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Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)

The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) provides the Army an all-weather, indirect, area fire weapon system to strike counterfire, air defense, armored formations, and other high-payoff targets at all depths of the tactical battlefield. Primary missions of MLRS include the suppression, neutralization and destruction of threat fire support and forward area air defense targets.

The Multiple Launch Rocket System is a versatile weapon system that supplements traditional cannon artillery fires by delivering large volumes of firepower in a short time against critical, time-sensitive targets. These targets often include enemy artillery, air defense systems, mechanized units, and personnel. MLRS units can use their system's "shoot and scoot" capability to survive while providing fire support for attacking manuever elements. MLRS is not intended to replace cannon artillery, but has been designed to complement it.

MLRS performed extremely well in Operation Desert Storm (ODS) in which significant numbers of launchers were deployed. All operational requirement were met and, in most cases, exceeded levels for readiness, reliability and maintainability. MLRS units from the United Kingdom were also involved in ODS and proved the value of this multi-national system. The new upgrade MLRS (Deep Attack Launcher) also demonstrated its enormous capability during the first operational firings of the longer range ATACMS.

MLRS FMSIn the close fight, MLRS best supports the maneuver commander with rocket fires. MLRS rocket range exceeds most cannon munitions and allows maneuver commanders the opportunity to augment cannon fire with a lethal indirect fire capability enhancing maneuver force protection. In close operations, MLRS can be used for counterfire, raids, suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD), and engaging targets beyond the FLOT that will impact upon the close battle. The targets best suited for MLRS in the close fight are personnel, light materiel, CPs, and self-propelled artillery. The MLRS M26 rocket has a large "footprint" (dispersion of submunitions in the target area) and therefore requires detailed planning in close operations. Planners should ensure that the MLRS footprint and probability of dud munitions in the target area are considered by maneuver commanders when synchronizing battleplans. The same planning factors for 155-mm or Air Force-delivered DPICM will provide acceptable data for planning in close operations. Specifically, they must be careful not to assign missions or targets that are closer than 2000 m to friendly troops. Some risk will be accepted when firing MLRS into areas friendly units could occupy or pass through during future operations.

Army doctrine (FM 100-5) requires the field artillery to provide deep fires and fires in support of other deep operations. The MLRS can support the commander's deep operations plans with M39 (Army TACMS) missile fires normally fired by corps GS MLRS units. With a range of 165 km, the M39 is well suited for attack of long-range, high payoff targets (HPTs). This includes attack of HPTs with extremely short dwell times where minimizing the time from acquisition to firing (sensor-to-shooter time) is critical. The range capability also allowsengagement across the front laterally. The methodology for planning and executing deep operations isdecide-detect-deliver-assess (D3A). This methodology requires that targets and their areas ofengagement be planned during the decide phase. In deep operations, most fires are planned andscheduled as opposed to immediate, unscheduled fires on targets of opportunity.

The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) consists of two launchers:

  • M270 and M270A1 tracked launchers capable of launching two munition pods, each with six rockets or one Army TACMS missile;
  • M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) wheeled launcher capable of launching one pod of six rockets or one Army TACMS missile;
The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) consists of four Rockets:
  • M26 tactical free flight rocket, and M26A1 and M26A2 Extended Range free flight rocket
  • M28 training free flight rocket;
  • M30 Guided MLRS Rocket (GMLRS)
  • M31A1 (Unitary)
  • M39 ATACMS Missile

In the early 1980s, MLRS, first known as the general support rocket system (GSRS), was designed to supplement division- and corps-level cannons and deliver large volumes of fires in a very short time against critical, time-sensitive targets. At that time, MLRS was a free-flight artillery rocket system that greatly improved the conventional, indirect fire capability of the Army. It was used for counterfire, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) and to destroy light materiel and personnel targets. The natural dispersion of its rockets' payloads allowed most targets to be engaged without multiple aiming points.

The Army initiated an extensive improvements program to enhance MLRS's basic capability. The improvements are in three areas--an extended range rocket (from 32 kilometers to 50 kilometers), an improved fire control system, and an improved launcher mechanical system. The extended range rocket has a reduced payload of M77 submunitions and a longer rocket motor to enable attainment of the additional 18 kilometers of flight. The improved fire control system includes a meteorological sensor, a positioning navigation unit combined with global positioning system and a new launcher interface unit with increased throughput capacities in the main and communication processors. The improved launcher mechanical systems consists of non-developmental item improvements to the elevation transmission, elevation motor, azimuth motor and motor control. There are ongoing requirements generation efforts for a GMLRS-Unitary warhead horizontal technology integration (HTI) and Future Launcher & Rocket as part of Networked Fires for the Future Combat System (FCS).

The Cluster Munitions Policy Memo (19 June 2008) directed that after 2018, cluster munitions must not produce >1% UXO; a limit that will not be waived. It provided no differentiation between types of UXO (hazardous or non-hazardous duds). All cluster munition stocks that exceed operational planning requirements will be removed from the inventory as soon as possible, but not later than June 2009. The previous UXO Requirement: < 2% 20-60km; < 4% < 20km and > 60km. GMLRS DPICM with Self Destruct Fuze (SDF) development and performance demonstrated "hazardous" dud rate of only 0.15%, overall UXO 3.7%, which does not comply with the new DOD Policy.

M26 (DPICM)32.5km360,1920
M26A2 (DPICM)45.0km3,9240
M30 (DPICM)70.0km1,9140
M31A1 (Unitary)70.0km204 33,000

As of early 2009 the MLRS program was ACAT 1C with two variants: the DPICM in Full Rate Production (FRP); and the Unitary Completing LRIP headed to FRP Decision.

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