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M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
MLRS 05.jpg
Type Multiple rocket launcher
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service Since March 31, 1983
Production history
Designer Vought Corporation
Designed 1977
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin, Diehl BGT Defence
Produced 1980–2003
Variants M270A1
Weight 55,000 lb (24,950 kg)
Length 22 ft 6 in (6.85 m)
Width 9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)
Height 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Crew 3

Rate of fire Rockets: 12 rounds in < 40 sec

Missiles: 2 rounds in 10 sec

M269 Launcher Loader Module
Engine Cummins Diesel
500 hp
400 miles (640 km)
Speed 40 mph (64.3 km/h)

The M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (M270 MLRS) is an armored, self-propelled, multiple rocket launcher; a type of rocket artillery.

Since the first M270s were delivered to the U.S. Army in 1983, the MLRS has been adopted by several NATO countries. Some 1,300 M270 systems have been manufactured in the United States and in Europe, along with more than 700,000 rockets. The production of the M270 ended in 2003, when a last batch was delivered to the Egyptian army.


The weapon can fire guided and unguided projectiles up to 42 km (26 mi). Firing ballistic missiles, (such as the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System—ATACMS), it can hit targets 300 km (190 mi) away; the warhead in such shots reaches an altitude of about 50 km (164,000 ft). The M270 can be used in shoot-and-scoot tactics, firing its rockets rapidly, then moving away to avoid 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 M270 MLRS weapons system is collectively known as the M270 MLRS Self-propelled Loader/Launcher (SPLL). The SPLL is composed of 3 primary subsystems: the M269 Loader Launcher Module (LLM), which also houses the electronic Fire Control System, is mated to the M993 Carrier Vehicle. The M993 is a derivative of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle chassis.[1][2]

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 LLM can hold two pods at a time, which are hand-loaded using an integrated winch system. 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 System"[3] (metric maps are usually divided up into 1 km 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.

In 2006, MLRS was upgraded to fire 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.[4] Lockheed Martin also received a contract to convert existing M30 DPICM GMLRS rockets to the XM31 unitary variant.[5]

A German developmental artillery system, called the Artillery Gun Module, has used the MLRS chassis on its developmental vehicles.[6]

In 2012, a contract was issued to improve the armor of the M270s and improve the fire control to the standards of the HIMARS.[7]

Service history

The M270 MLRS conducts a rocket launch.

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" unit was 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery.[8] The 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery was reactivated as the Army's first Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion on 1 October 1984. Subsequently known as the "Proud Rockets," the Battalion carried on its' tradition of excellence. In March 1990, the unit deployed to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico to conduct the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation of the Army Tactical Missile System. The success of the test provided the Army with a highly accurate, long range fire support asset. On 2 September 1990, the 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. Assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery, the unit played a critical role in the early defense of Saudi Arabia. As Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm, the Battalion was the first U.S. Field Artillery unit to fire into Kuwait. Over the course of the war, the 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery provided timely and accurate rocket and missile fires for both U.S. corps in the theater, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 6th French Light Armored Division, the 1st Armored, 1st Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). 

A Btry 92nd Field Artillery (MLRS) was deployed to the Gulf War in 1990 from Ft.Hood Texas. 3/27th FA (MLRS) out of Ft. Bragg deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in August 1990. A/21st Field Artillery (MLRS) - 1st Cavalry Division Artillery deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in September 1990. In December 1990, A-40th Field Artillery(MLRS) - 3rd Armored Division Artillery (Hanau), 1/27th FA (MLRS) part of the 41st Field Artillery Brigade (Babenhausen) and 4/27th FA (MLRS) (Wertheim) deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield from their bases in Germany and 1/158th Field Artillery from the Oklahoma Army National Guard deployed in January 1991.

MLRS-System with launch vehicle, loader and a command center inside an APC

In early Feb 91 1/27th FA launched the biggest MLRS night fire mission in history.[9] It has since been used in numerous military engagements including the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 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.

In April 2011, the first modernized MLRS II and M31 GMLRS rocket were handed over to the German Army's Artillery School in Idar Oberstein. The German Army operates the M31 rocket up to a range of 90 km.[10]

MLRS rockets and missiles

"Steel Rain" - M77 DPICM submunition of type used by MLRS M26 rocket. 644 M77s per rocket. The M77 was developed from the M483A1 that was developed for artillery shells.

