rocketry, A historical survey uses some
scant references to validate his claim to this early use of
Russian war rockets. However, there is no disputing that by the
19th century Russian military engineers were actively engaged in
the development of war rockets.
General Alexander Dmitrievich Zasyadko, a scientist and
engineer at the upper echelons of the Russian military, led the
effort to put solid fuel rockets into practical use on the
battlefield. Test firings at the rocket facility in St.
Petersburg led to the eventual employment of artillery rockets
against the Turks in the Russo-Turkish war in 1828. In Slukhai's
opinion, the Zasyadko rockets were successfully employed in
battle and were particularly effective, if well-placed, in
disrupting cavalry formations.
The "rocket institute" in St. Petersburg was headed by a
General Konstantin Ivanovich Konstantinov who is claimed to be
the first true pioneer of Russian rocketry. Under his direction
from 1847 to 1871, the military rocket program successfully
designed and employed 2", tripod-mounted rocket launchers that
were effective in the defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean
War. Although there is very little information available, it is
thought that the Russians also were using ship-launched rocket
systems by this time. These weapons were considered by the
Russians to be most effective in "crushing the reserves" and
"with surprising accuracy . . .widening the breaches caused by
Russian rocketry apparently followed a similar path with
that of the west through the First World War. They tried
experiments with rockets launched by aircraft and used
illuminating rockets in combat during both the Russo-Japanese War
and World War I. As World War II approached, the Soviets cloaked
their rocket program in great secrecy which has made detailed
research of their efforts difficult at best due to the scarcity
of available written material.
By the early 1930's, the Soviet Union had increased their
program to manufacture modern artillery rockets at their Gas
Dynamics Laboratory in Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg). The
military engineers who had worked on the older Russian aircraft
rockets proposed "to build a multi-barrel launch unit . . .as
part of the armament of land forces".7 This idea came to fruition
in June 1938 when the Scientific Research Institute of Rockets
began work on a 132mm, 24 tube system. After several faltering
steps, six test weapons mounted on trucks were readied and tested
during the summer of 1939.
By December 1939, the first BM-13 multiple rocket launcher
unit had been built. During the next two years, the Russians
built a manufacturing plant for the production of both rocket
projectiles and launchers. Early versions of the BM-13, the
original "Katyusha", were constructed on a ZIS-6 truck with 16
launch rails. Other variants used Lend-Lease vehicles with much
of the original rocket ordnance imported from Tennessee. It is
not easy to draw a comparison of Russian and German rocket
performance on the battlefield since the systems were
considerably different and each nation employed its artillery in
support of distinctly different infantry tactics.
A day before the official outbreak of the Great Patriotic
War (WW II), 21 June 1941, the Soviet military hierarchy received
approval to significantly step up production of their rocket
systems. Concurrently, at the Red Banner Artillery School in
Moscow the first rocket battery was being quickly formed and
readied for combat. On 2 July 1941, the Battery under the
command of Captain Dmitri Flerov moved to the front. As a result
of haste, the field rocket battery was equipped with only five of
the seven planned mutiple rocket launchers. Among its other
equipment, it was assigned one 122mm towed artillery howitzer to
be used as a ranging gun, and 44 trucks to transport the 600
rounds of rocket projectiles, 100 rounds of 122mm shells, seven
days of rations and three truck-loads of fuel. This battery was
designated to join the 20th Army while the second and third
batteries were assigned to the 19th and 16th Armies
Production of rocket launchers continued at a rapid pace
with the intention to field regiments of rocket artillery by the
end of 1941. In sheer numbers, the Soviets had 424 launchers
deployed on their western front by late 1942 and almost 1700
weapons by 1943. Before the end of the war, they had formed
seven Guards Rocket Barrage Divisions consisting of two or three
rocket barrage brigades or regiments capable of supporting major
attacks and disrupting large-scale enemy assaults. There were
also numerous separate rocket brigades assigned to the
Breakthrough Artillery Divisions. The Raketnyye Voyska, or Rocket
Troops, were made a legend by the Soviet press.9
Flerov's battery was to distinguish itself in numerous
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engagements against the "Hitlerite soldiers." They also
recognized some of the disadvantages of flash signature and
weapon inaccuracy; and the unit was instrumental in developing
tactics and techniques to minimize these effects. On 6 October
1941, however, the Germans were able to physically locate
Flerov's unit and eventually encircled it. The rocketeers, or
Katyushniks as they came to be called, spiked their own weapons
just before the entire battery was destroyed by the Germans.
The Battery's early exploits combined with their obvious
contributions on the battlefield gained for them the honorary
designation as a Guards unit, considered elite troops in the Red
Army. The "Guards" descriptor became the standard designation
for most rocket regiments and divisions. In August 1943, rocket
barrages were first used with mechanized forces to break-up enemy
offensive formations and to breach defensive positions, both of
which they did very effectively. Mr. Ivan Slukhai in his history
of Russian rocketry provides some insight into the developing
image of Soviet rocket units:
The most characteristic traits in the combat
exploits of the first rocketeers were their
sudden appearance at the most difficult sec-
tors of the front; their speed band determina-
tion in firing; their .. ability to fire a
maximum of explosives at the enemy within the
shortest possible time, when necessary; and
their ability to shatter the enemy morally
as well as physically. These and other tradi-
tions of the Second World War took root among
the rocketeers. They have been further
strengthened and developed, and have become a
standard . . .(1O)
By the time of the great defensive battle of Stalingrad,
artillery rockets had won complete acceptance within and outside
the Soviet military. The Russian soldiers at the front lines
were solidly in favors of receiving their support and they
witnessed their arrival in ever increasing numbers on the
battlefield. It is clear that this "new" weapon system fit the
requirements for the Soviet supporting arms.
As the noted British historian and strategist Sir B. H.
Liddell Hart points out, the Russians were seriously lacking in
artillery technology, especially in fire direction and control.
As a result they compensated by using massive concentrations of
artillery which led to their development of the concept of
"breakthrough artillery". Not only were their fires
concentrated, but so was the actual positioning of the field
howitzers which was clearly "suicidal" and they recognized it. As
Liddell Hart explained, "The Russians have been attempting to
overcome this problem by improvements in their fire control
equipment . . . and the accuracy of their weapons; at the same
time there is evidence that they are attempting to develop heavy
concentrations of fire through the use of multiple rocket
launchers . . . (which) can provide a tremendous volume of fire
in a short period of time and then have to move off to a safe
location before counteraction can be effective."11
Hart described the rocket launchers as the "ideal weapon
from the Russian point of view." They provided the Soviets with
the massed fires over a broad area while also shattering their
enemy's morale. This capability in many ways mitigated their
shortcomings in fire direction and control which affected rocket
barrages as much as cannon fire. The weapons were mobile relative
to towed howitzers and could be "advertised as a distinctively
Soviet weapon" which had a positive effect on the Russian esprit.
As the Soviets increased their degree of mechanization with tanks
and other tracked vehicles, they required supporting arms to be
at critical places at the right time. The rocket launchers were
capable of doing this while "the mass of conventional towed
artillery struggled to catch up as best it could."12 Much is the
Throughout the remainder of World War II, the Soviets
primarily employed the BM-13 as their major rocket launcher
system. It had a range of 8500 meters and the l32mm rockets were
fired from steel I-section rails mounted at various times on the
ZIS trucks, then the GAZ-63 tracks, and eventually on the T-60
and T-70 light tank chassis. An improved version with an
increased range of 11,000 meters was developed toward the end of
the war. In addition to this sytem the Soviets also introduced
the BM-8 (82mm, 5500 meter range, truck mounted), the M-30
(300mm, 2800 meter range, ground-mounted frame), and the BM-31
(3l0mm, 4800 meter range, truck mounted) into service. There was
evidence of other systems, including 120mm and 280mm that were
used during the Seige of Leningrad but little information is
known or available on these launchers. Figure 3-1 below
summarizes both the German and Russian artillery rocket systems
fielded in World War II. By war's end, the Katyushas had also
been employed aboard ship and were used against the Japanese at
Kaichia and Kurie Islands in 1945.
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Rocket launchers also continued in active service with the
Soviet Forces after the Second World War. In 1954, an entire new
line of weapons replaced the Katyushas. The Soviets saw the
rocket launchers as being Integral to their forces to counter
"enemy missiles and nuclear weapons, and to overcome small
pockets of resistance, and also destroy enemy tanks."13 It was
therefore essential that the development of artillery rockets
continue. Although most of the 1954 systems have now been phased
out of Soviet and Warsaw Pact Inventories, they are still active
in the armed forces of Afghanistan, China, Egypt and Somalia. It
was also about this time that the FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground)
appeared with the Division Artillery Group (DAG). These systems
provided the Soviets witch both conventional and nuclear
capabilities at much increased ranges up to 60 kilometers.
With this new stage of Russian rocket modernization, the BM-
21 would become the standard multiple rocket launcher system for
Soviet forces. Although the weapon did not appear in public
until the early sixties, it became the mainstay of Warsaw Pact
rocket forces and remains so to this day. The 40-tube launcher is
mounted on a truck, usually a URAL-375D (6x6) but more recently
on the modernized Czech Tatra 813 (8x8) armored truck capable of
carrying additional ammunition.
The BM-2l uses two different types of rockets, including a
short-range version with an 11,000 meter capability and a long-
range model that reaches out to 20,500 meters. It is designed to
fire chemical as well as high explosive projectiles from
positions normally 5000 meters behind the Forward Edge of the
Battle Area (FEBA) in either offensive or defensive operations.
The batteries which are found in motorized rifle regiments or in
rocket battalions of motorized rifle divisions and tank divisions
are capable of occupying firing positions in approximately 30
minutes, conducting their missions, and leaving those positions
within 10 - 14 minutes. These rocket units aggressively seek out
enemy firing batteries, command and control centers, and large
concentrations of manuever units through coordinated use of radio
direction finding (RDF) units. Once the electronic signature of
any of these targets is confirmed, the Soviets will fire a number
of batteries or battalions of rocket launchers to obliterate the
target. This type barrage can effectively saturate an area almost
one square kilometer in size.
Soviet artillery rocket development continues with the
arrival in 1977 of the BM-27, a 220mm system with a range of 40
kilometers. The BM-27 is the replacement for the BM-21 and is
currently only used in Soviet forces. The capabilities of this
weapon are provided in more detail in Appendix D.
The Dunkirk Factor
A spectacular fire at the Royal Laboratory in Woolwich at
the turn of the century had highlighted the problems of storing
rocket propellants. The entire inventory of test rockets was
destroyed and, although the fire had been difficult to put out,
there were no casualties. The whole affair was apparently viewed
by the British government as a clear demonstration that such a
tremendous concentration of rocket fire only produced minimal
destructive results. Hence. the weapon's military worth was
called into serious question.14 As a result of this unfortunate
event, artillery rockets were dropped from the ordnance
inventory and would not re-surface again until the 1930's.
Some interest grew in Great Britain in the late 1930's to
reinforce and modernize its air defense systems. Consequently,
Woolwich again became the focal point for rocket research. This
effort was primarily aimed at surface-to-air rockets in defense
of the homeland against possible air attacks. Obviously aware of
the cost-effectiveness of manufacturing rocket systems, the
British rapidly engineered several advances in both propellant
and launcher design. By 1939, after extensive test firings in
Jamaica, the first "Z" Battery was formed and located at Cardiff.
It wasn't until 7 April 1941 that the first German aircraft was
shot down, but as of December 1942 the British had fielded 91
batteries that fired 3-inch anti-aircraft rockets.
Aside from the surface-launched AA rockets, the British
military saw little value during the early stages of World War II
in other rocket research, particularly artillery rockets.
However, the disaster at Dunkirk in May and June 1940 caused the
loss of a great number of British field artillery howitzers and
guns. Suddenly they needed to quickly replace these weapons, and
artillery rockets seemed a quick fix. The rockets and their
launchers were inexpensive to build and they could be produced in
large numbers in a relatively short period of time.
Concurrently, the fateful Dieppe Raid also provided impetus to
the program but in a different direction. Dieppe demonstrated
the necessity for more amphibious assault firepower. Again
rockets appeared to provide the answer.15
Initially the landing craft-mounted "Sea Mattress" system
using 5-inch rockets was designed in 1944. The system was capable
of firing 800 - 1000 rounds in 45 seconds. The British Army was
skeptical of its effectiveness for application ashore, due
primarily to the perceived inaccuracies of the weapon. However,
after the Royal Navy's successes in shore bombardment during the
Sicily campaign and at Normandy, they reconsidered the weapon's
The "Land Mattress" was based on the Navy's concept but
finally settled on a smaller 3-inch rocket system that could be
launched from trucks and self-propelled tracked vehicles. Tests
conducted in May 1944 still did not fully convince the Army.
However, the Canadians were impressed enough to place the first
order for a dozen launchers; these were successfully used in
their crossings of the Rhine and the Scheldt during the Fall of
The Army finally settled on the thirty-tube, front-loaded,
3-inch rocket system that had a range in excess of 7,000 meters.
However, by the time the system was in full production and
available for use on the battlefield, the war was over. Although
a little late for real effect, the British had gained valuable
experience in the field of war rockets that they would share
with the Americans. This cooperation would have a very positive
impact on the rocket program of their allies.
Only the Japanese and the United States also employed
artillery rockets during World War II. The Japanese effort was
not taken seriously by their military hierarchy. They did field
some crudely designed and roughly-constructed rocket systems in
the Pacific campaign. Mostly wooden troughs or rails were used
with spin-stabilized rockets that had ranges of approximately
2,000 meters. In 1944 and 1945, these Japanese rockets were used
against American soldiers and Marines most notably at Luzon and
American war rockets are a story unto themselves.
AMERICA'S MODERN WAR ROCKETS
As we saw earlier, the United States experienced a brief
flurry of rocket research and development during the latter
stages of World War I. Dr. Robert H. Goddard was successful in
designing war rockets that were never used. Following the war,
all serious military interest died. When World War II erupted
for the United States in Europe and the Pacific, an expected
revival of the military's interest in rockets as an implement of
war became evident. However, the United States was starting from
nothing and required some outside assistance.
The Re-birth of the U.S. War Rocket
Although it was not comparable to the German rocket program
or even the Katyusha employment by the Russians, the American
rocket development was probably far more extensive than was
recognized then or now. By the end of the war, the Army was
spending at the rate of $150 million per year on rockets, while
the Navy's expenditures exceeded $1 billion ! There were over
1200 rocket manufacturing facilities across the United States
serving the Navy program.
Although some less than serious rocket experimentation had
been done at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the 1930's, the United
States was required to approach the British for help in
resurrecting their war rocket research and development program.
The entire concept may never have received any attention if Dr.
Clarence N. Hickman, a former associate of Goddard's, had not
written the head of Bell Labs about the possible advantages of
rockets in combat. His letter set is motion a chain of events
that eventually led to the sponsorship of the rocket program by
the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) and its
National Defense Research Committee (NDRC).
A visit by a British scientific mission under Sir Henry
Tizzard to the United States and a similar trip to Great Britain
by Charles Lauritsen of NDRC during 1941 assisted in resolving
some initial propellant problems the Americans were having.1 The
combination of British know-how and sudden American motivation
enabled the program to come quickly up to speed.
