Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)

The M270 and M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) provides counterfire and suppression of enemy air defenses, light materiel, and personnel targets at ranges from 15 to 300+ kilometers. The MLRS is a high-mobility automatic system that is capable of supporting and delivering free flight basic, extended-range and guided rockets as well as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles.

Test of Guided MLRS (GMLRS) with M270A1 MLRS Launcher, White Sands Missile Range, NM, August 2003
Test of Guided MLRS (GMLRS) with M270A1 MLRS Launcher, White Sands Missile Range, NM, August 2003.

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M270 and M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Launcher Unit

The M270 MLRS Self-Propelled, Loader/Launcher (SPLL), is made up of two major units and an electronic fire control system (FCS). The SPLL is a mobile, self-propelled, self- loading, multiple launch rocket firing unit. It provides mobile long range artillery rocket support for ground forces. The M993 Carrier Vehicle and the M269 LLM are the two major units that make up the MLRS. The MLRS Launcher Unit comprises an M270 launcher loaded with 12 rockets, packaged in two six-rocket pods. The MLRS launcher, which is mounted on an M993 stretched M2 Bradley chassis, is a highly automated self-loading and self-aiming system. It contains a fire control computer that integrates the vehicle and rocket launching operations. Without leaving the cab, the crew of three (driver, gunner and section chief) can fire up to twelve MLRS rockets in less than 60 seconds.

Length 22.4 ft
Width 9.8 ft
Height 8.5 ft
Weight 54,500 lbs
Range 300 miles
Engine Cummings VTA-903 turbocharged, 8 cyl diesel, 500bhp@2300 rpm
Speed 40 mph
Crew 3: driver, gunner, section chief

M270A1 GMLRS

Using the revised name Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS), the upgraded MLRS is an air transportable, tracked, self-propelled, indirect fire, ground rocket/missile system capable of firing all rockets and missiles in the original and extended MLRS family of munitions. The M270A1 improvements include major upgrades to the M270 launcher, the Improved Fire Control System (IFCS), the Improved Mechanical Launch System (ILMS), and the extended range rocket (ER-MLRS).

The GMLRS M270A1 Self-Propelled Loader/Launcher (SPLL) consists of the tracked carrier housing the electronic Fire Control System (FCS) and a launcher-loader module that performs all operations necessary to complete a fire mission. The M270A1 launcher is visually identical to the M270 but incorporates an improved FCS and an improved Launcher Mechanical System (LMS). M270A1 launchers, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, feature improved survivability, reduced operating cost, increased munition options and GPS navigation. Conversion of the M270 MLRS fleet to M270A1s began in 2002.

The M985 HEMTT 8x8 truck with HD Materiel Handling Crane carries resupply rocket pods for the MLRS. The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) fires the same munitions, but is a wheeled launcher platform with a single rocket pod.

MLRS Munitions: History and Characteristics

Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) was introduced in the early 1980s, originally known as the General Support Rocket System (GSRS) when it was fielded in 1983. It 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. The first MLRS munition (M26) was a free-flight artillery rocket that greatly improved the conventional, indirect fire capability of the Army for counterfire, suppression of enemy air defenses, and to destroy light materiel and personnel targets. The natural dispersion MLRS rocketsí payloads allowed most targets to be engaged without multiple aiming points.

However, MLRS accuracy restricted it to area targets in open terrain where collateral damage was not an issue. Additionally, with a range of 31.5 kilometers, MLRS was outranged by a majority of foreign MRLs. Therefore, MLRS improvements focused on upgrading launcher responsiveness and enhancing the range and precision of its munitions.

MLRS performed well during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 in the Gulf, but its rockets and submunitions raised serious concerns. Many Iraqi artillery assets outranged MLRS rockets. Also, the high submunition dud rate caused concern for the safety of friendly soldiers or noncombatants passing through impact areas.

These shortcomings resulted in the requirement for a rocket with extended range and a substantially lower submunition dud rate. As an interim measure until a guided MLRS could be produced, the extended-range MLRS rocket (M26A1 and A2 ER-MLRS) with a range of 45 kilometers was developed, although limited quantities of the rocket were manufactured.

