Military Review

Bigger and better: development trends of modern MLRS

As the paradigm of modern warfare changes - from fighting rebels to fighting with an almost equal rival - the requirements for missile systems installed on vehicles change. Mobility fades into the background and gives way to the integration of more powerful, more intelligent weapons systems of greater range, which are designed for existing platforms.

Arnold Defense's Fletcher missile launcher was installed on a Nimr Ajban car

Recent developments in rocket launchers and guided missiles were initiated by the U.S. Department of Defense, which called the Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) program the highest priority on its list of critical systems. For example, the Fletcher launcher with laser-guided missiles, which was designed to be installed on the most maneuverable platforms, should now be further developed in response to requests from the UK and US Defense Ministries to increase firepower - a feature that is becoming increasingly valuable as the military is preparing for war with an almost equal rival.

Eastern Europe also pays great attention to such systems. Poland recently signed a contract for the supply of HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) multiple launch rocket systems, BM-21 Berest was developed in Ukraine, and Russian state-owned enterprises received government support for the production of Tornado-G and Tornado-S MLRS platforms. that will replace obsolete Soviet systems. However, in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, there remains a demand for smaller mobile missile systems, which reflects the counterinsurgency and urban nature of the hostilities that the UAE and other countries in the region are currently engaged in.

Tactical launch

Lockheed Martin's MLNX HIMARS MLRS continues to be in service with the United States and its allies. A platform tested in real conditions should remain in service with the U.S. military until it is decommissioned in 142. Nevertheless, for this system, the development of various types of missiles is under way, from unguided missiles to guided ones. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are currently vying for the right to develop rockets for launch from the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and HIMARS platforms as part of the LRPF high-precision fire systems development program.

The M142 HIMARS wheeled MLRS is a lighter and more mobile alternative to the M270 MLRS platform and is therefore equipped with quick reaction forces. The system consists of a rotary launcher mounted on the all-terrain vehicle chassis FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle) 6x6. The HIMARS platform, as a rule, carries one launch container, into which six unguided missiles or one tactical missile MGM-140 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) can be loaded. In addition to the ability to launch ATACMS missiles, the M142 system can fire guided GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) missiles.

At the moment, more than 400 HIMARS launchers have been delivered to the U.S. Army. Marine Corps and foreign customers, including Jordan, Singapore and the UAE, also these systems were used in military operations in Afghanistan.

As part of the U.S. Army’s Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) missile replacement program (ATACMS), Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are developing a new system that will have a minimum threshold range of 400 km compared to the current 300 km. The proposed solutions, so needed by the US military, should be able to direct and destroy or disrupt enemy systems of access / blocking the zone in order to allow the combined forces freedom of maneuver and action.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are developing PRsM and DeepStrike rockets respectively. Both systems will include two missiles per container and advanced guidance systems. They have a target range of 499 km, which would meet the requirements of the Treaty on medium and short-range missiles (less than 500 km, but at present these numbers are no longer relevant for well-known reasons).

Raytheon, working closely with the U.S. Department of Defense, announced last October that it had integrated its launch container into the M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS platforms. Mr. Patterson from this company said that in the 2018 year “physical, functional and operational characteristics” were tested, and the mechanical interface between the container, the missile and the launcher was tested. Raytheon is currently preparing for the test launches at the White Sands training ground later this year. Integration with the fire control system, engineers, according to Patterson, "are doing right now."

At the same training ground this fall, tests of the PrSM rocket will also be held. The representative of Lockheed Martin added that the company currently intends to finalize the design of this missile in the process of factory tests.

Ukroboronprom developed the 122-mm MLRS BM-21UM "Beresta" in order to replace obsolete Soviet platforms

Defeat distance

Obviously, the demand for more intelligent missiles with a significantly larger range is growing. Although at this stage, apparently, changes in launchers or chassis are not expected. However, in the future such developments are not completely excluded, especially in connection with the withdrawal of the 2019 year from the INF Treaty in August, which imposed restrictions on the range of medium and short-range missiles.

Discussing the compromise between capabilities and mass-dimensional and energy-consuming characteristics. Patterson noted: “There are restrictions on the weight and volume of the launcher, which imposes certain restrictions on the size of the target load. It is very important that the army participate in this. ”

Lockheed Martin is also in the process of upgrading its current ATACMS missiles for the U.S. Army through an extension program. “We strive, in fact, to use everything that is currently in this rocket in order to increase its range,” explained the development manager of the GMLRS project. “We will move on to a rocket with tail control surfaces that will be launched from the same launcher, while maneuverability will improve.” We will slightly increase the size and put a larger engine. " In addition, Lockheed Martin will take over the production of the FMTV chassis. Although the platform will remain the same, the next 100 trucks will be manufactured by Lockheed from scratch.