Dr. Hickman joined efforts with Charle Lauritsen, and soon
Sections H and L (named for their leaders) were established
within the Armor and Ordnance Division of NDRC. Hickman's work
was generally on the east coast while Lauritsen took the program
to the West Coast at Cal Tech. Their initial work centered
around air-to-ground rockets but expanded quickly to all forms of
By 1941, there were numerous public and private facilities
actively engaged in the development and production of rockets.
On the East Coast, the government had contracted with George
Washington University along with the Universities of Wisconsin,
Duke, and Minnesota to conduct research; Hercules Powder Company
worked on the propellant with the universities while Budd Wheel
Co. (Detroit) and Bell Labs developed various components and
equipment. All rocket motors were produced by Reaction Motors,
Inc. of Pompton Plains, New Jersey now a division of Morton
Thiokol. Test firings were conducted at Aberdeen, Picatinny,
Dahlgren, and in the Mojave Desert.
U.S. Army Ground Rockets
The best known of all the rocket ordnance during the Second
World War was the Bazooka, named after a musical instrument made
popular on a national radio show. The weapon was a 2.36-inch
anti-tank system developed by an Army Colonel, Leslie Skinner, in
conjunction with C. N. Hickman. Its shaped-charge warhead proved
very successful at penetrating armor during test firings . It was
rushed to the North African front in great secrecy in September
1942 where the soldiers without benefit of training learned to
use the weapon in combat through trial and error.2 A 3.5-inch
model was later designed and employed during the Korean Conflict.
Skinner and Hickman also teamed up to developed the most
successful barrage rocket systems produced and employed during
the war. The 4.5-inch rocket formed the basis around which most
of the artillery rocket launchers used by the U.S. Army in Europe
were designed. The Army saw distinct advantages in the artillery
rockets that had a range out to almost 4000 meters. Their light
weight and small crew allowed them to go almost anywhere firing a
large number of projectiles over a broad target area which often
found the enemy unable to take cover.
The first artillery multiple rocket launcher to be placed
nto service by the U.S. Army was the T27, or "Xylophone" as it
came to be called. It had eight 7.5 foot tubes mounted side by
side on a GMC or Studebaker 2 1/2 ton truck. As most systems
that were developing in the field artillery, the 4.5-inch rockets
(M8) were fired in a "ripple" which meant they were fired singly
in rapid succession. This technique was helpful in reducing the
blast effect on the next rocket and is still employed even with
today's multiple rocket systems.
It could be considered a moot point now, but the multiple
rocket launchers that were used in both the European and Pacific
theaters during World War II were never officially approved for
"standardization" by the Ordnance or War Department. The T-
designator indicates that the weapon's actual status was that of
a test item. The letter "E" and number at the end of the model
number would reflects the various versions of the same system.
An additional anecdote: the Americans had reached an
aggreement with the Soviet union at the Tehran Conference on the
mutual exchange of data on rockets and rocket launchers. As late
as April 1944, the U.S. sent a mission of military engineers and
scientists to Moscow with instructions to provide detailed
information on American rocket design and development to the
Russians. When the Americans requested answers to a list of
detailed technical questions they were rebuffed by the Soviets
who only consented to their study and evaluation of captured
The T27 saw wide use throughout the European conflict by the
Army. The 1st Army converted a 105mm howitzer battalion (18th
Field Artillery Battalion) to a T27 rocket battalion in November
1944 and reported "excellent results" when it saw action in the
Hurtgen Forest during the Battle of the Bulge. However, there
were some legitimate criticisms that "the artillerymen were not
enthusiastic, disliking the inaccuracy of the rocket and the
smoke and flash that attracted counterbattery fire." The
battalion continued to work with the weapon system, developing
the now familiar "shoot and scoot" tactics which demanded
increased mobility. They also saw the potential to use the jeep
as a platform to gain that mobility.4
After the T27 gave birth to the T27EI (ground-mounted) and
the T27E2 (24 tubes), the T34 made its appearance on the
battlefield. This was also a 4.5-inch launcher but was
constructed of a sixty-tube array which was mounted to the top of
an M4 Sherman tank. It was aimed by traversing the turret and the
wooden rocket launchers were disposable by the tank crew after
they had been fired. It was nicknamed the "Calliope".
The 1st Army, for reasons not stated in their after action
reports, decided they did not like the apparent disadvantages of
the tank-mounted T34.5 The 3rd Army employed eleven tanks with
the T34 launcher in the 710th Tank Battalion. They reported that
the great concentration of firepower had a positive effect on
troop morale. However, they recommended "that launchers be
mounted on light tanks rather than M4's . . . (due to) difficulty
of jettisoning the launcher resulting in the loss of the Sherman
tank as a fighting vehicle."6
The T44 and T45 launchers were eventually developed in
several versions. One type was mounted in amphibious vehicles
such as the DUKW and the LVT(A4) and saw actions at Normandy and
in the Pcacific. The T44 consisted of 120 tubes while the 14-tube
T45 was mounted in the back of a 1/4-ton truck (jeep) and also
used by the Marines as well as the Army.
The T66 was the last model designed and developed during the
War. It used an improved 4.5-inch rocket (M16) and was mounted on
a towed, wheeled carriage. It entered action with the 1st Army
in Germany in May 1945 and was employed in actual combat only
once in Europe. Towards the end of hostilities, the "Honeycomb"
with 24 tubes replaced the Xylophone on a wheeled carriage and
the "Hornets' Nest", another tank-mounted 60-tube launcher,
replaced the Calliope. Before it was all over, there were five
rocket battalions formed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma each equipped
with 36 Honeycombs. They were employed in the Philippines and
Okinawa, and were readying themselves for the assault of the
Japanese mainland when the war ended. Following the war the T66
with its slightly improved range (4800 meters) and better
accuracy would eventually become thee standard multiple rocket
launcher for the American ground forces through the Korean
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The Army had also experimented with some 7.2-inch systems.
They were of very short range (210 - 1098 meters) and were
basically employed as direct fire demolition rockets. A tank-
mounted version the M17 (T40) had twenty rockets, saw action in
Europe in 1944, and gained the name "Whiz-bang". It could not be
considered a true artillery weapon because it was used only in a
direct firing mode.
The Marine Buck Rogers' Men
No detailed account of the beginnings of multiple rocket
launchers in the United States Marine Corps would make sense
unless some background about the rocket systems employed by the
U.S. Navy in support of amphibious landings was presented. The
United States Navy quickly recognized the significant advantages
of surface-launched rockets aboard ship. The British had
demonstrated their utility, not only in the Second World War, but
also as far back as the War of 1812. Based on the Royal Navy's
"Hedgehog" and "Mattress" systems, the United States added rocket
motors and longer rails and used a 5-inch spinner Beach Barrage
Rocket that provided them an extended range (improved out to 5
miles) over the 4.5-inch. Some of these systems were tested in
firings from landing craft off the coast of Camp Pendleton,
California. The primary purpose, as the development engineers
saw it, was to provide more substantial pre-assault bombardment
for amphibious operations. The Marine Corps had agreed in early
1943 to the use of their Base on the west coast for rocket
testing of both sea and land-based systems. Eventually, they were
to form a Rocket Battalion under the command of Major Valentine
Hoffman for test and training purposes only. This was to be the
Corps' first real involvement with war rockets.7
The Navy mounted their weapon systems on various platforms
from submarines to PT boats, landing crafts, and warships. The
latter became known as "rocketships" and were spectacularly
effective in pre-assault shore bombardment during the Pacific
campaigns. The Navy also used the Army's 7.2-inch "Whiz Bang"
rockets and re-configured them to mount 120 tubes in amphibious
landing craft. These systems were known by the name "Woofus".
During the War, the U.S. Navy engineers worked with numerous
other rocket systems for attacking submarines and other surface
ships. They also developed air-to-surface and air-to-air systems
that were precursors for today's high technology in aircraft
rockets. The rocketships have since disappeared from the Fleet
along with many other naval gunfire weapon systems that are still
critical to landing amphibious forces on hostile beaches.
However, as will be seen in Chapter 6, the concept may not yet be
Almost seven months before the U.S. Army deployed multiple
rocket launchers in Europe, the U.S. Marines were using them in
combat in the Pacific.* It is difficult to surmise how this
occurred since there is nothing recorded as to the sequence of
events. One can only conclude that as a result of the Navy's
extensive employment of amphibious assault landing craft fitted
with rocket launchers from December 1943 on, the Marines quickly
recognized the practicality of the system and moved rapidly to
* It should be noted that the Marines were not the first to use
rockets either during an amphibious assault or ashore in the
Pacific. The 2nd Engineer Special Brigade (ESB) rigged DUKW's
and, later, trucks and LVT's (buffaloes) with rocket launchers.
They were first employed in support of General MacArthur's forces
in New Guinea in October, 1943. However, the Marines' use of
artillery rockets was far more extensive than the Army's.
introduce artillery rockets to the battlefield. It was reported
by some of the Corps' first rocketeers on Saipan that due to the
paucity of rocket ammunition for the Marines they were forced to
borrow ordnance from their Naval counterparts.8
Another facet of the historical development of Marine Corps
war rockets also seems to be the total lack of documented
decisions on either the initial acquisition of artillery rockets
or the eventual obsolescence after the Korean War. There was a
degree of secrecy early in the program, however, any classified
policy letters of instructions would since have been declassified,
but none can be found. With the aforementioned circumstances
clearly in mind, the following historical chain of events may
unfortunately seem fragmented.
Following a decision to employ multiple rocket launchers
made some time during the winter of 1943 - 1944, the Marine Corps
dispatched a Major Sydney Watson to Hawaii to establish the first
training school for Marine rocketeers. Major Watson opened the
Rocket School at Camp Beaumont in Oahu and the first class was
conducted fromn 20 March to 16 April 1944. Major Watson had
clearly been involved with rockets before he left for the Pacific
and would later be instrumental in developing some Marine-
specifics field techniques and expedients to improve the
effectiveness of the Corps' artillery rockets.
The first two Provisional Rocket Detachments were officially
designated on 13 April 1944. They eventually grew to six and all
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would see action in the Pacific. First Lieutenant Richard A.
Brenneman, USMCR, became the Marine Corps' first commander of
rocket troops; later, First Lieutenant James O. Newpher, USMCR,
assumed command of the 2nd Provisional Rocket Detachment. The 1st
Prov Rkt Det (USMC abbreviation) was attached to the 4th Marine
Division of the V Amphibious Corps in Maui and the 2nd Det was
assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. A detachment was structured
with one officer and fifty-seven enlisted Marines, most of whom
learned their trade through "on the job training".
The Marine Rocket detachments were first employed against
the Japanese at Saipan in June 1944. As combat surrounded them,
they developed through trial and error the tactics for the
remainder of the war. Their first few fire missions saw them
placed in front of Marine infantry positions to supposedly
maximize their range capability !9 It appears that this
technique was soon discarded and the rocket launchers were
usually deployed just behind the forward line of troops to
provide them at least a modicum of security.
After Saipan, the Marine rocketeers saw action in most of
the island campaigns. Sergeant George Doyling wrote in July 1944
in his article entitled "The Buck Rogers' Men" (published in the
Leatherneck magazine nine months later for security reasons)
that "when the Marine rockets went into action on Tinian, the
Japs thought we were using automatic artillery."10 He went on to
describe how the Marines had fitted "recon trucks" (jeeps and
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3/4-tons) with twelve launchers each which were mounted over the
rear axle and fired electrically from the cab. These were the
4.5-inch rockets (M8) used in the T45 model launchers. Although
there is no written documentation, photographic evidence obtained
showed that the Marines also experimented with tank-mounted
multiple rocket launchers in the Pacific during the war.
The 3rd Provisional Rocket Detachment was formed in November
1944 from a cadre of one officer and twenty-seven Marines drafted
from the 1st Detachment. First Lieutenant George H. Ward, USMCR,
took command and later received an augmentation of another
twenty-seven men from the 5th Marine Division to whom the "Det"
was attached. They soon received twelve 1-ton trucks (4x4), four
from each infantry regiment, and twelve 1-ton trailers from 13th
Marines. During the last half of November 1944, these vehicles
were wired and fitted with launchers and Ward's detachment
commenced its training.
The Det was divided into three sections, all of which
embarked for Iwo Jima in early January 1945. Following
rehearsals and additional training at Maui, Pearl Harbor, and
Saipan, they participated in the landing at Iwo Jima on 19
February 1945. Two sections (3rd, 1st) landed at H+4 hours and
H+7 hours with the infantry regiments they were supporting with
one rocket launcher being lost in the surf. The last section
(2nd) landed on D+1 with the 27th Marines.
Iwo Jima provided an abundance of experience and expertise
for the rocketeers. Lieutenant Ward in his after action report
pointed out several "lessons learned". They quickly ascertained
that ammunition handlers had not been incorporated into the Table
off Organization (Appendix B); this minor failing placed an
extreme burden on the rest of the detachments to maintain their
sustained rate of fire in combat. Additionally, a gravity
quadrant that allowed more rapid elevation adjustment was
developed in the field by Gunnery Sergeant S. E. Estes which
could be checked quickly with his gunner's quadrant.11
Lieutenant Ward also explained that moving the vehicles over
rough terrain often caused too much play to develop in the
launcher which subsequently affected the accuracy of the weapon.
He commented positively on the attachment of sections directly to
front-line battalions where they would be used more often and
more effectively. He also was concerned about survivability when
he stated that because of their lack of armor and high
silhouette, "it was the practice of the sections immediately to
displace following the firing of a mission. This procedure
proved necessary as the site from which the barrage was launched
was invariably subjected to (enemy) mortar and artillery fire."12
These Marines also discovered that after firing only 500
rounds that the launcher would begin demonstrating mechanical
problems. They recommended that the rocket detachments be given a
higher priority for landing during the amphibious operation and
a higher priority for ammunition resupply which was always a
problem. On Iwo Jima, the detachment fired a total of 14,358
Late in the Iwo Jima campaign, the sections were provided
the new, larger 7.2-inch rockets which were fired from improvised
wooden troughs designed by Major Watson. These rockets were only
used in small numbers; however, they presented the Marines with
some problems. The motor tubes and fuze adapters would fly back
from the impact area toward the firing position often causing a
hazard to the rocketeers.
Captain John Nieman USMCR echoed Ward's comments after his
4th Prov Rkt Det saw action at Okinawa. He explained that, due
to a serious lack of appreciation and knowledge of their effect,
his weapons were not used very much until he put on a
demonstration for the battalion commanders after which he had
more than enough work. He also noted the need for ammo handlers
and for forward observer teams. Captain Nieman suggested the
design of time and delay fuzes for the rockets and saw the
potential for track vehicles as prime movers.14 This would
provide the rockets even more mobility and allow them to engage a
wider range of targets.
As the Second World War drew to a close, the Marines could
look back over the last year and a half of their involvement with
artillery rockets and wonder if the face of battle might be
changing before their eyes. In a relatively short period of
time, they had acquired a weapon system unlike any other weapon
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heretofore used by the Leathernecks in combat. They had learned
and had developed tactics and techniques that proved this
weapon's value to the supported infantryman in contact with the
enemy. Although there were no comments or views expressed by
senior officers in the chain of command who may have had the
opportunity to endorse the various chronologies and after-action
reports, later documents published by Headquarters Marine Corps
allowed for the future development of artillery rockets based on
the proven utility to the Corps in combat.
