The Multiple Launcher Rocket System has come along way since the initial fielding of the system at Fort Riley, Kansas in the early 80's. Battle tested in the Persian Gulf, deployed to the Balkans, the Multiple Launcher Rocket System has gone through doctrinal changes and numerous software updates. The improvements that are provided by the M270A1 are both needed and crucial for the battlefield of the future. The M270A1 launcher is an upgrade to the MLRS M270 launcher designed to provide the launcher with 10-15 years of additional life. The M270A1 will be fielded to the Heavy Divisions of the Counter Attack Corps to support the Army Vision.
The MLRS M270 launcher was upgraded to accommodate a new MLRS Family of Munitions (MFOM), including the Army Tactical Missile System ATACMS. The improvements provided by the M270A1 enhanced the field artillery's support to armor and infantry units to reinforce the dominant maneuver force by improving the corps commander's precision engagement capabilities for shaping the battlespace at extended ranges. The MLRS M270A1 program was fielded in September 2000. The state-of-the-art enhancements were eventually incorporated into the entire US inventory of launchers, which exceeds 900.
- 1QFY98 IFCS Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Decision
- 2QFY99 Combined IFCS/ILMS operational test
- 3QFY00 First unit equipped M270A1
- 2QFY98 - First Extended Range Rocket MLRS rocket delivery
The M270A1 program includes two major upgrades to the current M270 launcher. Improvements to the system include the Improved Fire Control System (IFCS), the Improved Mechanical Launch System (ILMS), and the extended range rocket (ER-MLRS). An MLRS initiative to examine potential obsolescence revealed that by the year 2003, 92 percent of the microcircuits used in the system would no longer be available. To combat the growing obsolescence, the Army initiated the IFCS program with a Milestone II in 4QFY92. The IFCS mitigated electronic obsolescence currently existing in the fire control system and will accommodate the needs of the MFOM weapon systems under development and provide growth for future weapon systems. Additionally, analysis following Operation Desert Storm identified a requirement for faster prosecution of highly mobile, short dwell targets by the M270 Launcher. In 4QFY95, the Program Manager, MLRS received approval to proceed with the ILMS program. The ILMS provided rapid responses to time critical targets by reducing time to aim by 70% and by reducing reload times by 50%. The ER-MLRS extended the current range of the basic rocket from 31.8 KM to a new range of approximately 45+ KM.
The Improved Fire Control System (IFCS) replaced obsolete, maintenance-intensive hardware and software, providing growth potential for future munitions and the potential for reduced launcher operation and support costs. A Global Positioning System-aided navigation system for the launcher was developed as part of IFCS to supplement the existing inertial position-navigation system. The IFCS modification will upgrade the electronic and navigation equipment, revise the software architecture, and add the capability of sensing local meteorological conditions at 100 meters above ground level. This latter capability improved rocket accuracy by providing current, low-level wind measurements to the launcher just before launch.
The Improved Launcher Mechanical System (ILMS) decreased the time required to aim and load the launcher. This is achieved by providing a faster launcher drive system that moves simultaneously in azimuth and elevation. ILMS reduced the traverse time from the stowed position to worst case aimpoint by approximately 80 percent. It also decreased the mechanical system contribution to reload time by about 40 percent. The reduction in time spent at the launch and reload points is intended to increase survivability.
In addition to the IFCS and ILMS modifications, the M270A1 program included the remanufacture of selected components and the application of selected Engineering Change Proposals to the basic M270 launcher to bring all launchers to the same configuration.
The biggest difference for crews is learning a "Windows based operating system," which replaces the FCP (Fire Control Panel). Understanding this new keyboard was the key to navigating through M270A1 operations. From startup to maintenance, to putting a rocket down range, the crews of the new M270A1 launcher will undergo an extensive training period. A transition course was developed to ensure that all 13M crewmembers are proficient in the M270A1 operations. Maintenance for the M270A1 was a major change, as the old M5988E was replaced with a disk that is an IETM (Interactive Electronic Technical Manual). Soldiers also harnessed a SPORT (Soldier Portable On-System Repair Tool). Soldiers still needed wrenches, rags, and a set of coveralls to do proper maintenance. The same Bradley chassis that has been the MLRS foundation is still around.
Some of the major changes for the M270A1 launcher is an improved mechanical system and improved position navigation. Combined with the improvements in the Fire Control System and advanced mission software the time it takes to aim the launcher at the furthest aim point is reduced from 93 to 16 seconds. This reduces time at the launch site by 60%, an important factor in MLRS vulnerability. Due to the changes, which were made in the system hydraulics, the launcher reload times have been reduced by 38%. This, again, represents a vast improvement in MLRS survivability.
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