M270 MLRS Self-Propelled Loader/Launcher (SPLL)

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.

The Army has 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.

The MLRS M270 Launcher is the standard U.S. Army platform for firing surface to surface artillery rockets and missiles. The Armored Vehicle Mounted Rocket Launcher (M270) is a full-tracked, self-propelled launcher/loader designed to launch 12 tactical rockets and re-deploy before enemy determination of launch position (shoot and scoot). The launch platform is also used to launch the Army Tactical Missile System (Army TACMS) and is capable of launching all M270 Family of Munitions (MFOM) tactical rocket/missile variants. The launcher consists of six rockets, each of which are mounted and controlled in both azimuth and elevation. It has an automated control system for aiming that automatically corrects for launcher cant and ambient temperature, a directional reference system to obtain azimuth elevation and cant angles, and a FCS which is operated from a man-rated vehicle cab. The launcher platform structure provides a "self-loading" capability.

The M270 launcher has a maximum speed of 64 Km/hour, with a maximum range of 435 Km. It is capable of climbing a 60 degree slope and a one meter wall. Ordnance options include the MFOM (all variants of the MLRS rocket and Army TACMS missile). The M270 can load, arm, and fire a 12 rocket ripple within ripple within five minutes. M270 launchers are deployed three per battery and 29 per battalion. The M270 launcher can be configured for transport by Air Force C-141 aircraft on a limited basis. The M270 launcher is also transportable by Air Force C-5 and C-17 aircraft.

MLRS consists of a self-loading launcher with an onboard fire control system (FCS). The launcher is mounted on a mobile track vehicle that carries 12 rockets or 2 Army Tactical Missile System (Army TACMS) missiles, which can be fired individually or simultaneously. Rockets have a range beyond 30 kilometers, and the Army TACMS Block IA missile can reach to 300 kilometers.

The M270 MLRS, or SPLL (Self-Propelled, Loader/Launcher), 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 FCS is a computer control system, with a built-in computer and memory system. The SPLL has a cruising range of 300 miles at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. The total MLRS weights approximately 52,990 pounds.

The second multiyear procurement contract for FY89-93 was awarded in July 1989 for MLRS. The US initial operational capability for MLRS was achieved in 1983. Starting in FY89, MLRS has been coproduced by the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy. As of September 1995, a total of 857 launchers have been delivered, 772 to the active Army and 185 to the National Guard.

Upgrades

The MLRS M270 launcher is being upgraded to accommodate a new MLRS family of munitions (MFOM), including the Army Tactical Missile System. The improvements provided by the M270A1 will enhance 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 M270A1 program includes two major upgrades to the current M270 launcher. Current plans for improvement 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 will mitigate 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 will provide rapid responses to time critical targets by reducing time to aim by 70% and by reducing reload times by 50%. The ER-MLRS will extend the current range of the basic rocket from 31.8 KM to a new range of approximately 45+ KM. The IFCS, the ILMS, and the ER-MLRS are in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase. 

The Improved Fire Control System (IFCS) replaces 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 is being 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 is intended to improve rocket accuracy by providing current, low-level wind measurements to the launcher just before launch.

The Improved Launcher Mechanical System (ILMS) is designed to decrease 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 is expected to reduce the traverse time from the stowed position to worst case aimpoint by approximately 80 percent. It will also decrease 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 includes 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.

Army ACAT IC Program
857 systems
Total program cost (TY$) $1,969.1M
Average unit cost (TY$) $2.3M
Full-rate Production 4QFY99

Prime Contractor
Lockheed Martin Vought Systems

REFERENCES TM 9-1450-646-10 Carrier Vehicle, MLRS, M993

TM 9-1425-646-10 Launcher- Loader Module (LLM), M269

Sources and Resources