Clearly, there were the traditional disadvantages and
problems, historically common to Ball war rocket systems, still to
be worked out, The visuals signature of the weapon was a
survivability concern; the range needed to be increased; the
available types of warheads and fuzes had to be improved;
ammunition handling and resupply required modification. There
were others of lesser significance, but the advantages of a
lightweight, maneuverable system capable of delivering a large
amount of artillery ordnance, "steel on target", in a relatively
short period of time were obviously apparent. As the Marine
Corps entered the post-war phase, all of its rocket detachments
were disbanded, however, it seemed that the Marines might also
continue to seriously pursue the development of multiple rocket
launchers. They did.
An article that appeared in the Marine Corps Gazette just
after the war entitled , Why Not Rocket Artillery ?, written by a
Lieutenant Colonel Floyd R. Moore, USMC, highlighted many of the
advantages and disadvantages already mentioned. Moreover,
Colonel Moore noted that the Corps was studying the T66 24-tube
rocket launcher that used the improved Army 4.5-inch rocket and
provided a significant increase in range. He recommended that
the Marines adopt a rocket battalion of three batteries equipped
with twelve launchers each. In his words, "such a battalion
attached to a Marine Division would more than double the fire
power of its field artillery."15
It is difficult to judge whether Headquarters Marine Corps
acted on LtCol Moore's suggestion or decisions were made separate
from any outside influence. Regardless, the United States Marine
Corps did actively pursue tests through their research and
development activity, the Marine Corps Equipment Board, located
at the Marine Barracks in Quantico, Virginia. The tests proved
satisfactory and the T66E2 Multiple Rocket Launcher with its M16
4.5-inch rocket was adopted for use with Marine artillery in late
1946 or early 1947. However, Headquarters Marine Corps did not
field a battalion but officially approved only one 4.5-inch
rocket battery of 18 launchers for each division.16 These
batteries were assigned to the artillery regiments and remained
active up to and through the Korean War.
With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, the 1st 4.5-
inch Rocket Battery deployed with the 1st Marine Division.
Meanwhile, back at Camp Pendleton, California, the 1st 4.5-inch
Rocket Battalion (minus Battery C) was activated on 30 September
1950 as a component of Fleet Marine Forces Pacific (FMFPAC)
Troops. Lieutenant Colonel George B. Thomas was assigned as its
first commanding officer. Battery A had previously been formed
and was used as the pool for drawing the cadre around which the
battalion headquarters was built. Battery B was not activated
until later. Battery C was the deployed rocket battery which had
already departed with 1st Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas reported that by October 1950 his
battalion had been staffed with only 39% of its personnel and 21%
of its equipment. The T66E2 rocket launchers they received were
in serious need of a maintenance overhaul. Thomas was obviously
concerned about their level of training as well, for he stated in
his unit's historical diary that, "lack of personnel (and rocket
ammunition) hampers (our) effective training."17
Colonel Thomas relates in subsequent diaries that his
battalion experienced severe difficulties in obtaining rocket
launchers. Battery B's weapons had to be returned to depot
maintenance after their initial acceptance inspection. Battery
A's six launchers were surveyed with the requirement for six
replacement weapons levied on higher headquarters. By the end of
March 1951, the 1st 4.5-inch Rocket Battalion was at 74% of its
total strength and 99% of its equipment. Even then, after a
field exercise, Battery B's rocket launchers malfunctioned and
performed so poorly that they were all returned again to depot
maintenance for "corrective action".18
Apparently, the first Marine Corps rocket battalion was
going nowhere, particularly into the future, very quickly. They
were clearly getting ready if needed in Korea, but their
organizational problems fortunately never affected their combat
performance. For undisclosed reasons, the 1st 4.5-inch rocket
battalion never got there.
Back on the East Coast, the United States Marine Corps
Equipment Board was reinforcing the Marine Corps position on the
value of rocket launchers in combat. In its Study on Marine
Corps Equipment Policy published in January 1951 and signed for
the Commandant by Major General Merwin Silverthorn USMC, Chief of
Staff, the Board clearly saw a future requirement for a rocket
launcher which would exploit its weight savinqs by being light
and portable. It was determined that a system not weighing more
than 2000 pounds with a range of 12,000 yards was necessary.
Although the Board did not see any need to pursue larger, heavier
rocket systems to replace conventional artillery, it did state
that the Marine Corps "should maintain an active interest in this
category of equipment until such time as research and development
indicates an attainable accuracy and lethality equivalent to that
of the comparable cannon."19
While the planners were planning in Virginia, Battery C
rocketeers were putting "hot steel on target" along the western
and central front north of Inchon. Battery C, redesignated 1st
4.5-inch Rocket Battery on 1 January 1952, was attached to 11th
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Marine Regiment and assigned a mission of general support of the
1st Marine Division. They were equipped with six T66E4
launchers, six prime movers (6x6 2 1/2-ton trucks), three supply
trucks and four 1/4-ton jeeps for reconnaissance and general
From September 1950 through the end of the conflict, the
Battery had at least eight commanders. Why there were so many
commanders in a short period of time is yet unclear. They fired
from 6,000 to as many as 10,000 rockets in any given month on the
front in direct support of all three infantry regiments (1st, 5th
and 7th). Occasionally they were "attached" to infantry regiments
or even battalions, but typically came under operational control
of the artillery regiment. Wire communications remained their
primary means of communicating throughout the war, with radio
used as an alternate.20
Not long after entering combat ammunition resupply surfaced
again as a priority concern. One battery commander was of the
opinion that "ammunition resupply by this time had surpassed the
critical stage. At this time various means and methods are being
attempted to solve the major problems of the rocket battery in
the field of which the critical resupply of rocket ammo is
paramount."21 There were yet other considerations in the
development of operating procedures for the Marine rocket
launchers that became apparent during the Korean Conflict.
Later, Captain J.J. Travers USMC, Battery Commander,
explained in his historical report written during the summer of
1952 that his battery was used effectively against North Korean
strongpoints, and for reinforcing fire for platoon and company
defensive areas, bivouac areas and supply points. The tactics of
the communists dictated that most of the rocket fire missions be
conducted at night. The Battery also fired in support of the 1st
Korean Marine Corps Regiment.22
In August 1952, the rocket battery engaged in what was then
considered a "tactical innovation".23 In close coordination with
the medium helicopter squadron HMR-161, the Battery trained,
rehearsed and employed artillery rockets in a heliborne role.
This was the first instance of supporting arms being lifted to
forward positions by helicopters. The invention was mothered by
the necessity to "shoot and scoot" due to the rockets' signature
effect of drawing counterfire.24
Marine Corps Gazette articles appearing in 1952 and 1953,
strongly supported the rocket launcher as a viable component of
Marine supporting arms. Positive comments concerning the
rocket's ability to surprise the enemy with concentrated mass
fires on area targets and "reinforcing direct-support artillery
in preparation fires," all highlighted the obvious advantages of
One author, Lieutenant Colonel Wade, however, attempted to
couch his criticisms of the rockets disadvantages in constructive
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recommendations. He was unsure why the Marine Corps after
witnessing the success of the "jeep-mounted" launchers in World
War II decided to acquire only the towed systems. His indictment
of towed rocket launchers talked to the problems of "manhandling,
low ground clearance, soil blast erosion, unreliable . . .
electro ignition, (and a ) larger crew."26 He also recommended
adapting an LVT platform for the launcher's more effective use in
an amphibious role.
In January 1955, the Battery was relieved of its mission in
Korea (GS of 1stMarDiv) and departed from Inchon for Okinawa. In
February they were attached to the 12th Marine Regiment of the
3rd Marine Division located at Camp McNair, Okinawa, Japan.
After Korea, The Marine Corps briefly explored replacing the
T66E2/E4 rocket launcher, now designated the M21. In 1955, an
evaluation performed on the T129 by the Marine Corps Development
Center, formerly the Equipment Board, was based on a request from
Headquarters Marine Corps that stated, "Although the Marine Corps
does not have a requirement for the T129 (6.5-inch) Multiple
Rocket launcher, a requirement still exists for an area
saturation-type weapon." Tests on the T129, a longer range
(13,790 yd), more accurate system which also needed a larger
crew, were concluded and the evaluators felt then that the new
rocket launcher did, in fact, fill the requirement.27
The following year in November, after the Army had moved
away from the 6.5-inch rocket launcher, the Marine Corps decided
against the T129 replacing the 4.5-inch system, ostensibly
because the trade-off of increased weight for increased range was
not satisfactory "from a logistical standpoint."28 This was
evidently the death knoll for the Marine Corps multiple rocket
launcher. By the early l960 's, the artillery rocket could only
be looked upon in retrospect.
As Marine Corps history books close on the "Buck Rogers'
men", there are two more brief encounters with artillery rockets
hardly worth mentioning. In the second half of the 1960's, the
Marine Corps had a quick affair with the long-range artiilery
rocket, the Honest John, a singly-launched weapon that could be
fired with either a nuclear or conventional warhead. A Heavy
Artillery Rocket Battery was first formed at Camp Lejeune as part
of what was then called the Field Artillery Group (FAG). Although
some thinking saw the new system as replacing the 8-inch
howitzer, the mission for the rocket did not seem to "fit" the
Marine Corps need. It left the inventory almost as quickly as it
The only remaining anecdote has to do with Viet Nam, where
Marines occasionally found themselves again on the receiving end
of artillery rocket barrages. The Viet Cong were known to use
122 and 140mm rockets adapted from Soviet Rocket launchers.
These primitive systems were just four-foot pipes mounted to
five-foot pieces of plywood but were employed effectively against
American units and South Vietnamese civilians. They were laid on
the ground in the general direction of the enemy. If the plywood
Click here to view image
was not available, the rockets were set on mounds of earth again
with the estimated location of thle opposing forces dictating
their positioning. Although they were not in themselves very
effective in terms of accurately inflicting physical damage, they
did contribute to both the destructive and psychological effect
when combined with the standard artillery barrage.29
So ends, on a somewhat unfortunate note, the historical
trail of Marine Corps artillery rockets. It is readily apparent
throughout the previous discussion that there have been common
themes attendant to the advantages, disadvantages and problems of
rocket artillery, regardless of who was using it on the
battlefield. For the past seven hundred and fifty years,
artillery rockets have consistently demonstrated:
- A flash and noise signature which attracts
- A shorter range and poorer accuracy than cannons
- A less expensive manufacturing process than
cannons and guns
- An ammunition resupply/logistics problem
- A dramatic psychological effect on the enemy,
often not matched by accompanying physical damage
These characteristics have historically marked thee artillery
rocket as we have seen. They remained valid through the 1960's.
They had to be addressed in order for the rocket to progress in
its technological development. If not, artillery rockets would
once again begin fading into antiquity.
THE STATE OF THE ART
Although the trail of the multiple rocket launcher almost
went cold on the United States Marine Corps, there was sufficient
scent left for proponents of artillery rockets to re-group and
once again renew their quest for acceptance. As with most major
system acquisitions, the Marine Corps interest in the current
"state-of-the-art" ground rocket systems is inextricably
intertwined with the procurement process of the U.S. Army.
However, before any intelligent discussion of current technology
can be accomplished, a review of the modern battlefield and the
"threat" is necessary.
Assessing the likelihood that the Marine Corps will fight in
a particular scenario and on a particular battlefield may be
somewhat presumptuous, but it is necessary. Considering the
mission of the Corps and the potential "planned" involvements of
a Marine Amphibious Brigade (MAB) or Force (MAF) throughout the
world, five possible areas of concern become readily apparent.
- Central America
- Northern Africa
- Middle East
- Northern/Southern NATO Flanks
Regardless of the intensity level (low, medium, or high),
the terrain will remain constant. There is clearly in these five
regions the full range from jungles to desert plains to
mountainous relief with an equally wide scale of climates. The
Marine of the next quarter century, as has his predecessors, can
count on fighting anywhere "the President may direct". To
paraphrase an old maxim, the one thing that is certain is that
there is no certainty as to where the Corps will be required to
Having stated the obvious, it also becomes apparent that the
modern battlefield can be characterized by the high degree of
technological advances which have increased the violence and
lethality level of combat. As a result of the proliferation of
foreign arms sales throughout the Third World, Marine forces can
expect to encounter an enemy comparably equipped. As the stakes
are raised in some remote corner of the globe, potential foes
will enjoy priority support from the Soviet Union, her
surrogates, or other states with interests contrary to ours.
Opposing forces will possess mechanized manuever units,
supporting arms, both ground and air, and command and control
capabilities very similar to those found in the Warsaw Pact
forces. Countries such as Syria, Cuba, and Nicaragua present
very meaningful models. Nations much smaller than our own have
fielded fighting forces as large or larger than the United
States. Viet Nam, for example, maintains the fourth largest land
army in the world. In addition to the quality of their technology
and the quantity of their men and materiel, many of our future
adversaries are demonstrating organizational training and
discipline far advanced from that of twenty years ago. No longer
can Marine field commanders expect to enter the field of combat
with stale ideas and concepts, predictable tactics, and plans to
fight attrition warfare.
The modern battlefield demands a high degree of flexibility
on the part of the conventional military force. Destroying the
enemy's will to fight and upsetting his "center of gravity" are
as important as physically destroying his forces. The challenges
facing the Marine Corps in the near future indicate that
preparing to fight poorly-equipped and poorly-trained insurgents
in some underdeveloped country may be a plan for disaster.
As Marines land opposed or unopposed across the beaches of
the modern battlefield, the Soviet-type forces they can expect to
fight against present a formidable foe. The side that survives
the first battles and can maintain its momentum will control the
outcome. Survivability in today's "high tech" combat, like NBC
defense, is a concept often given little attention by many
military forces, particularly the Marine Corps. These concepts
by their nature subscribe at least a degree of superior
capability to the enemy. Something that is not routinely done by
American military professionals. Nevertheless, "survivability"
means fighting and winning on the modern battlefield, and being
around to enjoy it. Do we train to survive, or do we expect our
Marine instincts and ingrained fighting spirit to overcome all
Today's Soviet-styled forces demonstrate the ability to mass
large amounts of mechanized/armored units to overwhelm their
opponents. They have artillery that is employed in huge
concentrations and rocket forces used in conjunction with
proficient radio direction finding units whose expressed intent
is to 'obliterate" enemy supporting arms and command and control.
Confronted with tactical rocket ranges from 40km (BM-27) to
60+km (FROG/SCUD), Marine units will experience the enemy long
before they can fight or even see him.
Additionally, anti-air weapons spanning the scope from hand-
held rockets to the highly mobile ZSU systems remain a serious
threat to Marine Corps helicopters and close air support
aircraft. All of these systems have appeared repeatedly outside
the Warswaw Pact countries. There is little doubt that Soviet
tactics will also accompany their technology. Yet, to complete
the analysis of the Threat, we must not neglect the fact that
potential adversaries may also be equipped with U.S.-made
weapons, with those from other major industrial nations, or with
a combination of technologies, such as Iran.
Developing a Combat-Multiplier
In the early 1970's, the United States Army began studying
the feasibility of acquiring an artillery rocket system. The
Task Force BATTLEKING Study of 1974 - 1975 established for the
Army the requirement for a rocket system which was later
translated into a more specific "need" by a Special Study Group
at the U.S. Army Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
After clearly defining and developing the concept of an artillery
rocket system, the Army officially received approval to start
the Mutiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Program from the
Secretary of Defense in 1977. Contracts for competitive bids
were awarded to both Boeing and Vought Corporations in late 1977.
