A 227mm MLRS missile being launched by M270 launch vehicle.
Source: US Army (unknown photographer) - © public domain
The MLRS is a multiple rocket launcher of US origin. It was developed in the late 1970's to meet a joint US, UK, German and French requirement. The name MLRS stands for "Multiple Launch Rocket System". Its intended role is to quickly saturate an area with bomblets in order to defeat concentations of both armor and personnel. Over time the role changed to deliver long range precision fire with medium or large caliber rockets.
The MLRS is based on a tracked chassis with a forward control cab that houses the crew of three. The trainable launcher is mounted at the rear and is loaded by two blocks of rockets. Each block contains six unguided or guided solid fuel rockets or a single ATACMS missile. Additional ammunition is carried on all terrain trucks, such as the US HEMTT.
The standard 227mm unguided rockets have a 32 km range and feature dual purpose submunitions. Extended range rockets have a 45 km range. Guided rockets are available with submunition or unitary warhead and with ranges of 60 or 90 km. Optionally two ATACMS missiles are carried which have a 300 km range.
The MLRS is operated and reloaded from under full armor protection. The armor protects the crew from small arms fire, shell splinters and the launch blast. NBC protection is standard. Reloading is carried out away from the frontline.
The tracked chassis provides a good off road capability and reasonable road speeds at 64 km/h. A 500 hp turbo diesel provides propulsion. The size and weight makes that the MLRS can only be transported by air in tactical airlift systems.
The main user of the MLRS is the United States. It was adopted by a variety of European nations and various other US allies worldwide. Many systems in Western service have been adopted to launch the newer guided rockets. The MLRS system is being supplemented by the newer and more mobile HIMARS system.
A US Army M270 launch vehicle.
Source: US Air Force (SGT Jim Varhegyi) - © public domain
The MLRS uses a track launch vehicle with a chassis derived from the M2 Bradley mechanized infantry combat vehicle. The launch vehicle may load two MFOM packs with either six 227mm rockets or a single ATACMS missile.
M270: Original MLRS system with 4 minute reload time.
M270A1: Improved MLRS system with reload time decreased to 3 minutes.
The MLRS may fire the MFOM series of artillery rockets. MFOM stands for "MLRS Family Of Munition". The MFOM reload containers carry six 227mm diameter rockets.
The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles are large solid fuel missiles with a much longer range and larger payload than the 227mm models. The M39 pack with single ATACMS can be loaded instead of a normal MFOM pack with six 227mm rockets.
The M142 HIMARS is a truck based multiple rocket launcher which can carry a single pack of MFOM missiles.
The M4 Command and Control Vehicle is based on the chassis of the M270 MLRS.
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