In addition to new launchers with smarter guided missiles and longer-range unguided missiles, some countries also seek to stockpile obsolete systems. In Europe, many military men do not abandon the old Soviet heritage, which indicates that the old borders of the Cold War were redrawn for the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

Following Congress approval in January 2019, the Polish Ministry of Defense announced the purchase of the 24 MLRS M142 HIMARS. The 414 Million Foreign Military Sales Program, known in Poland as HOMAR, was approved in November 2018 of the year.

The contract for HIMARS systems also includes the purchase of 36 missiles with a unitary warhead GMLRS M31, 9 alternative warheads GMLRS M30A1, 30 tactical missiles Army Tactical Missile System M57 Unitary, 24 automated fire control systems for artillery units Advanced FieldX tactical Advanced Field Artillery Advanced Field Artillery Advanced Artillery systems Pod Assembly M20A68 and all-terrain armored vehicles M2A1151.

HIMARS purchases are part of the program for the development of the Polish armed forces for the 2017-2026 years, which was released in November 2018. In accordance with it, the Polish Ministry of Defense will develop a network of long-range artillery systems with special emphasis on regiments deployed on the border with the Kaliningrad region.

“We plan to increase our firing capabilities, especially when it comes to accurately hitting targets at ranges of the order of 300 km,” the representative of the Polish Ministry of Defense noted, adding that weapons must be adapted to the modern battlefield.

The US government announced in September 2018 that it would purchase another 24 HIMARS launchers and related equipment worth $ 289 million. Systems should be delivered by 2022 year.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed the production of the Tornado-G and Tornado-S systems, which will replace the Soviet-era Grad and Smerch launchers, respectively

Dawn in the East

Ukraine also set about expanding the capabilities of its artillery after the end of the military operations in February 2015 in February against the Russian-backed separatist movement. However, it is clear that to date, the Ukrainian government is not relaxing, as it invests heavily in modernization programs for military equipment.

In October 2018, the state-owned enterprise Ukroboronprom announced that it had developed the new 122-mm MLRS BM-21UM Berest, which will replace the Soviet-made 122-mm MLRS BM-21 Grad currently in service with the Ukrainian army.

The new MLRS mounted on the chassis of the KrAZ 4x4 off-road truck is characterized by greater firepower, increased accuracy, improved mobility, as well as new digital control and guidance systems, which reduced the preparation time for firing. It is capable of launching 50 missiles and can obtain accurate enemy positions in real time from the drone, counter-battery radar and other reconnaissance and surveillance systems tied to it in the network.

Like the FMTV 6x6 chassis. on which the HIMARS MLRS is based, this platform has wide wheels and a tire pressure regulation system for cross-country driving. On a machine capable of speeds exceeding 90 km / h, two fuel tanks of 165 liters are placed, allowing you to have a power reserve of up to 600 km.

Ukraine also began mass production of the new 300-mm Wilha guided missile to replace the obsolete 9K58 Smerch. First deliveries are expected to begin mid-year on 2019. There are two versions of a rocket weighing 800 kg: the first is equipped with a warhead weighing 250 kg and has a range of 70 kg; and the second is equipped with a warhead weighing 170 kg and has a range of 120 km. Each of the 12 missiles can be aimed at its own target. The Vilha is also equipped with an inertial / satellite guidance kit that can use GPS and GLONASS satellite navigation systems.

Given the pace of development of new missiles, in which considerable funds are being invested (the Minister of Defense of Ukraine promised to allocate 150 million dollars for the purchase of a new weapons system), it will not take long to wait for the replacement of the Smerch MLRS.

Meanwhile, the Russian NPO Splav, a subsidiary of Rostec, developed missile systems on the Tornado-G and Tornado-S automobile chassis for the Russian Ministry of Defense in order to replace the outdated Smerch and Grad systems, respectively. MLRS "Tornado-S" developed and manufactured in Russia and is an upgrade of the system "Smerch". The new fire control system is equipped with satellite navigation, and the new computer system allows you to quickly open more accurate fire. Also, a new communication channel is integrated into the platform for exchanging information about targets with a control center.

Tornado-S will fire with all types of missiles currently available in the Smerch MLRS arsenal, plus the new 9M542 guided missile. The 9M542 missile with a range of 40-120 km is equipped with a high-explosive fragmentation warhead weighing 150 kg.