Each contractor eventually proposed three alternative prototypes.
Vought won the initial production contract during 1980 which ran
over five years with expected renewal. In 1981, the U.S. Army
procured their first operational MLRS.1
During the conceptual stage, the Army stated a "need for a
capability to deliver a large volume of fire in a very short time
against critical, time-sensitive targets such as expected during
surge conditions in Europe."2 A Memorandum of understanding
(MOU) was also signed that established a cooperative development
effort with several of our major allies in Europe, specifically
France, West Germany, and the United Kingdom. Italy also joined
the program in 1982. This conjunctive effort was apparently meant
to avoid duplication of work on the universally accepted idea of
a field artillery multiple rocket launcher and provide an
additional monetary incentive for the contractors during the
source selection process. Initial program funding allowed the
Army to plan on acguiring 276 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems with
a final procurement objective of 681.
The Army was clearly using a Eurpoean scenario as it
developed the concept of employment (COE) for the MLRS. The
primary combat mission for the MLRS with its rocket, the M77 Dual
Puprpose improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM), was
counterfire, i.e. attacking enemy supporting arms, and
suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) systems. There were also
projected capabilities that saw excellent results against light
materiel and personnel as well as a potential capability for
scatterable mines, chemical munitions and terminally guided
U.S. Army plans called for MLRS battalions of three
batteries each, with a total of 27 launchers. The battalion
would be assigned to a corps with an additional 9-launcher
battery organic to the Divisional Artillery (DivArty), the
equivalent of the Marine Corps' artillery regiment. This
division MLRS battery would be a part of a composite 8"/MLRS
The mission of the MLRS was based on the need for a system
- Suppress enemy indirect fire and air
defense (counterfire and SEAD)
- Provide quick response saturation fire
- Bridge the conventional/nuclear gap
- Close the artillery firepower ratio
By placing the battalion under the direct control of the corps
commander, and the battery under the division commander, a more
flexible, responsive weapon system was provided that allowed
those commanders to influence the outcome of the battle. In
almost any possible circumstance, the Army did not see the MLRS
in a "direct support" role. It was procured as a general support
weapon system that would be used across the entire front of
divisions and corps.
On the tactical level, each MLRS battery would operate in
three platoons of three launchers each under the direct control
of the battery headquarters. Platoons work from hide areas,
reload points and firing points located 5 to 15 kilometers from
the Forward Edge of Battle Area (FEBA). Each platoon would be
dispersed over approximately 3000 meters. Fire missions would be
passed from the battery or battalion directly to the launcher.
The Army concept includes treating the MLRS platoon as a battery,
the MLRS battery as a normal artillery battalion, and the
battalion as the equivalent of a DivArty or artillery brigade for
both positioning and tactical mission assignment.4
The Army currently has one MLRS battalion fielded in the
continental United States and two in Germany, with eight
composite (8"/MLRS) battalions divided between the two countries.
Despite original plans to use the MLRS (Figure 5-1) as a
replacement for the obsolete 175mm guns, the Army now sees the
system as also replacing the aging 8" (M110) howitzer. Their
Legal Mix VI Study recommended trading the 8-inch for the MLRS in
order "to take advantage of the rocket system's 300 percent
increase in relative battalion-level firepower".5
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Having briefly examined concepts of operational employment
and mission analysis, a thorough understanding of the system's
specifications and capabilities is essential. According to a
draft of the MLRS field manual, the Army describes the Multiple
Launch Rocket System as "a non-nuclear surface to surface, fully
tracked, highly mobile, rapid-fire, free-flight rocket system".6
its official designation is the M270 Armored Vehicle Mounted
Rocket Launcher (AVMRL).
The MLRS consists of five major system components - the
Self-Propelled Launcher Loader (SPLL), the Launch Pod/Containers
(LP/C), the ammunition resupply vehicles, and a command, control
and communications (C3) system. The SPLL (Figure 5-2) is lightly
armored with aluminum plate providing the crew protection against
shell fragmentation. The cab is also equipped with an NBC gas
particulate filter unit to which soldiers or Marines in the crew
connect their individual protective masks.
The high mobility of the MLRS derives from its capability to
move over hard surfaces up to almost 40 miles per hour to a range
of 300 miles. Its firing range of 32 kilometers exceeds all
present cannon systems and future technological dvelopments are
expected to increase that range to over 100 kilometers. S-4's
and embarkation officers would appreciate the fact that the MLRS
takes less square and cubed footage than the M109, M110, M1A1,
M60A2; in fact, there is a 40% savings in square feet per weapon
over the two self-propelled howitzers.
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A simple system-versus-system analysis demonstrates the
significance of the MLRS in several areas, particularly in raw
firepower, personnel, and embarkation. To summarize Figure 5-3
below, the MLRS will provide the user with a massive increase in
"steel on target" with a major reduction in force structure and
commensurate reduction in shipboard space requirements for both
personnel and equipment.
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A few quick mathematical calculations using the information
listed above points out that one "ripple" (12 rockets) from a
single MLRS is the equivalent of one volley from 2.4 M110
battalions (18 guns) or 4.8 M109 battalions (18 guns)! Firepower
aside, the Army considers the MLRS " currently the most manpower
efficient system in the Field Artillery inventory".7
It should be objectively pointed out at this juncture that a
recent seminar given by the author raised the issue that this
comparison was only "weapon against weapon" and did not take the
remaining organizational equipment square footage or the
ammunition storage requirements into account. However, studies
conducted at Headquarters Marine Corps (LMW) show conclusively
that when combined with the Logistics Vehicle System the MLRS
will generate a significant across-the-board savings in
embarkation weight and square footage. The ammunition storage
differential is difficult to compute when the systems are not
comparable. A simple analysis done by the author showed that,
based on packaging data per submunition, there appears to be a
negligible difference in cubic footage in favor of the cannon
ordnance and a similarly minor difference in weight in favor of
the MLRS. Figure 5-5 is provided below to illustrate the
potential reductions in manpower that would accompany acquisition
of the rocket launcher by the Marine Corps.8
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In any of the considered options where the current 4th
battalion of the artillery regiments converts to M109 self-
propelled howitzers and the 5th battalion is either an all MLRS
or a composite battalion, there is a reduction in enlisted
structure of between 403 to 486 for each reqiment, or three
times that for the entire Marine Corps. This is accomplished by
saving 29 Marines if the M198's are replaced by the M109's and
saving between 374 to 457 by re-configuring the current 5th
The most interesting of the potential improvements to the
system is the development of the Army Tactical Missile System
(ATACMS) with the Terminally Guided Warhead (TGW) currently being
worked on jointly among the NATO forces. The rocket is fired
from the MLRS to an enhanced range well beyond 100 kilometers
where the submunitions are dispensed. The Tactically Guided
Submunitions (TGSM) possess an infra-red search capability over
3000 square kilometers. The submunition is a shaped-charge
capable of mobility-kills against all armored vehicles. This
ordnance expected in the field in the 1990's will allow allied
forces to conduct deep attacks on enemy armor columns and long-
range tactical missiles.9
The MLRS and the Marine Corps
Most Marine Corps artillery weapon systems acquisitions have
routinely followed the lead of the U.S. Army procurement process
due to the inability of the Corps to mount any extensive, costly
research and development program on its own. There have been
exceptions in other, usually Marine Corps-unique, areas (i.e.
LVT, LAV, AV-8, JVX) but the artillery has not had the
opportunity or requirement to do so. With this in mind, the paths
of the Marine Corps and the MLRS have alternately converged and
The Army's commitment to the MLRS in 1977 most probably
marks the initial attention if not interest in the system by the
Marines. However, there is no documented evidence of any
specific involvement by the Corps with the future M270 until
1980. The Marine Corps Force Structure Study, 1980 which was
prepared by the Development and Education Command (MCDEC) but was
never officially approved, highlighted specific problems with
Marine general support artillery, in particular the aging of the
8-inch M110 howitzer. Among the recommended options to resolve
the apparent inadequacy was the proposal to field three 9-
launcher MLRS batteries in a composite battalion of the artillery
regiment. The Study reasoned that it was needed as much for
eliminating the "lack" of sufficient general support assets as it
was to counter any specific Soviet threat.10
Some of MCDEC's impressions of the capabilities of the MLRS
undoubtedly came from a presentation by the Vought Corporation in
April 1980. A dialogue with the contractor was established and
the idea of a multiple rocket launcher, if not actually the MLRS,
In response to stated requirements for an MLRS in the Marine
Corps Long Range Objectives Plan and Mid-Range Objective Plan in
1981, Vought made an unsolicited proposal to conduct an indirect
fire weapons study for the Marine Corps. In that proposal,
several variants supposedly studied at the request of the
Commandant of the Marine Corps earlier in the year were addressed
as feasible for production, among them a six-rocket launcher
mounted on an LVTP7. Although the study does not appear to have
been done by Vought, there was a later classified one comparing
the advantages and disadvantages of several systems from
In 1982, the Marine Corps entered a brief period of
misguided interest in what was called the Field Artillery Rocket
System or FARS. FARS was a lightweight, helicopter
transportable, mutiple rocket launcher with a range of 14 - 18
kilometers. Obviously, this system would not meet the
requirements for general support augmentation, but it did possess
potential as a highly mobile, short range, saturation weapon
which the Corps did not need.11 The system was based on the 5-
inch Navy Zuni rocket and was being studied by the U.S. Army.
When the Army backed quickly away from the project and Marine
planners began questioning the utility of FARS relative to the
new M198 155mm howitzer, the concept was dropped.12
This short visit with the FARS resulted in a return to the
MLRS again as a potential answer to Marine Corps general support
artillery requirements. The Mariner Corps Long Range (1990 - 2000)
Armor, Anti-Armor, Fire Support and Ground Mobility Requirements
and Program Study, 1983 specifically recommended for the first
time that the MLRS be procured as a replacement weapon system for
the aging 8-inch howitzer. But the Commandant directed that the
Marine Corps would only continue to monitor the Army's program
and no acquisition decision was made.13
Over the next three years, several energetic attempts were
made to include the MLRS in the Program Objective Memorandum
(POM), which forms the basis for the Marine Corps' budget
submission. Each initiative realized something short of success
with the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) date slipping
steadily towards the mid-1990's. The most evident obstacle
appears to have been the fiscal constraints imposed on an
expensive weapon system ($1.9 million per weapon/ $2 billion
total procurement) by other, higher priority systems, i.e.
Despite the vacillation with MLRS, Headquarters Marine
Corps (HQMC) artillery planners continued to study the general
support concerns throughout this period. A study was initiated
through the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) with the focus on
whether or not the Corps should continue to pursue the MLRS or
some other option. The Study was expanded by HQMC to include all
artillery systems both direct and general support. CNA reviewed
as many as 70 different mixes of artillery for the Marine Corps,
including the ongoing issue of what to do with the M101A1 105mm
howitzer. Each of their recommended options contained the
In September 1986, the Commandant decided to stay with the
Marine Corps commitment to the M198 and to maintain an active
role with the 105mm howitzer for special operations and
contingencies as well. Any decisions regarding the MLRS were
delayed until some future date. Headquarters Marine Corps as
well as CNA have terminated evaluations of the MLRS or any other
system and there are currently no future plans for any new
artillery weapon acquisitions.16 In the words of one action
officer at HQMC, "The MLRS is definitely not a hot item right
The realities and political issues involved with acquiring a
weapon system that would cost the Marine Corps approximately $2
billion constitute a maze that must be successfully negotiated
before the MLRS could conceivably be fielded. One such issue is
the 13-man squad which originally was to be "funded" in the
Marine Corps' force structure by the almost 1500-man personnel
savings that were to accrue from acquiring the MLRS. The 13-man
squad is a reality, but the tradeoffs or "compensatory
reductions" mandated by the much-needed ceiling on the Marine
Corps personnel structure are still being evaluated.
Another fact of life is the perspective held by many
principal decision makers in the Corps that the artillery is not
really in that bad a shape in relative terms to the condition of
Marine Corps armor (M1A1) and communications (Sincgars) which
need more critical modernization. The "pro's and con's" of
procuring an all new, state-of-the-art tank for the Marine Corps
and the prolonged, and much maligned, acquisition of the new
radio system might be subjects of another research effort.
However, it remains that the commitment was made some time ago on
these items and it seems unlikely that the Corps will deviate
from its present course. Among the remaining detractors, an
almost insurmountable, albeit time-sensitive, hurdle would be
the Secretary of the Navy's supposed opposition to the Marine
Corps' procurement of an MLRS. With the changing of the guard at
SecNav, this suddenly may not seem as critical a problem. Each
of these obstacles as well as several minor ones are inter-
related factors whose synergistic effect might tend to leave the
proponents for the MLRS somewhat pessimistic.
Input from the Field
Although it is often hard to separate the realities of
funding or lack thereof from the practicalities of combat, an
attempt was made to elicit the opinions, concerns and ideas of
the current field commanders around the Marine Corps concerning
the MLRS. A very basic survey contained in Appendix C was
conducted of all the infantry and artillery commanders at both
the battalion and regimental level in each of the three Marine
divisions. The focus of the survey centered around the
requirement, the mission and roles, and the concerns Marine field
commanders envisioned with a Marine MLRS. Fifty surveys were
mailed out and thirty-three, or 66%, were returned in time for
inclusion here. The survey provides some interesting insight into
the present thinking "in the field".
In many cases, the responses to the five main questions were
almost as varied as the respondents. There were, however, some
trends. A summation of the majority opinion and an exposition
of certain discerning, but minority ideas and suggestions are
presented here. A more detailed analysis of the viability of the
MLRS relative to its application to the Marine Corps is contained
in the next chapter.
The first question asked the field commander to envision the
threat and provide his opinion on the need for an MLRS and the
role or mission it might be employed in. A consensus developed
very quickly. Consistent with the U.S. Army's current use of the
MLRS, Marine field commanders generally agree that the rocket
system should be employed in a general support mission and used
in long-range interdiction and SEAD roles. Counterfire and
counterprep missions were also mentioned regularly. Some
commanding officers stated the same thing in a different form,
writing of "fighting the deep battle" and "gaining standoff".
One particular respondent suggested an "at-sea platform" or a
naval gunfire role which will be discussed later.
There was a common acceptance of the system with only three
of thirty-three who seemed outrightly opposed to acquiring the
MLRS because they did not see it fitting the Marine Corps needs.
The other thirty surveyed officers demonstrated attitudes ranging
from unbridled enthusiasm (both infantry and artillery) to
cautious optimism. Some of the more interesting comments were:
- " Without question the Marine Corps needs MLRS !"
- " We are outgunned even in the third world."
- " unthinkable for Marine artillery to be left in the dark
- " 'almost perfect' for our classic amphibious mission."
- " we need to get away from labor-intensive systems (like
the M198 155mm howitzer)."
- " Threat capabilities and tactics make the MLRS a
- " If we try to 'heavy up' to go one-on-one with the WP
(Warsaw Pact) MRD's (motorized rifle divisions), then we are in
competition with the Army. Do we need (it) . . . ?"
- " The (Nato-related) need . . . in other theaters is less
- ". . . limited value in current operational (MAU/MAB)
The second question addressed the employment of the MLRS.
The major trend indicated that should the Marine Corps acquire
the multiple rocket launcher it should probably field a
battalion, possibly a battery, within the artillery regiment.
