Guided Unitary MLRS for Urban Warfare

The Army’s new Guided Unitary MLRS supposedly has point target capability.

U.S. company Lockheed Martin says its Multiple Launch Rocket System has point target capability in urban environments. “Guided Unitary MLRS — Multiple Launch Rocket System — is the newest variant which leverages the Guided MLRS — GMLRS — experience and investment to integrate a unitary warhead with a multi-mode fuze to expand the MLRS target set to include point targets within urban and complex environments. In January 2005, the U.S. Army issued an Urgent Need Statement for acceleration of GMLRS Unitary deliveries in support of counter fire operations,” Lockheed Martin said.

Lockheed Martin said it “delivered the first 72 GMLRS Unitary rockets in June 2005 satisfying the requirements of the Urgent Need Statement. The first 900-plus rockets were delivered to the United States in 2005 and 2006.”

“In theater, the GMLRS Unitary rocket has earned the nickname ‘the 70-kilometer Sniper Rifle,’ and continues to live up to that reputation mission after mission,” said Lt. Col. Mark Pincoski, U.S. Army product manager, Precision Guided Missiles and Rockets. “Guided Unitary has reshaped the way indirect fires are applied throughout the battlefield thanks to its 24-hour, all-weather availability and pinpoint accuracy.”

My guess is that Lockheed “said” these things via a press release, which UPI has dutifully repacked. But, wowsers.

Back in the day, many, many jobs ago, I was a MLRS firing platoon leader. We still used the first generation, M270, system which carried twelve rockets, each contining 644 dual-purpose (anti-armor and anti-personnel) submunitions. It was quite decidedly an area weapon, designed to decimate everything within an 800 meter radius. Indeed, our battalion nickname was the Gridsmashers, after our ability to wipe out a standard 1×1 kilometer military map grid with one standard load.

The system evolved over the years, quickly shifting to the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS, pronounced “Attack ’ems”), which fired two much more powerful, long range rockets rather than the original twelve. Still, though, it was designed as a mass weapon to neutralize a conventional enemy.

That they’re now trying to make this a precision weapon to hit small targets is interesting, indeed. Presumably, it reflects Lockheed’s desire to continue to sell these systems in a COIN world and necessity being the mother of all invention. If it works, though, it’ll make the King of Battle more relevant for future missions.

See Global Security for more background on the system.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    That they’re now trying to make this a precision weapon to hit small targets is interesting, indeed. Presumably, it reflects Lockheed’s desire to continue to sell these systems in a COIN world and necessity being the mother of all invention. If it works, though, it’ll make the King of Battle more relevant for future missions.

    What’s the problem with the old-school way–you seem to get more bang for your buck and more effectiveness at “clearing the theater”?

    This just seems like a way for Lockheed to parlay some useless new invention for more defense contracts.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    Of course, you still need to know where to aim. And now you need to know with much more precision than a 1km x 1km grid point.

  3. mannning says:

    There are a number of portable or vehicle/air-borne Target Location Systems (TLS) available for acquiring targets in azimuth, elevation/depression, and range at a reasonable distance, and for designating them as well via laser; all measurements then mapped into GPS coordinates.

    The GPS coordinates of the target are relayed digitally to the fire control point by the TLS. These GPS coordinates are then inserted into the weapon system. This targeting may have an overall accuracy of a few meters, or even less if all goes well.

    (The GMLRS apparently does not have a laser-designator homing capability.)

    The guidance and control system on the missile, and using GPS, is the critical factor, I believe, and that was mentioned in the reference.

  4. Knowles Shaw says:

    Jim, other than your first glimpse of your newborn child in the delivery room (a pleasure that I hope you get to have one day), is there anything more beautiful than the vision of the massed fires of 27 M270 SPLLs during a nightime raid in the desert of Southwest Asia? Well, we probably shot that raid with only 26 launchers, b/c one of Shane’s launchers was no doubt deadlined.

    Hey Republican Guard — got counterfire?