The Tornado-G MLRS with 40 rails, first shown in the 2007 year, is equipped with an updated communication system and digital control system. It can be integrated with the Orlan BAK for reconnaissance, guidance and fire adjustment with the ability to automatically launch a missile at a target. According to Rostec, the Tornado-G fires 122-mm unguided rockets with a detonating high-explosive fragmentation warhead.

In February 2019, motorized rifles from Samara received the 15 MLRS Tornado-G. At this stage, it is expected that the production of variants of the Tornado family will last until the 2027 of the year.

Demand for small and mobile systems remains in particular in the Middle East. Arnold Defense's Fletcher complex was installed on many light vehicles, such as the Polaris Dagor

More mobility

Despite the trend of increasing market share of larger missiles with greater range, the demand for smaller missiles and launchers with better mobility is quite stable in the world.

Arnold Defense’s Fletcher system, in particular, stands out among western HIMARS MLRSs and offers from state-owned companies in eastern states; The 70 mm four-tube launcher is available in various configurations and can be installed on various machines. The system was recently shown at the IDEX 2019 exhibition in the UAE, as conflicts in the region continue to determine the operational theater and the need for such systems.

At IDEX, the Fletcher system was featured on a local Nimr Ajban Long Range Special Operations Vehicle. The platform has a payload capacity of 3000 kg and has a top speed of 110 km / h. “The integration decision was made in accordance with our goal of providing the fighter with high-precision long-range fire, staffing even for the smallest combat unit,” a representative of Arnold Defense said.

This is not the first time that the Fletcher complex has been installed on a light tactical vehicle. To date, the system was installed on the MATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) armored car, the MRAP category, the ultra-light tactical Dagor and the Polaris Defense family of MRZR vehicles. All these machines have been specially configured for difficult terrain and special operations.

The representative of the company Polaris Government and Defense pointed to the mobility and constructive flexibility of the Dagor and MRZR platforms, which allows them to be used as a base for the Fletcher complex and thereby expand its scope.

This is not the first time Nimr has presented its platform for small missile systems. At Raytheon's IDEX 2015, the Talon system was featured on the NIMR 6x6 platform (Hafeet 620A) as a concept. Although this particular combination was never sold to anyone, the continued presence of this type of equipment at large arms exhibitions in the region suggests that the demand for them is high.

A Nimr spokesman also confirmed that the company had deployed its vehicles with other short-range missile systems, although it refused to provide details.

The region of the Middle East and North Africa, of course, determines such demand, and in this regard, Patterson believes that the geopolitical situation here does not contribute to a drop in demand for small rocket launchers. “There are definitely many different systems available on the market, and industry can always help with that.”

At this stage, the customers of the Fletcher system are unknown, but it was developed based on the needs of the United States and Great Britain. “As for Fletcher, we do not comment on measures to protect our forces,” the British Ministry of Defense said.

A further direction in the development of the Fletcher system could be its integration into the US container weapons program. Arnold Defense confirmed that they are working closely with a group of its developers.

Unmanned platforms can also provide certain capabilities. “We work and are negotiating with a number of manufacturers of uninhabited platforms,” said a representative of Arnold Defense. - As for our radar, we are definitely working in this direction. It is a fast-growing market and there are many players in the market. We are already working with several of them and continue to negotiate with several more. "

The development of this system may be affected by the trend of adopting larger systems, in particular the needs of the US Department of Defense. This means that the new version of Fletcher XL may appear in the next year and a half. Most likely, the number of pipes and the payload of missiles will increase. “Our goal is to stay as close to this topic as possible, so we can use everything that we have previously designed.”


Further growth

In the future, the increased range will probably become one of the most important characteristics of future rocket launchers.
“At the moment, I see an increase in range, which will really be a function of the rocket engines themselves. Take the standard high-precision system that we have today and expand its radius of action beyond line of sight. I think we will have these opportunities in the near future, ”

- said the representative of Arnold Defense.

Other developments will remain in this changing paradigm as an expanding set of goals leads to "a growing need for a greater variety of unguided and guided missiles and launchers."

Patterson also supports this view:
"Range is definitely a very important attribute, but there are a number of things that the US army is seeking to get ... This is of course the availability of a wide variety of ammunition, launchers and the need to expand the range of capabilities."

Much attention is paid to the development of guidance systems such as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System of BAE Systems, which is currently a priority laser guidance program. “There may also be a demand for a higher level of modularity of launch systems,” Patterson suggested. No matter which way development takes, the comparative degree seems to be winning - more, further, smarter.

