M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System

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.

M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System
Class Vehicle
Type Self-Propelled artillery
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1983
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Denmark View
Egypt View
Finland View
France View
Germany View
Greece View
Israel View
Italy View
Japan View
Netherlands View
Saudi Arabia View
South Korea View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
United States of America 1983 View
Norway View
Bahrain View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Lockheed Martin View

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.

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" (metric maps are usually divided up into 1 km grids). A typical MLRS cluster salvo consisted of three M270 vehicles each firing all 12 rockets. With each rocket containing 644 M77 grenades, the entire salvo would drop 23,184 grenades in the target area. However, with a two percent dud rate, that would leave approximately 400 undetonated bombs scattered over the area that would endanger friendly troops and civilians.

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 was quickly 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.

The M31 GMLRS Unitary rocket transformed the M270 into a point target artillery system for the first time. Due to GPS guidance and a single 200 lb (91 kg) high explosive warhead, the M31 could hit targets accurately with less chance of collateral damage while needing fewer rockets to be fired, reducing logistical requirements. The unitary warhead also made the MLRS able to be used in urban environments. The M31 had a dual-mode fuse with point detonation and delay options to defeat soft targets and lightly fortified bunkers respectively, with the upgraded M31A1 equipped with a multi-mode fuse adding a proximity airburst mode for use against personnel in the open; proximity mode can be set for 3 or 10 metres (9.8 or 32.8 ft) height of burst (HOB). The GMLRS has a minimum engagement range of 15 km (9.3 mi) and can hit a target out to 70 km (43 mi), impacting at a speed of Mach 2.5.

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

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

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.

The 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery was reactivated as the Army's first Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion on 1 October 1984, and became known as the "Proud Rockets,". 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.

In early Feb 91 1/27th FA launched the biggest MLRS night fire mission in history. 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.

Type Multiple rocket launcher
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service Since March 31, 1983
Used by See Operators
Wars Gulf War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Production history
Designer Vought Corporation
Designed 1977
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin, Diehl BGT Defence
Produced 1980–2003
Variants M270A1
Specifications
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
Effective firing range M26: 32 km (20 mi)
M26A1/A2: 45 km (28 mi)
M30/31: 70 km (43 mi)
GMLRS+: 120 km (75 mi)
Maximum firing range ATACMS: 165 or 300 km (103 or 186 mi)
Main
armament
M269 Launcher Loader Module
Engine Cummins Diesel
500 hp (368 kW)
Operational
range
400 miles (640 km)
Speed 40 mph (64.3 km/h)

End notes