Other suggestions included placing a single MLRS battery in a
composite battalion with the 8-inch howitzer batteries, which the
Army presently does, and moving the M109 self-propelled (SP)
howitzer batteries to the 4th battalion of the artillery regiment
which is now constitued with M198's.
One proposal saw the 8-inch being phased out and an entire
4th battalion of MLRS with a 5th battalion of four M109
batteries. Only one Marine field grade commander stated that, "a
single MLRS battalion should be fielded with the division most
likely to be committed to Europe (only)," however, general
agreement emerged that no separate battalion should be formed;
also, by putting the MLRS in battery or battalion strength under
the artillery regiment would allow for a pooling of maintenance
and support personnel and expertise.
On being asked what their main concerns were, the
commanders' primary issues fell easily into three categories:
- Strategic lift
- Logistics supportability
In the strategic lift or transportability area, some had concerns
about the amphibious "footprint" and what shipboard trade-offs
might be necessary for both traditional amphibious lifts and the
MPF. Constraints on shipboard ammunition lift capabilities were
included in several related responses.
The ammunition question spilled over into the logistics
supportability concern. The number of vehicles that would make
up the logistics train for an MLRS battery/battalion was raised
as a potential difficulty. There were also some misgivings about
the ability to maintain the system. In the words of one Marine:
Because MLRS is constructed from suspension and power-
train components common to the M2 infantry Fighting
Vehicle . . . The Army has the logistical and maint-
enance base to support the system when fielded. The
Marine Corps has no such base to rely upon.
Some of the other issues surfaced involved manning,
survivability, costs, local security, mobility in marginal
terrain and a small, technical MOS (military occupational
specialty) requirement. One commander pondered "how to convince
old-timers that the system is not too heavy for mobility."
When it came to selecting a weapon system to replace with
the MLRS, most selected the 8-inch howitzer although some
astutely commented on the need for developing a nuclear capable
warhead for the MLRS first. A surprising number did not see it
as a "replacement" system, but rather as one that would
complement current artillery structure. The remaining ideas ran
the gamut from the old M114 (l55mm) to the M198 and the M109. Two
infantry commanders deferred to the usons of Saint Barbara."
As far as what visionary ideas Marine combat arms commanders
had about how to use the personnel saved with the much-reduced
weapon crew, there were distinct trends. An unusually large
number were not convinced that a savings would occur. This
seemed to stem from perceived additional requirements for
maintenance and support personnel. The others typically followed
parochial MOS-related needs to flesh out tables of organization
in their respective units (artillery and infantry). There were,
however, some objective infantry officers who saw reconnaissance
and engineers as being "understuffed and overtasked" and some
local security needs for the artillery. One commander stated a
need to fill PC (personal computer) jobs at the
battalion/regimental level. Finally, two artillery commanders
realized the increased maintenance requirements of the recent CMC
decision to keep sixteen M101A1 105mm howitzers in each direct
support battalion for contingency purposes.
The last survey question essentially solicited any
additional ideas or suggestions the field might have concerning
the MLRS. These did not divide easily into any specific topic
area. The most significant ones were:
- Await the Army's learning experience
- Consider other prime movers and helicopter transport
- Scatterable mine employment
- Reinforcing of direct support battalions
- Ensure concept of employment, tactics and support
requirements are worked out before fielding
- Naval gunfire role was again identified
Although most of their concerns have already been addressed
by HQMC planners, there remain certain valid questions that must
be answered before any serious consideration of the MLRS is
given. As idealistically stated by one artillery battalion
commander, Although expensive, it will make itself cost
effective in combat and we need to consider our combat needs
(rather) than worrying or wondering how expensive it will be to
A MARINE MLRS: IS IT NEEDED ?
During the mid-1970's, the British perceived a requirement
for a multiple rocket launcher as part of a process to modernize
their forces. The system, the RS80, entered development during a
period of national fiscal constraint similar to the current
American Gramm-Rudman era. The weapon's progress toward fielding
was terminated due to what was considered a lack of cost-
effectiveness. As they saw it, "the problem centered around the
optimisation of the warhead against a given category of targe".1
This meant that there was not an adequate or clear definition of
the system's mission or its role in combat. This confusion
combined with concerns about its logistical supportability and
the budgetary considerations prevented the concept from moving
Ideas have changed in Great Britain where today there is
wholehearted involvement in the development of the MLRS. They
view the MLRS in a more precise manner:
It is felt that such a system would fill the current
gap in our capability to lay down a large weight of
effective fire by day or night, in a short space of
time on massed armored formations deploying to assault
our main defensive positions, re-grouping in concen-
tration areas, or which are moving through well-defined
This apparent recognition of the potential contribution of
rockets to the battle also stems from another realization that,
"It does appear that gun design has reached its limit . . . What
is at stake is not so much whether we need guns or rockets, but
rather what proportion of each we should have in our order of
Similar to the British, the United States Marine Corps'
major system acquisition process involves the establishment of a
clear, well-defined requirement for the weapon before it can
enter the Planning, Programming, and Budget System (PPBS). Once
it clears that hurdle and a concept of employment and acquisition
strategy are developed, the weapon then enters the programming
phase as a POM (Program Objective Memorandum) initiative. POM
initiatives are prioritized based on a benefit analysis by the
Program Evaluation Group (PEG) which leads to a finalized cost-
benefit distribution by the POM Working Group. Depending on
its position on the priority listing, the weapon may or may not
move into the budgeting phase where the hardware procurement
process begins in earnest.3
The Multiple Launch Rocket System has been a Marine Corps
POM initiative at least twice to this point, but has yet to
demonstrate sufficient cost-benefit positioning necessary for
continuation of its acquisition. What then is the future of the
MLRS as a Marine weapon system ? It is now necessary to re-
examine the MLRS in both technical and tactical terms.
Re-defining the Requirement
A "re-definition" may not be the most exact term. However,
the operational requirement for the MLRS must be carefully
reviewed and restated. As the British have accepted, cannon
artillery has clearly reached a plateau in its technological
advance. This is evident in the efforts to modernize the M109
and towed howitzers. Changes to recoil mechanisms or re-
configuring carriages are not achieving any quantum improvements
in capability. Most enhancements have to do with the digitizing
gun data reception, the locating of the weapon on the ground
(survey), or extension of the range or lethality of ordnance.
From a Marine Corps perspective, there are several clear
requirements for an MLRS or MLRS-type weapon. In response to the
threat of Warsaw Pact armor, supporting arms and air defense
systems, the Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) and Brigade (MAB) must
be capable of isolating the force beachhead (FBH) or the main
battle area. In addition, the presence of massed mechanized
formations, massed artillery, and rocket delivery systems must be
aggressively attacked as far from the forward edge of the battle
area (FEBA) as possible. The new BM-27 which is described in
detail in Appendix D will out-range all current Marine ground
weapons long before it can be engaged. The ZSU will combine with
other surface-to-air weapons to shroud approaching forces from
Marine close air support while endangering both Marine fixed-wing
aircraft and helicopters. Therefore, delineating specific
operational requirements should become apparent. The Marine
Corps is required to:
1) Provide long range ( > 15km) interdiction, SEAD
and counterfire support to manuever forces.
2) Develop smaller, lighter weight, less labor-
intensive weapon systems with equal or greater lethality and
3) Continue to modernize its forces with
technological advances, and specifically plan the replacement of
the M110 8-inch howitzer.
The MLRS can and will meet each of these requirements. The
questions remaining for the Corps are: How important are these
requirements ? How soon must they be met ? How much cost is
involved and at the expense of what other system procurements ?
Before answering these concerns, an analysis of other programming
criteria is necessary.
Concept of Employment
Various Marine Corps studies, and even a draft Concept of
Employment, have outlined the more obvious missions and roles for
a Marine MLRS. Based on the concepts used by the Army, there has
never been any serious consideration of using the MLRS in a
direct support mission. This type of employment, although
appealing to some battalion commanders, would seriously degrade
the weapon's capability and might equate to using a heavy
transport helicopter, CH-53E, for ground reconnaissance or
command and control, or using an infantry battalion for rear area
Clearly, the MLRS would be employed in general support
missions to allow the force commander the maximum ability to
influence the battle. The roles of long-range interdiction, SEAD
and counterfire are appropriate means to exert this influence so
as to isolate the battle area and permit maneuver units to engage
opposing forces without distraction. Reinforcing and general
support-reinforcing missions might be considered based on the
tactical situation. However, there will be a compensatory
reduction in firepower multiplication at the centralized force
level, MAF or MAB.
Input from field commanders, as well as most conceptual work
done to date by the Marine Corps, indicates that fielding the
MLRS as either a battalion or battery within the current
artillery regiment's structure is the only real option.
Logistical considerations preempt any ideas to create another
separate battalion. Again, looking to the Army example, their
fire support studies settled on an MLRS battalion at the Corps-
level only with a battery organic to the division's artillery.
Considering the frontages that the MLRS is equipped to work over,
a nine-launcher battery would be adequate to a MAF's needs with
one or two 3-launcher platoons task organized at the MAB-level,
and attached to the direct support or reinforcing artillery
battalion when appropriate.
There is no doubt that both the M198 and the M109 will be
essential to the Marine Corps inventory well into the twenty-
first century. Therefore, the MLRS must be placed in the fifth
battalion of the artillery regiment which would accomplish two
objectives: 1) allow the M109's to replace the M198's in the
fourth battalion which, in turn, will permit the final retirement
of the M114; 2) position the MLRS to eventually replace the M110
8-inch howitzer as special weapon capabilities are developed. A
proposed Table of Organization for Marine rocket battery is
included in Appendix G. The revised artillery regiment's
structure during the transition period with the 8-inch howitzer
would then look as follows:
- 3 direct support battalions (24 M198/M101A1)
- 1 general support battalion (18 M109's)
- 1 general support battalion (9 MLRS/12 M110)
This would be the "cleanest" structure where the fifth battalion
would conceivably receive additional MLRS (9 - 18) as the M110
enters obsolesence. All indications from the Army are that as the
8-inch howitzer reaches the end of its service life there will be
no effort to extend it or product-improve the system. The Army
is apparently moving in the direction of replacing all its M110's
At this point, it is important to understand how the Marine
Corps might employ the rocket battalion and battery in combat.
The battalion would consist of a Headquarters Battery and three
rocket batteries. The Headquarters unit would be similarly
staffed as the fourth and fifth battalions of the artillery
regiment presently are. The normal staff functions would be
incorporated into the S-1, S-2, S-3 and S-4 sections. The
battalion would be assigned missions of general support, general
support-reinforcing, or reinforcing across the Division/MAF
front. If a battery or a platoon was attached to a deploying
MAB/MAU, the same missions would be appropriate. However, command
and control relationships would be worked out in detail with the
landing force (senior) artillery commander. As previously stated,
the emphasis on the "general support" mission is paramount to
allow the Commander, Landing Force (CLF) the ability to influence
the battle ashore and isolate the force beachhead.
The battalion would land across a pre-designated beach in an
on-call wave consistent with the scheme of maneuver. Pre-boating
the MLRS in LCU's or LCAC's might provide for more timely
movement ashore of landing force fire support assets which has
traditionally been a problem in amphibious operations.
Once ashore, the battalion would act quickly to ensure that
all firing batteries and platoons were in a "HOT", or ready-to-
fire, status. Logistically, the platoons would require unit
distribution of both ammunition and other classes of supplies to
maximize their on-line time. The battalion would provide all
position zones and tactical fire planning information for the
MLRS batteries. While technical fire control is accomplished at
the platoon level, the battalion Fire Direction Center (FDC)
would forward fire missions directly to the platoon, monitored by
the battery FDC. Survey control points and meteorological
messages would be passed to the batteries from the battalion.
Finally, the MLRS would be fully integrated into the Marine
Integrated Fire and Air Support System, MIFASS, and employed in
close coordination with the new Q-36 Firefinder, counter-
mortar/battery, radar and the Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) for
battlefield surveillance and target acquisition.
The Marine Corps envisions a slightly different battery
structure than the Army. Where the Army has a headquarters
platoon, a survey section, an ammunition platoon, and three
firing platoons, the Marines would incorporate the survey and
ammunition functions into a single headquarters platoon. There is
consensus between the services that three launchers is the best
size for the firing platoons.
The battery commander's responsibility for keeping abreast
of the tactical situation of his supported unit becomes more
critical in an MLRS battery due to the extent of the support it
provides. Tactical control of the firing platoons resides in the
battery commander with technical control passed to the platoon
level (each platoon has its own FDC). Ammunition supply points
and platoon position areas, or "goose eggs", will be selected by
the battery commanding officer. The platoon leader, a first or
second lieutenant, will establish his own firing points and hide
areas. Movement while in contact with the enemy will always be
done by echelon at all levels to ensure continuous fire support
for the maneuver unit.
System Value Assessment
New systems are procured by the Marine Corps only after they
meet certain cost-benefit criteria which places them in a
"buyable" position on the prioritization list for budget
submission. The concept of "benefit" is in fact a relative one
that essentially focuses on the impact that programming or not
programming a new system would have on the Corps. To adequately
flesh out a system value assessment of the MLRS, the following
issues impacting on the Marine Corps will be discussed:
- Military effectiveness
- Breadth of application
- Technical risk
- Current vs. new capabilities
- Readiness vs. modernization
To discuss the military effectiveness issue in light of the
operational requirements and concept of employment for the MLRS
is basically a further assessment of its warfighting capability.
It would also be easier to compare different artillery weapons if
a method were developed to quantify the quality of fire support
available from individual systems. While that might be the topic
of some future paper, the intent here is somewhat more
subjective yet still valid.
The M270, MLRS, has already been shown to provide many times
the firepower of any one howitzer or even howitzer battery. It
can place more sheer weight of "steel on target" than the 105mm,
155mm or 8-inch weapons. Most munitions effects table will bear
out the theory that unless an artillery barrage is a surprise,
its effect on the target is greatly reduced. There is also clear
evidence that after the initial surprise, the effect almost
exponentially decreases as enemy forces seek cover and protection
from the attack. With this in mind, there is not a single
conventional weapon system, air or ground, that is capable of the
destructive effect of the MLRS in terms of instantaneous
lethality over an area the size of six football fields.
There is a definite improvement in transportability over the
M110 with the MLRS' compatibility with the C141 and its troop and
deck space savings on board amphibious shipping. It has a
somewhat limited ability to move through the surf (40 inch
fording capability) that would be enhanced by a platform
modification or substitution. This is a critical issue that
must be resolved with the contractor early in the acquisition
Logistical considerations, some of which were highlighted by
Marine field commanders, must be addressed. The U.S. Army M270
comes complete with its own Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical
Truck (HEMTT - M985) and Ammunition Trailer (HEMAT - M989), a two
man system capable of transporting eight launch pods of 48
rockets which is four reloads. The Marine MLRS must include the
LVS, MK48 Logistical Vehicle System, which would provide a
greater on- and off-road payload capability than the Army's
vehicles as well as better cross-country and cross-surf
characteristics (see Appendix E ).
While it is difficult to comparatively describe the military
effectiveness aspect of "benefit", there is a logical thought
process here that is worth mentioning. If, in its SEAD role, the
MLRS is successful only once in its life cycle of preventing the
loss of one F/A-18 or AV-8B, it will have achieved any
cost/military effectiveness goals that the Corps might establish
for it. While the same can be said for any supporting arm,
however, none of the others can be expected to have the
opportunities for success that the MLRS will have*.