“The basic concept of a missile system, ground or mobile, is being taken, and is really expanding in all directions. We will have greater range and greater lethality. All these things are a consequence of the needs of the military community. ”

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  1. Chaldon48
    Chaldon48 10 August 2019 18: 16
    The whole "beauty" of multiple launch rocket launchers is to fire a cloud of cheap missiles at the enemy and cover the area. High-precision missiles, a piece of goods and expensive, you need to release them in one gulp for some very significant target, a ship or a warehouse of expensive materials, for example, the same high-precision missiles, if they are well protected.
    1. Vasily Ponomarev
      Vasily Ponomarev 10 August 2019 18: 26
      do you think that in the future can unguided missiles be cheaper than art supplies?
      1. tol100v
        tol100v 10 August 2019 19: 07
        It all depends on the goal! Or exploded air conditioning, or carpet bombing!
      2. Catfish
        Catfish 10 August 2019 19: 41
        Artillery ammunition is stored longer and almost without "permissible humidity and temperature", and for these there are certain standards. More precisely, storage standards exist for any factory production, but for artillery shells they are much lower than for the "cheapest" missiles. I did not mean only Kitolov and Krasnopol.
      3. Lopatov
        Lopatov 10 August 2019 21: 42
        Quote: Vasily Ponomarev
        do you think that in the future can unguided missiles be cheaper than art supplies?

        Easy. Bad business is not tricky. In the sense of some kind of "long-range projectile with a ramjet" will definitely be more expensive than a PC that shoots at the same range

        I will clarify, we are talking about a "shot". That is, the projectile-charge system on the one hand and the missile on the other.
        But here we must remember that the barrel artillery is more accurate. Without the use of control systems or course correction, of course. Moreover, the barrel artillery is more versatile in tactical terms.
      4. Chaldon48
        Chaldon48 12 August 2019 05: 25
        No, of course, Artillery still has not lost its importance precisely because relatively cheap ammunition can be shot in large quantities from an expensive and difficult to manufacture gun.
  2. Radomir
    Radomir 10 August 2019 18: 24
    For the Airborne Forces it was probably not bad, something like the same jeep with a package of light missiles. Such a small trump card in the right direction for panic and work on unprotected goals.
    1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka 10 August 2019 19: 28
      In Soviet times, the Veterok was serially produced for the Airborne Forces based on the Gas-66.
      1. Catfish
        Catfish 10 August 2019 19: 43
        Hello, Vlad. hi And I didn’t hear about them. Case, no photo?
        1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
          Kote Pan Kokhanka 10 August 2019 20: 44

          Your whim, welcome. BM-21V "Breeze". 12 barrels, ammunition from the hail!
          Regards, Vlad!
          1. Catfish
            Catfish 10 August 2019 21: 38
            Thank you, I have not seen. But still, it is somewhat similar to the "Barmaley" homemade products. smile

            Also with respect, Cat!
            1. self-propelled
              self-propelled 11 August 2019 09: 03
              even more like "Barmaley homemade products"

              MLRS "Sel" on the UAZ chassis

              Block of cartridges of modular design 9-A-5013
              a kind of "Grad" in miniature. caliber 80 mm (NAR S-8 and modifications). firing range up to 4000m. cheap and cheerful good and quite rightly has the right to life
              1. Catfish
                Catfish 11 August 2019 21: 02
                How! Of course, everything has the right to life if it is useful, but then the question arises, where are all the serious systems and will soon replace our tanks with "armored" vehicles with "armored gasoline", otherwise they have already started to drive ATVs at parades.
      2. Lopatov
        Lopatov 10 August 2019 21: 10
        Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
        serially produced "Veterok".

        They were practically nonexistent in the troops.
  3. Lopatov
    Lopatov 10 August 2019 19: 29
    Somehow all in one pile. And MLRS and tact. missile systems ... In fact, based on the title, half of the mentioned complexes should not be mentioned 8))
  4. Self
    Self 10 August 2019 19: 46
    Ukraine also set about expanding the capabilities of its artillery after the end of military operations in February 2015 against a Russian-backed separatist movement.
    Somehow, the author writes ...
    1. Operator
      Operator 10 August 2019 19: 55
      Supporter of Bandera, of course.
      1. Antares
        Antares 11 August 2019 00: 25
        Quote: Operator
        Supporter of Bandera, of course.

