Engineers with the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) are turning the system´s free-flight rockets into very accurate guided missiles. On Feb. 11 at White Sands Missile Range the Army successfully tested a new version of the rocket which was equipped with a Global Positioning System package to add guidance to the system.
The single rocket was fired from the system´s M27 self-propelled launcher. It flew 30 miles and impacted about ten feet from the target pole.
The flight clearly demonstrated that precision guidance can be achieved when using Global Positioning System and inertial navigation together.
This was the last of five flight tests as part of the Guided MLRS Advanced Technology Demonstration conducted by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command´s Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.
The resulting improvement in delivery accuracy when compared to the free-flight rockets results in a six- to ten-fold reduction in the number of rounds required to defeat a target. That translates into less transportation support needed to keep the vehicles fully armed as well.
The MLRS is an artillery weapon system with a long history at White Sands. Test launches have been conducted since the late 1970s at the missile range.
The MLRS consists of a self-propelled launcher loader which is capable of carrying 12 rockets in the field. The cab of the launcher carries a three-man crew and protects them during firings. The windows are louvered for protection and the cab has an air filtration system to protect against chemical, biological and radiological particles.
Two pods of rockets slides into the launcher unit on the back of the launcher. Loading takes less than 15 minutes.
A computerized fire unit with sophisticated software controls the firings. The display units in the cab are smart enough to communicate with the crew in several languages. In addition to English, the operators can choose French, German and Italian as well.
There are different MLRS rockets which can carry a variety of payloads. The original basic rocket is 155 inches long and nine inches in diameter. Each burns solid propellant and can carry 644 of the M77 submunitions. The crew can fire anywhere from one to all 12 rockets or any combination of them.
Since all 12 rockets can be fired in less than a minute, a single MLRS unit can scatter more than 7,000 submunitions or bomblets in a target area before the enemy has a chance to react.