Breadth of application for any particular weapon system must
be interpreted to include the additional utility of the
technology and its subsystems as well as the weapon itself. The
MLRS is engineered to be adaptable to several different platforms
including the amphibious assault vehicle (LVTP), the new High
Mobility Medium Vehicle 1 1/4-ton (HMMVW), the M113 Armored
Personnel Carrier and naval gunfire ships. In the HMMVW and M113
versions as in its towed-carriage configuration, it has a reduced
payload of three or six rockets, but gains in its mobility with
the added transport options of the C130, CH-53E and, in some
cases, the CH-46. Appendix F summarizes the various
possibilities for MLRS configuration.
The contractor proposed the LVT-based MLRS with a six rocket
payload as early as 1981.4 But, apparently, it was never given
* The MLRS is projected to cost approximately $2 million dollars
per weapon system.
serious consideration. Yet, this version, would enhance the
firepower of the division while meeting most amphibious
operational requirements. Additionally, the U.S. Navy has
studied the possibilities of mounting the MLRS aboard ship to
improve the sickly naval gunfire capabilities now existent in our
600-ship Navy. Like the cannon, the naval gun is not progressing
further in its technological development. Shore bombardment in
support of amphibious operations seems to have again fallen out
of favor with the advent of "over-the-horizon" amphibious
landings. The MLRS will without question bring naval gunfire
into the next century by replacing the aging three- and five- inch
systems presently employed. A recently approved Naval Surface
Fire Support Study requested by Congress will allow the Navy-
version of the MLRS, the Assault Ballistic Rocket System or ABRS,
to be tested on several different platforms. The testing will be
done from a reserve Landing Ship, Tank (LST), or an old destroyer
hull. The futuristic view of naval gunfire is one of rockets and
new 8-inch guns replacing the battleship's 16-inch turrets. There
is a possibility of a return to the World War II "rocketship"
concept. The LST, as it approaches the end of its planned service
life, might serve as the new ABRS platform with the enhanced
capabilities of ammunition storage and close-in fire support for
the forces ashore.5
The various communications and fire direction/control
subsystems used by the MLRS are already being considered for
general use with the current cannon artillery systems. Their
discussion here would constitute a moot point, yet their utility
is already known and demonstrates the ease of integrating the
MLRS with future fire support technology.
All new weapons and equipment comes complete with its own
degree of technical risk. In disagreement with some Headquarters
Marine Corps planners, the MLRS is no exception. There are risks
that a comparable nuclear capability will not develop for the
system which will degrade its ability to adequately replace the
M110. Revolutionary engineering ideas to "product-improve" the
M110 might delay or preclude its obsolesence. There is also the
possibility, albeit slight, that the current single-source
production facility might experience financial difficulties and
be forced to shut down. This is an inherent risk with any
procurement and is not considered likely.
Although the major new capabilities have been specified
earlier, it is worthwhile to summarize their comparative value
relative to existing systems. The Multiple Launch Rocket System
has demonstrated progressive technology in certain areas that
will enhance the full spectrum of artillery fire support over the
next decade. The following advances are considered "new" to
field artillery weapon systems:
The MLRS has the on-board capability to:
- receive digital fire missions without voice
- determine its own surveyed location.
- compute its own technical firing data.
- orient itself automatically for elevation and
traverse on the target or targets.
- fire 12 rockets on the same or 12 individual
targets within 60 seconds.
- conduct automated maintenance checks and notify
the crew by status lights or fault messages on the fire control
Other impressive features include:
- an automated self-loading capability.
- the smallest weapon crew in artillery history.
- only current fielded artillery piece that can
communicate digitally (secure) with firefinder radar (Q36) or
- both range and lethality multipliers far in
excess of three times that of current artillery weapons.
- "clean" ammunition storage and handling
In order to satisfy the concern of whether the acquisition
of the MLRS would improve the Marine Corps' modernization status
without equivalent effect on readiness, several of the system's
capabilities and potential contributions clearly point to
increased readiness. The weapon's ability to move quickly ashore
to accurately located positions, to launch at twelve separate
targets almost simultaneously, and to load in 40% less deck space
aboard amphibious shipping relative to one 8-inch howitzer while
providing the area saturation capability of several 8-inch
battalions begs a rhetorical question. What do you think ?
THE FUTURE OF THE MARINE MLRS
War rockets, despite being over 700 years old seem to be
still in their infancy in terms of potential as a practical
weapon of war. They have on occasion caused some to believe that
they might supplant cannons as the artillery weapon of choice.
This never did occur nor does it seem likely in the next quarter
century. However, artillery rockets, and in particular, multiple
rocket launchers, appear to have found in the MLRS a permanent
role on the battlefield. Many of the long-argued disadvantages
of war rockets compared to tube artillery have been corrected
and, in some cases, improved beyond that of the howitzer.
From a novelty of warfare in the 13th century to a serious
venture in weapon engineering in the early 19th century to a
universally accepted combat role during the Second World War,
rocket artillery has followed a roller-coaster history often
tottering between approbation and obsolesence. Whether or not
this sinusoidal path will continue into the future is uncertain.
The "state-of-the-art" is such that artillery rocket proponents
might optimistically consider that they are now closer to
permanent acceptance then they are to the other, more dismal end
of the scale. As far as the Marine Corps is concerned, the
picture is definitely not yet in focus.
There seems to be from a practical, if not fiscal,
perspective both at the field and Headquarters' levels, an
acceptance of the inherent value of acquiring an MLRS for the
Marine Corps. Yet, despite its utility, the weapon has not
garnished the necessary support from certain key centers of
influence within the organization. This support combined with an
"easier to swallow" price tag are essential to fielding the MLRS
in the Fleet Marine Force.
Is it reasonable to expect that these issues will be
resolved or mitigated ? Can Marine Corps artillery keep up with
the United States Army and Soviet artillery as a viable
supporting arm capable of providing the maneuver commander the
necessary fire power where and when he needs it ? Will the
opening scenario of this paper ever have a basis in reality ?
The answer to each of these questions is unquestionably "yes".
In the opinion of the author, if the Marine Corps were to become
involved in a global crisis tomorrow or as Marines often say, "if
the balloon goes up", the forward deployed MABs and MAFs would be
augmented from Army sources with multiple rocket launchers,
specifically the MLRS. The United States could not afford to do
otherwise. However, in light of the growing fiscal restraints on
military expenditures during the current "peacetime" era of
national defense, they can afford to do otherwise, atleast for
the time being.
If one can accept the proposition that the United States
Marine Corps needs to get back into the artillery rocket business
soon, then there is an obvious requirement to minimize or
ameliorate the system's detractors and "play" to its strengths as
they apply to the Marine Corps. Implementing a new acquisition
strategy of "getting a foot in the door", will not be
accomplished by proposing an all-out procurement in excess of $1
billion dollars for more launchers per division than the Army
plans to deploy. A more measured approach is mandated.
With a focus on acquiring a battery of four to nine
launchers per division, a feasibility study must be done either
internally or under contract on the best-cost approach to
fielding an MLRS or MLRS-based system. The LVT and HMMVW
platforms for the smaller rocket package deserve a second look
with the possibility of the contractor absorbing all real R&D
costs up front and spreading those dollars over the length of the
contract. By squeezing down the total weapon purchases from 27
to no more than 9 per division, the system life cycle costs will
not be reduced by two-thirds. However, they might be cut in half
while still allowing the Corps to begin building a base for the
development of experience and doctrine in the use of multiple
rocket launchers in amphibious/special operations.
Because the Marine Corps acquired the M198 155mm howitzer,
it does not necessarily follow that the entire supporting arm is
now in "good shape". The M198 was essential to close-in fire
support as a replacement for the aged M101A1 105mm howitzer and
to close the gap with Soviet artillery and rockets. The entry of
the new Russian BM-27 rocket launcher and the M110 nearing the
end of its useful life require distinctly separate and different
responses. To re-phrase the thoughts of our British
counterparts, it is not a question of whether the Marine Corps
needs cannon artillery or multiple rocket launchers, but rather
in what proportion do we need them ?
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
1232 First recorded use of rockets in combat at
Kai-fung-fu by Chinese
1429 French use war rockets in defense of Orleans
1772 William Congreve born in Middlesex, England
1806 Congreve rockets first fired at Boulogne
against Napoleon's invasion fleet
1813 Rockets decisively employed at Battle of
1814 First British Rocket Corps formed
1814 Royal Marines first to fire artillery
rockets on American soil at U. S. Marines and
militia at Battle of Bladensburg
1828 Russians first employ rockets during Russo-
1846 William Hale designs improved war rocket
1846 First American rocket battery formed at Fort
Monroe under Gen Winfield Scott. Disbanded
1847 Marines first supported by artillery rockets
1861 24th Independent Battery, New York Light
Artillery equipped with rocket launchers.
Launchers replaced with howizters after un-
successful field firing tests
1862 Confederates fire artillery rockets under
command of J.E.B. Stuart on Union forces at
1918 Robert H. Goddard begins work on new
American war rockets
1941 Russians deploy first rocket battery of BM-
13's to western front
1941 Britain and U.S. exchange research data on
1942 German Nebelwerfer 41, multiple rocket
launcher, employed at Russian front
1944 British "Land Mattress" rocket launcher used
by Canadians at crossings of Rhine and Scheldt
1st Provisional Rocket Detachment activated
by the U.S. Marine Corps (April)
1st Marine rockets fired in combat on Saipan
1st Army converts 105mm howitzer battalion
into a T27 rocket battalion (Nov)
1950 1st Marine 4.5-inch Rocket Battalion
activated at Camp Pendleton, CA
Battery C, 1st 4.5-inch Rocket Battalion
(later redesignated 1st 4.5-inch Rocket Bat-
tery) fires in support of 1st Marine Division
1954 Modernization of entire line of Soviet
multiple rocket launchers
1977 Introduction of Soviet BM-27
U.S. Army receives SecDef approval to start
1981 First MLRS, M270, fielded by U.S. Army
Click here to view image
MULTIPLE LAUNCH R0CKET SYSTEM (MLRS)
Field Commanders' Survey
After reviewing the attached article, please answer the following
1. Considering the threat, does the Marine Corps need a system
such as the MLRS ? Why, or why not ? What mission do you feel
is appropriate for the MLRS (close-in support, long-range
interdiction, SEAD, etc.) ?
2. If the Marine Corps were to acquire the MLRS, how do you
envision it should be employed (i.e. 1 battery per division, a
separate battalion per division, a battery/battalion in the
artillery regiment) ? Why ?
3. If the Marine Corps were to acquire the MLRS, what would be
your main concerns about the weapon system ?
4. If the MLRS were to replace an artillery weapon system
currently in the inventory, which do you think it should replace
(M198, M109, 8") ?
5. What suggestions do you have about what to do with the savings
of personnel that might accrue if the MLRS were acquired ? (MLRS
could save from 3 - 8 Marines per weapon over current artillery
6. Do you have any other ideas, concerns or suggestions for
employment of the MLRS ?
Click here to view image
1LTC Calvin H. Goddard USA, "Rockets (Part 1)", Army
Ordnance, (Mar-Apr 1939), 302-304.
2Wehrner Von Braun et al., History of Rocketry & Space
Travel (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1966), 25-26.
3Willey Ley, Rockets, Missiles and Men in Space (New York:
The Viking Press, 1968), 47.
4Courtlandt Canby, A History of Rockets and Space (New York:
Hawthorn Books Inc., 1963), 11-12.
5F. W. F. Gleason, "Rockets in History," Ordnance, (Mar-Apr
6David Baker, The Rocket (New York: Crown Publishers, 1978),
7Von Braun, 30.
8General Sir James Marshall-Cornwall, "Early Rockets," Royal
Artillery Historical Society, ( No. 2, Jan 1972), courtesy of the
Staff College, Camberley, England, 40-41, and Gleason, 327.
9O. F. G. Hogg (Brigadier, C.B.E., F.S.A.),Artillery: Its
Origin, Heyday and Decline (London: C. Hurst Co., 1970) 248-250.
10Von Braun, 31.
11Marshall-Cornwall, 43-47. The first rocket artillerymen
were drawn from the Royal Marines. According to LtCol D.F.
Bittner, USMCR, Marine Corps Command & Staff College Historian,
the term, "Blue Marine," described a branch of the Royal Marines
that serviced naval guns. The terms "Blue Marine" and the "Red
Marines" were eventually dropped in favor of the common name
12Gleason, 328, and Canby, 40.
15Ivan .A. Slukhai, Russian Rocketry; A Historical Survey
(Jerusalem: translated from Russian - Israel Program for
Scientific Information, 1968), 3.
17Neil H. Swanson, The Perilous Fight (New York: Farrar and
Rhinehart, Inc., 1945), 136-146.
19F. W. F. Gleason, "The Growth of Rocket Ordnance,"
Ordnance (May-Jun 1948), 397.
20Von Braun, 33.
21Gleason, "The Growth of Rocket Ordnance," 397.
22H. L. Scott (Col, USA), Military Dictionary (New York:
Greenwood Press, 1968; first published 1861), 535-536. Scott's
definition: "Rocket (War). A projectile set in motion by a force
within itself. It is composed of a strong case of paper or
wrought iron, inclosing a composition of nitre, charcoal and
sulphur; so proportioned to burn slower than gunpowder. The head
is either a solid shot, shell or spherical-case shot." He goes on
to describe both Congreve and Hale stability mechanisms and
explains how to achieve specific ranges with elevation and fuze
23Gleason, "The Growth of Rocket Ordnance," 398.
25Von Braun, 34.
2John Kirk et al., Great Weapons of World War II (New York:
Walker and Co., 1961), 276.
3Rudolf Lusar (translated by R. P. Heller), German Secret
Weapons of the Second World War (New York: Rhilosophical Library,
4MajGen J. F. C. Fuller, "The Artillery Rocket," Ordnance
(Sep-Oct 1947), 88.
7K. P. Kazakov (translated by Leo Kanner Associates),
Always with the infantry, Always with the Tanks (Moscow
(originally): republished by the U. S. Army Foreign Service and
Technology Center, 1975), 14.
9Robert G. Poirier, Red Army Order of Battle in the Great
Patriotic War (Novato, CA: Praesidio Press, 1985), 11.
11Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart, The Red Army (New York:
Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1956), 14.
13Oberst Kurt Hofman, "An Analysis of Soviet Artillery
Development," International Defense Review (1978), 5-9.
14LTC Calvin H. Goddard USA, "Rockets (Part II)," Army
Ordnance (Jul-Aug 1939), 370.
15Von Braun, 88-92.
1Joint Board on Scientific Information Policy, U. S. Rocket
Ordnance Development and Use in World War II (Washington: U. S.
Government Printing Office, 1946), 10.
2Lida Mayo, The Ordnance Department: On Beachhead and
Battlefield (U. S. Army in World War II Series) (Washington:
U. S. Army, 1968), 31.
3Constance M. Green et al., The Ordnance Department:
Planning Munitions for the War (U. S. Army in World War II
Series) (Washington: Dept. of the Army, 1953), 273.
7Office of Scientific Research and Development, Rockets,
Guns and Targets (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1948), 139-143.
8Marvin F. Taylor, a former reserve Marine 1st lieutenant
who served in one of the original rocket detachments and later
was assigned as a detachment commander, letter to History
Division, Headquarters Marine Corps, July 1984.