        of course, considering what he writes

        that not the Ukrainian version of "Vilkha" nor the translation from the Ukrainian - "Alder" ...
        and "km" he has "kg" sometimes.
        Or is it worth writing an opinion about the proxy, so you immediately get a Ukrainian passport and an entry in the Bandera sect?
        And ideally, immediately the mother is Jewish, a position in the Pentagon and a passport of Ukraine .. wassat
  5. Sergey-8848
    Sergey-8848 10 August 2019 21: 18
    The MLRS drift is being seen towards the OTRK, both in range and in attacked targets.
    1. Lopatov
      Lopatov 10 August 2019 21: 31
      Quote: Sergey-8848
      The MLRS drift is being seen towards OTRK

      No "drift".
      There are Americans who are forced to abandon the MLRS for logistics reasons, and there are those who ape them.
      The rest (Russia. China, Serbia, etc.) continue to develop the MLRS.

      And here are their own trends.
      First of all, digitalization and automation.
      Container / modular loading
      Range increase, dispersion reduction. Especially when shooting at long ranges.

      Here, by the way. you must clearly understand: not all guided munitions are high-precision. (that is, striking a target with a probability of more than 50%) If, when firing at long ranges, the destination of each RS is set to its aiming point, this does not make the TRK / OTRK. This MLRS, simply decided to provide dispersion reduction in this way
  6. Lopatov
    Lopatov 10 August 2019 21: 36
    and can get the enemy’s exact position in real time from the drone, counter-battery radar and other reconnaissance and surveillance systems tied to it in the network.

    Of course he can.
    But the problem is. that they don’t need them.
  7. Fayter2017
    Fayter2017 10 August 2019 23: 21
    Ukraine also began mass production of a new 300-mm guided missile "Vilha" to replace the outdated 9K58 Smerch.

    From the Ukrainian "wilkha" is an alder. Somehow I am already apprehensive about sho we are being developed and put into service, in the light of the tragic use of the "hammer" mortar ...
    1. Antares
      Antares 11 August 2019 00: 27
      Quote: Fayter2017
      Somehow I already perceive sho with caution, it is being developed and put into service in the light of the tragic use of the "hammer" mortar ...

      the competence of KB Luch and Artyom with Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv residents, this is not a Mayak plant with mortars ..
      and they didn’t spare money for it.
  8. lopvlad
    lopvlad 11 August 2019 00: 30
    Mobility fades into the background

    it is only in the author’s naive dreams that the mobility of MLRS around the world fades into the background.
  9. The comment was deleted.
  10. riwas
    riwas 11 August 2019 05: 58
    The proposed manual version of the MLRS.
    30 mm 12-barrel (3 x 4) single-shot rocket launcher performs the same functions as the easel automatic. But it is much cheaper, smaller than the last in weight and dimensions, although the range of the actual fire on point targets does not exceed 200 m. The trunks are made of fiberglass. Electric ignition allows a single fire or bursts. The use of anti-mass and cutoff of powder gases in the barrel makes it safe to shoot indoors. Most effective when used in ambushes. There are analogues. At the end of the war, the Germans developed a 20 mm 9-barrel anti-aircraft system "Luftfaust-B" (the Soviet analog of the Vietnam War, the 7-barrel "Kolos").
  11. Nikolaevich I
    Nikolaevich I 11 August 2019 10: 22
    In the future, the increased range will probably become one of the most important characteristics of future rocket launchers.
    “At the moment, I see an increase in range, which will really be a function of the rocket engines themselves. Take the standard high-precision system that we have today and expand its radius of action beyond line of sight. I think we will have these opportunities in the near future, ”
    And where is the range limit to which the creators of MLRS are going to reach? And let's bungle MLRS with a range of hundreds ... no, better than a thousand km ... 8-10 thousand km! Tada and mobile chassis are not needed (and we won't find it!)! Let's save! Chago? Are there such missiles and are called ICBMs? This is your ICBM ... and unas - RZO! When the "Tornado" was being made, then in theory it had to "look" like "Uragan-1M" and bullet NURS with caliber 300, 220, 122 mm ... That is, to replace the "Tornado" with the old "Smerch", "Uragan", "Grad" ... But, then, they thought about it and decided that it would be "too bold" to replace the MLRS in all (!) Military "links"! So they began to "divide" "Tornado"! Not necessarily the main point in the development of MLRS should be the "point": increasing the range! MLRS, for example, with a range of 20-40 km will develop in "dots": firing accuracy, ammunition power, ammunition versatility, multi-caliber capability, ammunition cheaper ...