The M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (M270 MLRS) is a MRL, a type of rocket artillery.
The first rocket systems were delivered to the U.S. Army in 1983. The system is in widespread use in NATO countries and it has also been manufactured in Europe. Some 1,300 M270 systems have been manufactured, along with more than 700,000 rockets. The system has been used in the Gulf wars, where it proved itself as a practical and effective weapons system. The production of the M270 ended in 2003, when a last batch was delivered to the Egyptian army.
The system is capable of firing guided and unguided projectiles to a distance of up to 42 km (26.1 miles). Firing ballistic missile, (such as the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System
—ATACMS) it is capable of reaching out to 300 km (186 miles) with the warhead reaching a maximal altitude of ~50 km (164,000 ft). The M270 is a very mobile unit, thus well suited for the so called shoot-and-scoot
tactic: it can fire its rockets very rapidly and immediately move away to avoid the counter-battery fire
MLRS was developed jointly by the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and France. It was developed from the older General Support Rocket System (GSRS).
The rockets and ATACMS missiles are contained in interchangeable pods. Each pod contains six standard rockets or one guided ATACMS missile (the two types cannot be mixed). The launcher can hold two pods at a time, which it loads using an integrated crane. All twelve rockets or two ATACMS missiles can be fired in under a minute. One launcher firing twelve rockets can completely blanket one square kilometer with submunitions. For this reason, the MLRS is sometimes referred to as the "Grid Square Removal Service (metric maps are usually divided up into 1km grids). The U.S. Army is currently working on developing and fielding unitary (one large warhead instead of submunitions) rocket and ATACMS variants, as well as a guided rocket.
MLRS has recently been upgraded with guided rounds. Phase I testing of a guided unitary round (XM31) was completed on an accelerated schedule in March 2006. Due to an Urgent Need Statement the guided unitary round has already been fielded and used in action in Iraq. Lockheed Martin also received a contract to convert existing M30 DPICM GMLRS rockets to the XM31 unitary variant.
When first deployed with the U.S. Army, the MLRS was used in a composite battalion consisting of two batteries of traditional artillery (howitzers) and one battery of MLRS SPLLs (self-propelled loader/launchers). The first operational organic or "all MLRS" battalion (6th Bn, 27th FA, Ft. Sill, Oklahoma) started training in the winter of 1985. Alpha Battery, 4/27th FA (MLRS) was deployed en masse to Peden Barracks at Wertheim, West Germany in April of that year. "Sudden Impact" as it was known by its members fired its first rounds in theater and was considered operational in June of that year. Two other firing batteries soon joined. 6/27th FA (MLRS) deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in October 1990. A Btry 6/27th FA was the first ground unit to fire in support of Operation Desert Storm, firing a missile at approximately 00:40 (12:40am) January 18. The 4/27th FA (MLRS) was deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield on Christmas Day 1990. It has since been used in numerous military engagements including the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Terrified Iraqi soldiers gave it the nickname "steel rain" and the system contributed to the Iraqi perception that they were completely outgunned, prompting mass desertions and hastening the end of the Gulf War. In March 2007 the British Ministry of Defence decided to send a troop of MLRS to support ongoing operations in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand; they will use newly developed guided munitions.
MLRS Rockets and Missiles
The M270 system can fire MFOM, MLRS Family Of Munition rockets and artillery missiles, which are manufactured and used by a number of countries. These include:
- M26 (United States): Rocket with 644 M77 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) sub-munitions, range of 23 km.
- M26A1 (United States): Extended Range Rocket (ERR), with range of 45 km and using improved M85 submunitions.
- M26A2 (United States): As M26A1, but using M77 submunitions.
- M27 (United States): Completely inert training Launch Pod/Container to allow full loading cycle training.
- M28 (United States): Training rocket. M26 with three ballast containers and three smoke marking containers in place of submunition payload.
- M28A1 (United States): Reduced Range Practice Rocket (RRPR) with blunt nose. Range reduced to 9 km.
- XM29 (United States): Rocket with Sense and Destroy Armor (SADARM) submunitions. Not standardized.
- M30 (United States): Guided MLRS (GMLRS). A precision guided rocket, range 60—100 km, in pre-production, with a standard load of 404 M85 submunitions.
- XM31 (United States): Variant of the M30 with a unitary high-explosive warhead.
- XM135 (United States): Rocket with binary chemical warhead (VX (nerve agent)). Not standardized.
- MGM-140A (United States): Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). A large guided missile using the M270 launcher, with a variety of warheads.
- AT2 (Germany, UK): SCATMIN Rocket with 28 anti-tank mines and range of 38 km.
Selected rocket specifications
- Caliber: 227 mm (8.94 in)
- Length: 3.94 m (12.93 ft)
- Motor: Solid-fuel rocket
- Weight: 306 kg (675 lb)
- Maximum range: 32 km (20 mi)
- Warhead: 644 M77 DPICM submunitions
- Weight: 296 kg (650 lb)
- Maximum range: over 45 km (28 mi)
- M26A1: 518 M85 DPICM submunitions
- M26A2: 518 M77 DPICM submunitions
- Maximum range: over 45 km (28 miles)
- Guidance: GPS/INS
- M30: 404 M85 DPICM submunitions
- XM31: 90 kg (200 lb) unitary HE
- AT2 SCATMIN
- Weight: 561 lb (254 kg)
- Maximum range: 39 km (24 mi)
- PARS SAGE-227 F
- Weight: over 300 kg/160 kg
- Maximum range: 70 km (43 mi)
- Entered service: 1982 (U.S. Army)
- First used in action: 1991 (First Gulf War)
- Crew: 3
- Weight loaded: 24,756 kg
- Length: 22 ft 6 in
- Width: 9 ft 9 in
- Height (stowed): 2.57 m (8 ft 5 in)
- Height (max elevation): N/A
- Max road speed: 64 km/h
- Cruise range: 480 km
- Reload time: 4 min (M270) 3 min (M270A1)
- Engine: Turbo-charged V8 Cummins VTA903 diesel 500 hp ver2.
- Crossdrive turbo transmission fully electronically controlled
- Average unit cost: $2.3 million
US military operators refer to the M270 as "the commander's personal shotgun" or as "battlefield buckshot." It is also commonly referred to as the "Gypsy Wagon", because crews store additional equipment such as camouflage netting, cots, coolers, and personal items on top of the vehicle as the launcher itself lacks adequate storage space for the crew. Within the British military a common nickname is "Grid Square Removal System.