In Bosnia and Kosovo, the MLRS family of munitions (MFOM) with a dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) warhead severely restricted the targets considered for engagement. Even though MLRS was deployed, not one rocket was fired because of the lack of precision and potential for collateral damage as well as the high submunition dud rate. GMLRS.

The Armyís ability to protect itself from long distance attack was eroded over time with the proliferation of long-range rocket and cannon systems. To counter this, the US Army Missile Commandís Research, Development and Engineering Center, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, AL, with support from private industry, began working on a Guided MLRS (GMLRS) to replace the M26 and ER-MLRS (M26A1 and A2) rockets.

Guided Rocket DPICM (M30) GMLRS extends the range of MLRS fires to more than 60 kilometers and substantially improve MLRS accuracy. GMLRS provides the same lethality as the M26 and M26A2 with far fewer rockets. The Guided Unitary Rocket (XM31 and follow on) provides organic capability to deliver fires in all types of terrain and weather within a fully networked architecture to provide destructive fires at both point and area targets and protective and suppressive fires in the required scalable quantity to support the maneuver commander. It reduces collateral damage to civilian property and noncombatants, decrease the risk of unexploded ordnance on the battlefield and is employable in heavy snow and forested, urban, complex and restrictive terrain.

Compliance with the Joint Technical Architecture (JTA) supports HIMARS and M270A1 MLRS Launcher programs, and is required by both Department of the Army and Office of the Secretary of Defense. The MLRS family of munitions, for MLRS and HIMARS, is packaged in pods of six. Another option is to fire a single Army Tactical Missile (ATACMS) Family of Munitions (AFOM) missile, including precision munitions, to a range of 300km.

The table of MLRS munitions includes:

Munition Characteristics
Basic Rocket (M26) 32km range, Free Flight Rocket, 644 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) M77 Grenades
Extended Range Rocket (M26A1 / A2) 45km range, No Load Detent, 518 DPICM M77 Grenades
Reduced Range Practice Rocket (M26A1) M26 motor, ballasted blunt-nosed warhead for short range training / test sites
Guided Rocket DPICM (M30) 70km range, Inertial Measurement Unit / GPS Aided, 404 DPICM M101 Grenades
Guided Unitary Rocket- UMR (XM31) 70km range, IMU / GPS Aided, Unitary with Dual Mode Fuze
Guided Unitary Rocket (XM31E1) 70km range, IMU / GPS Aided, Unitary with Multi-Option (Tri-Mode) Fuze
ATACMS Block I M39 25km-165km range, Inertial Guidance (MGS), 950 M74 Submunitions
ATACMS Block IA M39A1 70km-300km range, GPS Aided Inertial Guidance, 300 M74 Submunitions
ATACMS Block II M39A3 35km-145km range, GPS Aided Inertial Guidance (MGS II), 13 BAT Smart Submunitions
ATACMS QRU M48 70km-270km range, Inertial Guidance (MGS II), Precision Point munition, WDU - 18 Unitary Warhead, FMU- 141/B PD Fuse
ATACMS T2K M57 70km-270km range, GPS Aided Inertial Guidance (T2K), Precision Point munition (near vertical engagement), WDU - 18 Unitary Warhead, FMU- 161/B PD Fuse
ATACMS Unitary 70km-300km range, GPS Aided Inertial Guidance (T2K) Precision Point / Air Burst Delay, WDU - 18 Unitary Warhead, FMU- 161/B Tri-mode Fuse

Manuals for MLRS include TM 9-1425-646-13&P.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the MLRS at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup.

MLRS Photo Gallery

1st Bn, 121st Field Artillery, Wisconsin Army National Guard train on moving Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) vehicles to a new location, Fort McCoy, WI, Spring 2004
1st Bn, 121st Field Artillery, Wisconsin Army National Guard train on moving Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) vehicles to a new location, Fort McCoy, WI, Spring 2004.

Soldiers from Batteries Alpha and Bravo, 6-37 Field Artillery, loading Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) munitions pods during gunnery exercise, Rocket Valley Training Area, Republic of Korea, 17 October 2006
Soldiers from Batteries Alpha and Bravo, 6-37 Field Artillery, loading Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) munitions pods during gunnery exercise, Rocket Valley Training Area, Republic of Korea, 17 October 2006.

Reloading munitions pods, Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Reloading munitions pods, Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).