The M270 system can fire MLRS Family Of Munition (MFOM) rockets and artillery missiles, which are manufactured and used by a number of platforms and countries. These include:

  • M26 (United States): Rocket with 644 M77 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) submunitions, range of 32 km.
    • M26A1 (United States): Extended Range Rocket (ERR), with range of 45 km and 518 M85 submunitions (an improved version of the M77 DPICM submunition).
    • 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 over 60 km with a standard load of 404 M85 submunitions.
    • M31 (United States): Guided Unitary MLRS. Variant of the M30 with a unitary high-explosive warhead for use in urban and mountainous terrain.[11]
  • M39 (MGM-140) (United States): Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). A large guided missile using the M270 launcher, with a variety of warheads.
  • XM135 (United States): Rocket with binary chemical warhead (VX (nerve agent)). Not standardized.
  • AT2 (Germany, UK, France): SCATMIN Rocket with 28 anti-tank mines and range of 38 km.
  • PARS SAGE-227 F (Turkey): Experimental Guided MLRS (GMLRS) developed by TUBITAK-SAGE to replace the M26 rockets.

Selected rocket specifications

  • Caliber: 227 mm (8.94 in)
  • Length: 3.94 m (12.93 ft)
  • Motor: Solid-fuel rocket
Name Weight Range (max) Guidance Warhead
M26 306 kg (675 lb) 32 km (20 mi) 644 M77 DPICM submunitions
M26A1/A2 296 kg (650 lb) over 45 km (28 mi) M26A1: 518 M85 DPICM submunitions
M26A2: 518 M77 DPICM submunitions
M30/M31 60 km (37 miles)[12] GPS/INS M30: 404 M85 DPICM submunitions
M31: 90 kg (200 lb) unitary HE
AT2 SCATMIN 254 kg (561 lb) 39 km (24 mi)
PARS SAGE-227 F over 300 kg/160 kg 70 km (43 mi)

Alternative Warhead Program

On 22 May 2013, Lockheed and Alliant Techsystems test fired a GLMRS rocket with a new cluster munition warhead. The warhead, developed under the Alternative Warhead Program (AWP), is aimed at producing a drop-in replacement for DPICM bomblets in M30 guided rockets. The AWP warhead will have equal or greater effect against materiel and personnel targets, while leaving no unexploded ordnance behind.[13]

On 23 October 2013, Lockheed conducted the third and final engineering development test flight of the GMLRS alternative warhead. Three rockets were fired from 17 kilometers away and destroyed their ground targets. The Alternative Warhead Program will now move to production qualification testing.[14]

M993 Launcher specifications

  • 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 [15]
  • Height (stowed): 2.57 m (8 ft 5 in)[16]
  • Height (max elevation): not available
  • 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[17]



US military operators refer to the M270 as "the commander's personal shotgun" or as "battlefield buckshot."[citation needed] 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", a play on the initialism GSRS (from the older General Support Rocket System). With the adoption of the new M30 GPS guided rocket, it is now being referred to as the "70 kilometer sniper rifle." [18] During the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqis referred to the small M77 submunitions rockets as the "Steel Rain."

See also

[[Astros II MLRS|*[[Astros II MLRS]]]]


  1. John Pike. "M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System - MLRS". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  2. "M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System - MLRS". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  3. Ben Rooney, "Tank-busting helicopters ready for action", Daily Telegraph, April 21, 1999.
  4. "Guided MLRS Unitary Rocket Successfully Tested", Microwave Journal, Vol. 49, No. 3 (March 2006), page 39.
  5. "Lockheed Gets $16.6M to Convert MLRS Rockets, Asked to Speed Up GMLRS Production (updated)". Defense Industry Daily. August 2, 2006. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  6. "Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis: IHS Jane's | IHS". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  7. "USA Moves to Update Its M270 Rocket Launchers". 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  8. "History for 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery (1960s to Present)".,13506,102118%7C966742,00.html. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  9. "C-1/27th FA MLRS". YouTube. 2009-11-26. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  10. "Rollout MARS II und GMLRS Unitary" (in de). 2012-07-26.!ut/p/c4/LYrBCoMwEAX_aDdKC-KtQZBehdLa20aDLF0TCWu9-PFNoG9gLvPwjZlAX15IOQYSfOE4cesOcIcD-ujuRYBEfCB8lvfsYYrBa7H6oJy9JNKYYItJpZQ9pVyAZxxN1VlT1-a_6mx62w-P5nrp7nbAbV1vPwLmUn8!/. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  11. [1][dead link]
  12. "Lockheed Martin MLRS Rockets (M26/M30/M31)". 2006-08-24. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  13. "US Army searches for cluster munitions alternatives". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  14. Altenative GMLRS Warhead Completes Third Successful Fight Test -, 23 October 2013
  15. [2][dead link]
  16. [3][dead link]
  17. John Pike. "M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System - MLRS". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  18. [4][dead link]

External links

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