111stLt George H. Ward USMCR, "Iwo Jima Operation; Action
report of," (Iwo Jima: 3rd Provisional Rocket Detachment, April
14Capt John F. Nieman USMCR, "Nanshei Shoto Operation,
Special Report on," (Okinawa: 4th Provisional Rocket Detachment,
15LtCol Floyd R. Moore USMC, "Why Not Rocket Artillery,"
Marine Corps Gazette (Dec 1945), 30-32.
16No Author, "New Developments - 4.5" Rocket Battery,"
Marine Corps gazette (Apr 1947), 59.
17LtCol George B. Thomas USMC, "Historical Diary (Type-B),
Preparation and Submission of," (Camp Pendleton, CA: 1st 4.5"
Rocket Battalion, Dec 1950).
18LtCol George B, Thomas USMC, "Historical Diary (Type -B),
submission of," (Camp Pendleton: 1st 4.5" Rkt Bn, Jan 1951).
19U. S. Marine Corps Equipment Board, Study on Marine Corps
Equipment Policy 1950, (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Equipment
Board, Jan 1951), 90.
20Capt J. J. Travers USMC, "Historical Diary, submission
of," (Korea: 1st 4.5" Rocket Battery, FMF, Jun 1952).
211stLt E. A. Bushe USMC, "Historical Diary, submission of,"
(Korea: 1st 4.5" Rkt Btry, FMF, May 1951).
23LtCol Pat Meid USMCR et al., U. S. Marine Operations in
Korea 1950-1953, Volume V: Operations in West Korea, (Washington:
Historical Division, Headquarters Marine Corps, 1972), 179.
24LtCol J. J. Wade USMC, "Ripple and Run," Marine Corps
Gazette (Mar 1953), 33.
25Capt Edward H. Bailey USMC, "Fire Mission Rockets," Marine
Corps Gazette (Sep 1952), 18-19.
27Capt T. I. Gunning USMC et al., Evaluation of 6.5 inch
Multiple Rocket Launcher, T129, (Quantico: Marine Corps
Development Center, Oct 1955).
28Major J. M. McLaurin USMC, 6.5 inch Rocket Launcher,
Project No. 35-55I, (Quantico: Marine Corps Development Center,
29News Release No. 660-67, "Rocket Attack," (DaNang, Viet
Nam: III Marine Amphibious Force Information Office, Marach 1967).
1No Author, United States Marine Corps Acquisition Plan for
a General Support Rocket system - Coordinating Draft (Washington:
Headquarters Marine Corps, Oct 1984), 12.
2F. E. O'Connor et al, Multiple Launch Rocket System: A Case
Study of Manpower, Personnel and Training Requirements
Determination (Alexandria, VA: U. S. Army Research Institute for
the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1984), 11.
3Copy of slide presentation on MLRS, unidentified source but
contained in USMC Acquisition Project Officer's notes (1987),
Slides #1 and #2.
4U. S. Army Field Artillery School, Multiple Launch Rocket
System Operation, Field Circular 6-60: Coordinating Draft (Fort
Sill, OK: USAFAS, Dec 1986), 4-4.
5No Author, "The Azimuth of the Field Artillery," The Field
Artillery Journal, (Nov-Dec 1986), 22.
6USAFAS, FC 6-60, 1-1.
7No Author, "The Azimuth of the Field Artillery," 22.
8No Author, the information used here for comparison was
based on a computer analysis (Feb 1985) done by the project
office, Code LMW, HQMC. The data was modified to reflect the
proposed T/O in Appendix G.
9John F. Rybicki, "Advanced Conventional Munitions and the
Air-Land Battle," Military Technology (Oct 1986), 32-34.
10No Author, U. S. Marine Corps Concept of Employment for the
General Support Rocket System - Coordinating Draft (Washington:
Headquarters Marine Corps, Oct 1984), 2-4.
11No Author, "Multiple Launch Rocket System," a point paper,
(Washington: Headquarters Marine Corps (POG), Nov 1981).
12MajGen H. G. Glasgow USMC Memorandum for the Deputy Chief
of Staff for Research, Development and Studies, "Amended Draft
Required Operational Capability (ROC) for a Field Artillery
Rocket System (FARS)," (Washington: Headquarters Marine Corps,
Dec 1983), 1.
13U. S. Marine Corps Concept of Employment for the General
Support Rocket System, 2-5.
14This opinion was developed after several discussions with
various program branch action officers at Headquarters Marine
Corps conducted from Nov 1986 through Jan 1987.
15Information is based on informal discussions with both the
contractor, LTV Corporation, and a project consultant at the
Center for Naval Analysis, Alexandria, Virginia in Nov 1986.
1LtCol D. W. L. Robinson RA, "Why Rockets," The Journal of
the Royal Artillery, (Sep 1978), 116.
3Kathleen Waslov et al, The Program Evaluation Group's Roles
and Responsibilities in the POM Priortization Process, a
contracted report for the U. S. Marine Corps (McLean, VA:
Decisions and Designs, Inc., July 1983), 3-10.
4Vought Corporation, "Indirect Fire Weapons Study", A
Technical Proposal (Dallas: Vought Corp., April 1981), 5.
5Neil Mitchell, Colonel USMC, telephonic interview conducted
on 1 April 1987.
Altman, Steven. Program Manager for the MLRS at LTV Aero Defense
Co., Dallas, TX. Telephone Interview, 21 Nov 1986. Provided
early background on the private sector's opinions as to the
Marine Corps interest and involvement with the MLRS program.
The discussion also uncovered information on the Navy's
interest in potential uses of the rocket from a sea-
Altman, Steven. Letter to the author. 26 Nov 1986.
Boomer, Walter, Brigadier General USMC, et al. Easter Offensive
Symposium. Marine Corps Command & Staff College, Quantico,
Virginia, 4 Dec 1986. General Boomer and several others on
the panel frequently referred to the devastating
psychological effects as well as the physical damage
resulting from massive artillery and rocket fire by the
Gunning, T. I., Capt USMC and Capt R. J. McNicholas USMC.
"Evaluation of 6.5inch Multiple Rocket Launcher, T129 (C)."
Declassified. Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Development Center,
Oct 1955. A quick "study" done by two Marine Corps
development project officers at the request of their
headquarters to determine if a requirement still existed
that the T129 MRL would be able to satisfy. No actual field
testing was done.
_________ Jane's Armour and Artillery, 1984-1985. 5th ed.
London: Jane's Publishing Co., 1984. The best source for a
complete review of all the multiple rocket launchers
manufactured and employed throughout the world including
their history, specifications and capabilities
Marine Corps. Equipment Board. "Launcher, Rocket, Multiple, 4.5",
T-66E-2 and Rocket, HE, 4.5", M16 (T38E3), further test of."
Quantico, VA; U. S. Marine Barracks, March 1947. Provided
some characteristics and capabilities of the rocket system
that was to become the standard for the Corps through the
Marine Corps Equipment Board. Study on Marine Corps Equipment
Policy 1950 (MC General Order No. 85). Secret,declassified.
Quantico, VA: MC Equipment Board, Jan 1951. Overall review
of the full range of Marine Corps equipment and its future
considerations. The study outlines requirements for a rocket
system that would not replace conventional artillery and
advocates continuing an active Marine Corps interest in the
development of artillery rockets.
Marine Corps Museum, U. S. Marine Corps Museum, Washington Navy
Yard, Washington, D.C. visit on 26 Nov 1986. A very well
done diorama depicting the Battle of Bladensburg where
Marines distinguished themselves (under rocket attack) and,
as a result, legend has it that the British did not burn the
Commandant's House while they razed the rest of the U. S.
McLaurin, J. M., Major USMC. Marine Corps Development Project
Officer. "6.5-inch Rocket Launcher." An official Marine
Corps report. Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Development Center,
1956. A study done to evaluate the Marine Corps' requirement
for a 6.5-inch rocket launcher to replace the 4.5-inch
Mitchell, Neil, Colonel USMC. Marine Corps Liaison, OP-954,
Surface Warfare Division, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations. A
telephonic interview on 1 April 1987. Colonel Mitchell
provided the most current information on the Department of
the Navy's effort to modernize its naval surface fire
support. A recently approved study has set the stage for
testing of the Multiple Launch Rocket System from a sea-based
platform. The Navy version of the MLRS is called the Assault
Ballistic Rocket System or ABRS.
Nieman, John F., Capt USMCR. "Nanshei Shoto Operation, Special
Action on." Okinawa, Japan: 4th Provisional Rocket
Detachment, 13 Jul 1945. This correspondence was retrieved
from Marine Corps Archives and includes the Rocket
Detachment commander's "after action" observations following
the amphibious assault on Okinawa.
O'Connor, F. E., R. L. Fairail and E. H. Birdseye. Multiple
Launch Rocket System: A Case Study of Manpower, Personnel
and Training Requirements Determination. A contracted report
done by Information Spectrum, Inc. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Army
Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences,
Jan 1984. The report analyzes the procedures used to
determine the manpower, personnel and training requirements
for the MLRS. Although it is primarily concerned with the
determination procedures in these areas, it also provides
good historical background on the MLRS procUrement.
Richardson, George. Research analyst at Center for Naval
Analysis, Alexandria, VA. Interview, 26 Nov 1986. Actually
an informal discussion was conducted uncovering recent
consulting work contracted for by the Marine Corps relative
to the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Provided good
Scott, Joseph, Major USMC. Supporting Arms Project Officer, Plans
and Operations - Ground (POG), Headquarters Marine Corps,
Washington, D.C. Interview, 7 Nov 1986. Excellent status
review of current Marine Corps position on the MLRS and
artillery modernization in general. Major Scott provided the
most current information on the potential for USMC
procurement of the MLRS.
Taylor, Marvin F. A letter to the U. S. Marine Corps Historical
Division, dated 12 Jul 1984. This correspondence found in
the Marine Corps Museum Library subject files yielded the
best information relative to the beginnings of Marine Corps
efforts to field rocket launchers in World War II.
Thomas, George B., LtCol USMC. Historical diaries from the 1st
4.5" Rocket Battalion stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA.
These two diaries (Dec 1950, Jan 1951) formed the primary
source for information about the early difficulties
encountered in establishing the Marine Corps first rocket
Travers, J. J., Capt USMC. "1st 4.5" Rocket Battery, FMF Special
Historical Report" (with endorsements). 22 Aug 1952.
Retrieved from Marine Corps Archives, these battery diaries
document the rocket battery's action at the front during the
Korean Conflict including the commander's comments on
problems and concerns. This report referenced the first time
Marine artillery (rockets) were moved by helicopters.
U. S. Marine Corps. "Amended Draft Required Operational Capability
(ROC) for a Field Artillery Rocket System (FARS)." A
memorandum for the Deputy Chief of Staff (HQMC) for Research,
Development and Studies. Washington: HQMC (Code POG), Dec
1983. A decision memorandum proposing the termination of the
FARS effort within the Marine Corps and the reasons
U. S. Marine Corps. "Field Artillery Rocket System (FARS)
Acquisition Coordinating Group (ACG) Meeting of 28 Oct 1982."
A memorandum for the record. Washington: HQMC (Code POG),
undated. A documented report from a meeting of the FARS ACG
at HQMC where recommendations were made to stop all
development activity on FARS and to begin exploring the
adaptation of the Navy 5-inch Zuni rocket system to Marine
U. S. Marine Corps. "Proposed Required Operational Capability
(ROC) For A General Support Rocket System." A naval letter
from CG, MC Development and Education Command to the
Commandant of the Marine Corps. Quantico, VA: MCDEC, June
1985. An outline of the considered operational requirements
to be satisfied by a GSRS or MLRS from the perspective of the
development project officers in the Firepower Division at the
MC Development Center with comments from the acquisition
sponsor project office (LMW).
U. S. Marine Corps. " U.S. Marine Corps Concept of Employment for
then General Support Rocket System." A coordinating draft.
Washington: HQMC (Code POG), Oct 1984. Although not an
officially published document, probably written by a Major
James McLaughlin USMC and DPO's, this is an excellent
development of a concept of how the Marine Corps might
envision employing the MLRS. Very comprehensive treatment of
U. S. Marine Corps, "United States Marine Corps Acquisition Plan
For a General Support Rocket System." A coordinating draft.
Washington: HQMC (Code POG), Oct 1984. This paper also
unofficial complements the COE above by discussing the
development of the requirement for a GSRS and some of the
decision process for procuring specific numbers of a new GSRS
including dlelivery requirements.
Vought Corporation. "Indirect Fire Weapons Study." A technical
proposal. Dallas: Vought Corp., April 1981 A proposal to
conduct a full scale study of specific Marine Corps
requirements to field the MLRS on a "Marine" platform. The
paper provides an excellent background on the Marine
Corps/Vought relationship and the Marine Corps developing
interest in the MLRS.
Ward, George H., 1st Lieutenant USMC, "Iwo Jima Operation, Action
Report of." Iwo Jima, Japan: 3rd Provisional Rocket
Detachment, 16 April 1945. Ward was the detachment commander
and gives an excellent account of the involvement of his
rocketeers during and after the assault on Iwo Jima to
include some very candid observations about the detachment's
accomplishments and difficulties.
__________ "The Azimuth of the Field Artillery." The Field
Artillery Journal. Nov-Dec 1986. A fine discussion of where
U. S. Army artillery is today and where it and its technology
Bagshaw-Mattei, J. A., Major RA, and Frank King. "Multiple Launch
Rocket Systems in the Third World War." The Journal of the
Royal Artillery. March 1982. A fictitious account of the
MLRS in action in a World War III scenario against the
Soviet mechanized forces.
Bailey, Edward A., Capt USMC. "Fire Mission Rockets." Marine
Corps Gazette. Sep 1952. The author discusses the newly
formed rocket battalion, its capabilities and missions as
well as presenting some observations on the performance of
the rocket battery in Korea.
Baker, David. The Rocket. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1978.
The origins and developments of the rocket from the Chinese
to space travel is presented with numerous photographs and
Bellamy, Chris. Red God of War: Soviet Artillery and Rocket
Forces. New York: Pergamon Press-Brassey's Defence
Publishers, 1986. A very readable historical account of the
development of Russian and Soviet howitzers, field guns and
rocket launchers from the 14th century on. The author
provides detailed information not only on weaponry, but also
on the genesis and growth of Soviet artillery techniques,
tactics and doctrine.
Bishop, Richard M., Cpt USA. "Multiple Rocket Launcher Tactics."
The Field Artillery Journal. May-June 1985. An excellent
article describing in detail various employment options to
include non-standard artillery missions in both the offense
and defense. Required reading for MLRS-interested parties.
Brenner, Charles B. , Cpt USA. "A System that Could Make a
Difference." The Field Artillery Journal. Sep-Oct 1985.
After discussing Soviet use of MRL's, the author contends
that the MLRS is not enough. He advocates that a lightweight
MRL be procured through a shortened acquisition process.
Canby, Courtlandt. A History of Rockets and Space. New York:
Hawthorn Books, Inc.,1963 A standard incorporation of war
rocket history into an overall history of rocketry enroute
to space travel. The work contains some useful information
on the early war rockets as well as on Congreve's
involvement. More modern war/artillery rockets receive very
Chamberlain, Peter and Terry Gander, Mortars and Rockets. New
York: Arco Publishing Co., 1975. An excellent source for
both photographic and detailed characteristic sketches of
mortars and rockets used in WWII to include both the launch
platforms and the munitions. Some historical data is
provided in short, clipped segments on each different weapon
Corrales, Mary L. "MLRS - The Soldier's System." The Field
Artillery Journal. Jul-Aug 1980. Good background on the
MLRS, its specifications and capabilities. This article was
used to familiarize the field commanders surveyed.
Doyling, George, Sgt USMC. "The Buck Rogers Men." Leatherneck
Magazine. April 1945. Very good article on the Marine Corps
rocketeers in action on Tinian and Saipan during the Pacific
Fein, Paul. Warsaw Pact Ground Forces Equipment Identification
Guide: Artillery, Rockets & Missiles. Washington: Defense
Intelligence Agency, Feb 1982. A basic manual for
identifying Soviet and Warsaw Pact weaponry with some
specifications and capabilities.
Ferman, David D. "MLRS in Amphibious/Manuever Warfare." Amphibious
Warfare Review. August 1985. An excellent article introducing
the general Marine Corps community to the capabilities of the
MLRS and its applicability to amphibious warfare. The author,
a former Marine, is employed by the contractor for the weapon
Ferry, J.P., Colonel RA. "The Rebirth of the Military Rocket and
it's Development as an Artillery Weapon, 1900-1945." Record
of session. Royal Artillery Historical Society. Jan 1976.
Provided by the British Staff College at Camberley, this is
documented presentation given at the Royal Artillery
Ballroom in April 1975 where the author describes the growth
of artillery rockets with a focus on World WarII.
Floca Jr., Samuel W., LTC USA. "Do We Know How to Use MLRS?." The
Field Artillery Journal. Sep-Oct 1984. Author argues that
since the MLRS can not yet fight the deep battle that the
system should be more immediately responsive to the division
commander and so should be organized at the division-level
rather than at Corps.
Fuller, J. F. C., MajGen RA. "The Artillery Rocket." Ordnance.
Sep-Oct 1947. A very useful article that discusses the
rocket as a challenger to the "dominance of the cannon".
Provides good background on the World War II rocket
Gaither, Thomas D., Major USA (FA). "Firex 76." The Journal of
the Royal Artillery. March 1978. Reviews the performance of
the British MRl, Slammer, at a firing exercise at Fort
Gilbert, G. V., Major RA. "BM-27." The Journal of the Royal
Artillery. Sep 1982. One of the most complete sources of
data on the newest Soviet multiple rocket launcher.
Gleason, F. W. F. "Rockets in History." Ordnance. March-April
1948. Valuable source for historic data on early war
rockets from the Chinese through the Congreve period. Author
suggests that India may have used war rockets as early as
200-300 B.C. but he can not document it.
Gleason, F. W. F. "The Growth of Rocket Ordnance." Ordnance. May-
June 1948. A continuation of his previous article, this work
brings the reader from the Congreve rocket through World War
II. It provided somef very helpflul information on rockets
during the Mexican and Civil Wars.
Goddard, Calvin H., LtCol USA. "Rockets (Parts I, II and III)."
Army Ordnance. March-Aug 1939. A three part article in
successive issues that brings the reader from the time of
the Greek author Philostratus (245 A.D.) through the
American Civil War with the development of rocket
Green, Constance M., Harry C. Thomson and Peter C. Roots. The
Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War (U. S. Army
in WWII Series). Washington: Dept. of the Army, 1955. One of
a large series of books done on the activities of the
Ordnance Department of the Army during World War II. This
particular volume provided interesting background on the
interaction of American and Soviet rocket programs during
the War and useful insight into how U.S. standardization of
equipment was accomplished.
Gurney, Gene, LtCol USAF. Rocket and Missile Technology. New
York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1964. Primarily a look at the
development of current missile systems employed by and for
the Air Force with some interesting, anecdotal information
on the beginnings of war rockets.
Hoffman, Dietmar, LtCol FRG. "A Look at LARS." The Field
Artillery Journal. Sep-Oct 1985. a brief description of the
characteristics, capabilities and employment of the
Bundeswehr's light artillery rocket system fielded to fill
the gap until full deployment of the MLRS.
Hofman, Kurt, Oberst FRG. "An Analysis of Soviet Artillery
Development." Interavia's International Defense Review.
Special Series - 7, 1978. A particular segment comments on
the Soviet's complete modernization of its rocket forces
during the mid-1950's and some insight into Soviet rocket
Hogg, O. F. G., Brigadier, C.B.E., F.S.A. Artillery: Its Origin,
Heyday and Decline. London/Hamsden, Conn: C. Hurst & Co.,
1970. An excellent book on the history of artillery
including rockets up through World War II. Contains
extensive detail on the work of Congreve, Hale and the
British during the Second World War.
Joint Board on Scientific Information Policy. U. S. Rocket
Ordnance, Development and Use in World War II. Washington:
GPO, 1946. A very lucid concise description of the rocket
program in the United States during World War II. Each
service is treated separately with some detail. The book
also contains a very short review of the historical
development of war rockets.
Kamarck, Andrew, Cpt USA (FA). "Re-birth of the War Rocket." The
Field Artillery Journal. July 1943. Contains the usual
history of rockets and identifies Willy Ley as a good
source. The article provides more detail than others on the
British employment of rockets during the early 1800's.
Kazakov, K. P. Translated by Leo Kanner Associates. Always with
the infantry, Always with the Tanks (Vsegda s pekhotoy,
Vsegda s tankami). Moscow (originally)/Washington:
republished by U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology
Center, 1975. A rather lengthy discussion and narration of
the historic development of modern Russian artillery. A
fairly objective presentation with good insight into the
rapid growth of rocket brigades during WWII.
Kirk, John and Robert Young, Jr. Great Weapons of World War II.
New York: Walker and Co., 1961. A general account replete
with photographs of the major weapon systems used by both
sides in WWII. Rockets are discussed from the German,
Russian and American perspectives but only briefly.
Lee, R.G. Introduction to Battlefield Weapons Systems and
Technology. London: Brassey's Defense Publishers, Ltd.,
1985. A primer on the current state-of-the art weaponry
with brief background on the historical path the major
systems followed to get to where they are today.
Ley, Willy. Rockets, Missiles and Men in Space. New York: The
Viking Press, 1968. Although primarily oriented towards the
space program, this is an excellent book dealing with the
military development of rockets from 1232 to 1945. The
author provides some plainly explained technical aspects for
the successes and failures of rockets throughout their
Liddell-Hart, Sir Basil H. The Red Army. New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Co., 1956. A goood detailed accounting of the
development of the Soviet Army from World War II until the
early 1950's which presents insight into both their
strengths and weaknesses. The comments on Soviet rocket
employment assist in an understanding of the Russian
philosophy for their use.
Love, John C., Major USMC. "Rocket Artillery: A New Challenge."
Marine Corps Gazette. July 1964. In light of the increasing
involvement in Viet Nam, the author considers the employment
of the older M21 MRL for counter-guerilla operations. This
article did not provide much background for the paper.
Lusar, Rudolf. Translated by R. P. Heller and M. Schindler.
German Secret Weapons of the Second World War. New York:
Philosophical Library, 1959. Although most of this book
contains information relative to the V-2 program, it does
develop the artillery rocket from WWI campaign in France
where the need for a larger "smoke shell mortar" was
identified until the Nebelwerfer was fielded.
__________. Edited by W. Victor Madej. U.S. Army and Marine
Corps Order of Battle - Pacific Theater of Operations 1941 -
1945. Allentown: Game Publishing Co., 1984. This was the
first source that helped identify the number and locations
of Marine rocket detachments during the Second World War.
Marshall-Cornwall, General Sir James, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O.,
M.C. "Early Rockets." Record of session. Royal Artillery
Historical Society. Jan 1972. A presentation at the Royal
Artillery Ballroom, Woolwich where the author presents a
historical survey of war rockets from the Chinese through
the early 1800's with a primary focus on the Congreve
Mayo, Lida. The Ordnance Department: On Beachhead and Battlefront
(U.S. Army in WWII Series). Washington: U. S. Army, 1968. A
later work on the Ordnance Dept. during WWII with specific
attention to weapon development including rockets. Good
treatment of the bazooka and the initial feedback from the
field concerning the advantages and disadvantages of the
McGuire, James D. "Soviet Rocket Weapons." Army. Aug 1960. Author
briefly discusses development of Soviet rocketry from WWII
to 1960. He presents a clear view of the rocket units within
the structure of the Soviet armed forces. Photographs of
current systems developed since 1953 (except BM-27).
Meid, Pat, LtCol USMCR and Maj James M. Yingling USMC. U. S.
Marine Operations in Korea 1950 - 1953, Volume V: Operations
in West Korea. Washington: HQMC Historical Division, 1972.
Detailed accounts of Marine units in action in western Korea
at the front. Although primarily written at the regiment and
battalion-level, book does highlight tactical innovations
such as helicopter operations with multiple rocket lauchers.
___________. "The Modern Katyusha." Translated from Polish by
Scitran, Santa Barbara, CA. Charlottesville, VA: U. S. Army
Foreign Science and Technology Center, March 1978. A
translated article from the Soviet journal Znamenosets which
provides good detail on the BM-21.
Moore, Floyd R., LtCol USMC. "Why Not Rocket Artillery ?" Marine
Corps Gazette. Dec 1945. Review of the advantages and
disadvantages of rocket artillery from the experiences in
the Pacific during WWII. The author presents the reader with
the current direction of weapon development and his
recommendations for a "concept of employment".
Morrow, Garcia E. et al. Lessons Learned - Multiple Launch Rocket
System. Fort Belvoir, VA: Defense Systems Management
College, Jul 1980. This report reviews the system
acquisition process involved with the procurement of the
MLRS by the Army. Some good historical data is presented on
the beginnings of the MLRS program.
___________. "New Developments - 4.5" Rocket Battery." Marine
Corps Gazette. April 1947. Describes the addition of the 4.5
inch rocket batteries to each division of the Marine Corps.
Office of Scientific Research and Development. Rockets,Guns and
Targets: Rockets, Target Information, Erosion Information,
and Hypervelocity Guns Developed during World War II. Edited
by John E. Burchard. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1948.
A very detailed treatment of the history of American rockets
from 1918 through the end of World War II with particular
emphasis on activities of OSRD and NDRC. Some excellent
information about the Marine Corps' involvement with the U.S.
rocket program in 1943 was gleaned from the text. This book
was a part of the "Science in World War II" series.
Poirier, Robert G. and Albert Z. Conner. Red Army Order of Battle
in the Great Patriotic War. Novato, CA: Praesidio Press,
1985. An excellent description of the structure and
organization of the Soviet forces from brigade through the
army level during WWII, which includes data on the
activation of the Guards Rocket Barrage Divisions and the
Rocket Barrage Brigades.
Rees, W. H., LtCol USAF. "We Need an MRL." The Field Artillery
Journal. Nov-Dec 1976. An interesting article from the
standpoint that it was written by an Air Force officer who
discusses the development of the Soviet concept of employing
massed rocket launchers in combat. The author establishes
the cost approach where an MRL that fires a SEAD mission
saving an $18-30 million aircraft more than offsets th[e
hard system procurement costs.
Robinson, D. W. L., LtCol RA. "Why Rockets." The Journal of the
Royal Artillery. Sep 1978. The British experience with their
RS80 rocket launcher is discussed. In light of the
obsolescence of the M107 (175mm gun), the author emphasizes
the requirement for a rocket system on the battlefield.
Ruiz, Albert L. "Nazi Rocket Research." Ordnance. Sep-Oct 1947.
This article only brushed the subject of artillery rockets
but did establish the Treaty of Versailles restrictions as a
factor in the German interest in war rockets.
Ryan, J. W. Guns, Mortars and Rockets. London: Brassey's
Publishers LTD., 1982. An extensive, yet simple, technical
look at weaponry providing some historical background. An
adequate discussion of Congreve rockets, the Soviet BM-21,
the British RS80, the Italian FIROS 6 and the MLRS.
Rybicki, John F. "Advanced Conventional Munitions and the Air
Land Battle." Military Technology. Oct 1986. After a brief
review of the Air Land Battle, the author looks at the Army
Tactical Missile System, ATACMS, its characteristics and
Slukhai, Ivan A. Translated from Russian. Russian Rocketry, A
historical survey. Jerusalem: Israel Program for Scientific
Information, 1968. A rather emotional, slanted view of the
early Soviet rocket program focusing on their WWII
experience. However, some good information on initial rocket
battery operations can be sifted out.
Scott, H. L., Colonel USA. Military Dictionary. New York:
Greenwood Press, 1968 (originally published in 1861). This
dictionary which provided one of the first definitions of
rockets for American war use was part of a survey of
dictionaries such as An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Science
and War (1943), Dictionary of Basic Military Terms
(USSR/1965), and A Dictionary of United States Military
Terms (1963) which established a framework within which to
analyze the depth of acceptance (or rejection) of the war
rocket as an implement of battle by military professionals
at various moments in time.
Swanson, Neil H. The Perilous Fight. New York: Farrar and
Rhinehart, Inc., 1945. A difficult-to-read account of the
Battle of Bladensburg which provides excellent insight into
the battlefield experiences of American troops with the
introduction of artillery rockets on U. S. soil by the
British Royal Marines.
Thomson, Harry C. and Lida Mayo. The Ordnance Department:
Procurement and Supply (U.S. Army in WWII Series).
Washington: Dept. of the Army, 1960. A broad treatment of
the acquisition process for WWII ordnance centering on
ammunition. A few sections briefly discuss rocket ammunition
and suggest that many ordnance men "were momentarily stunned
by the thought that rockets might some day render all
existing artillery obsolete."
U. S. Army Field Artillery School. Multiple Launch Rocket System
Operations. Field Circular 6 - 60, a coordinating draft. Fort
Sill, OK: USAFAS, Dec 1986. This publication was designed to
be a guide for artillery headquarters, MLRS battalion and
battery commanders and staffs, and for supported manuever
units. it is the most complete source for current doctrine
and concepts for the employment, tactics and techniques for
VonBraun, Wernher and Frederick I. Ordway. History of Rocketry &
Space Travel. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1966. An
outstanding source for the beginnings of war rockets cloaked
in a general history of the space program. The authors
present a very detailed account of French sinologists and
their documenting of the Chinese rocket experiences, as well
as good histories of the British, Russian and American
rocket programs from start through WWII. Required reading.
Von Braun, Wernher and Frederick I. Ordway III. The Rockets' Red
Glare. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1976. A short book
obviously a follow-on effort to the previous entry which
dealt primarily with artillery rockets and their employment
from the Renaissance to the early 1800's. This work provided
some useful background data and served to confirm other
Wade, J.J., LtCol USMC. "Ripple and Run." Marine Corps Gazette.
March 1953. Author discusses the Marine use of rockets in
Korea, the German employment of rocket tanks (Panzerwerfers)
and the then current state of artillery rockets in the
Corps. He submits several recommendations including
considering the LVT as a platform.
Wilson, Paul E., Major USMC. "To Determine If the Marine Corps
Needs an Artillery Rocket of the 'Honest John' Type."
Research paper. Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Command & Staff
College, 1965. Although Major Wilson's work was oriented
primarily towards the Honest John, he did provide some
background and opinions on Soviet rocket artillery and his
bibliography was a good referral for additional sources.
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