The success of precision strike MLRS systems such as the Lockheed Martin GMLRS and HIMARS supplied by the US to Ukraine has reawakened demand across the world for such systems.
Lithuania, Latvia, Greece, South Korea and Taiwan are amongst those countries seeking to buy HIMARS and other systems as discussed below, whilst a number of countries including the USA and the UK are looking to upgrade their existing GMLRS launchers.
Current GMLRS users include the US, UK, Germany, France, Greece, Turkey, Norway and Italy. The UK MoD placed a $32 million upgrade contract in June for its fleet of GMLRS M270 fleet to include: software update to allow better precision targeting, insensitive munition and cluster munition upgrade.
The MLRS Family of Munitions (MFOM) includes a variety of precision-strike rockets and missiles, with on-going evolutionary development to meet the needs of the warfighter. These combat-proven low-cost, low-risk rounds greatly reduce collateral damage and provide tremendous capability and flexibility in addressing today’s threats.
Guided MLRS Specifics:
* Persistent, responsive, all-weather, rapidly-deployable, long-range, surface-to-surface, precision-strike capability
* Fired from both the MLRS M270 family of launchers and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers
* 6 Guided MLRS rockets per launch pod, with 2 pods carried by the M270 launchers and 1 pod carried by the HIMARS launchers
* More than 40,000 Guided MLRS rockets produced to date and climbing
* Guided MLRS rockets have a reliability rating exceeding 98 percent
* An Extended-Range Guided MLRS rocket is in development
Current Guided MLRS variants include:
Guided MLRS Unitary: The combat-proven Guided MLRS Unitary round integrates a 200-pound unitary warhead, providing precision strike for point targets. The Unitary variant has a range exceeding 70 kilometers.
Guided MLRS Alternative Warhead (AW): The Guided MLRS AW round was the first munition developed to service area targets without the effects of unexploded ordnance, complying with the U.S. Department of Defense cluster munitions policy and international policies. The AW variant has a range exceeding 70 kilometers and delivers a 200-pound class fragmenting warhead.
Extended-Range (ER) Guided MLRS: A new developmental variation of the Guided MLRS family, ER GMLRS offers an extended range out to 150 kilometers in all weather conditions. ER GMLRS shares significant commonality with legacy Guided MLRS, and is deployable by HIMARS and the MLRS M270 family of launchers. The rounds incorporate a larger motor and have enhanced maneuverability due to tail-driven control.
South Korean Hanwha K239 Chunmoo MLRS
Defense News reported in October that Poland has completed its negotiations with South Korea to buy close to 300 K239 Chunmoo multiple-rocket launchers, with a contract expected to be signed during next week’s visit by Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak to Seoul.
Last May, the minister announced he signed a letter of request to purchase about 500 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, from the United States. However, the latest development indicates Warsaw understands it will not be able to buy as many U.S. systems as it originally planned.
The minister said that, under the plan, the first South Korean launchers, which are made by Hanwha Group, are to be delivered to Poland in 2023.
“In addition to these launchers, we will also acquire a very large number of missiles, both precision strike missiles for a distance of up to 70 km, and tactical missiles with a range of about 300 km,” according to Błaszczak.
The value of the planned contract, which will further expand Poland’s reliance on South Korean weapons, was not disclosed. A series of deals signed in the last months for the purchase of tanks, howitzers, and aircraft made the country Seoul’s largest defense client in Europe.
Greek plans for purchase of MLRS systems
The Greek Government has laid out plans for major purchase of MLRS systems. Two systems competing for this order are the RM70/85 Modular HIMARS compared to RM-70 VAMPIR:
RM70/85 Modular HIMARS
The modular rocket system RM-70/85 MODULAR represents an advanced modernization of the reliable rocket launcher RM-70 GRAD, which was designed and subsequently manufactured by Delta Defence (Slovak Republic), in cooperation with Diehl Defence (Germany), for the needs of NATO troops.
The chassis part consists of a modified chassis from the Tatra Kopřivnice production type 8×8 Tatra 815, highlighting its long-standing proven properties, which is supplemented by a 12-cylinder Tatra diesel aggregate with a power of 265kW, while the vehicle reaches the maximum speed on paved roads up to 80 km/h, and at the same time guarantees high transient and driving properties on ordinary roads and in field conditions with a maximum range of up to 1000 km.
The armored cab provides ballistic protection according to STANAG 4569 Level 1 a, b., it is equipped with air conditioning, digital communication, navigation means, an automatic fire control system, coverings, a gun range for infantry weapons and at the same time it can perfectly protect the crew against the effects of biological and chemical weapons thanks to a powerful filtering device. The seamless operation of all equipment is ensured by a crew consisting of 3 members, namely the driver, commander and operator/shooter.
Launching of rockets is carried out by the operator directly from the cabin or in case of an emergency launch using a remote control from a nearby safe hiding place. The total cadence when firing 122mm JROF/JROF-M rockets is 12 to 15 seconds and when launching MLRS rockets with M77 120 seconds.
The maximum range with effective destructive effects of missiles is up to 100 km, which depends on the type of ammunition used and their design.
The total weight of the vehicle in combat standby with a 122mm container tray is 23.4t or 22.5t with a 227mm MLRS container tray. The net weight of the vehicle without a container and crew is 20 tons, which allows safe transport by ship, rail or air.
Currently, 26 pieces of salvo rocket launcher systems are included in the armament for the needs of the Slovak Armed Forces.
The RM-70 Vampir is a modernized version of the standard RM-70 122 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) designed and manufactured in the Czech Republic by the Excalibur Army. The first prototype of the RM-70 Vampir was manufactured in February 2015 and successful gunnery trials were held in October 2015. The original RM-70 was installed on Tatra T-813 truck chassis. The new Vampir, however, utilizes a completely new platform Tatra T-815-7 8×8 heavy-duty tactical truck. The basic configuration of the rocket launcher itself on the vehicle´s chassis corresponds with the original RM-70, but the majority of the wiring has been extensively rebuilt or completely modernized. The cabling is completely new as well. The RM-70 Vampir rocket launcher is capable of deploying concentrated bursts of fire into larger areas occupied by the enemy and destroying personnel as well as combat machinery. The RM-70 Vampir can be ready to fire in less than 2.5 minutes and leave its combat position in 3 minutes. It can fire 40 rockets in less than 30 seconds.
Positives of RM70/85 Modular HIMARS compared to RM-70 VAMPIR:
RM70/85 Modular HIMARS is a modular system with the possibility of firing two types of artillery missiles 122mm or 227mm against one type (122mm) plus compatibility with NATO
The most important advantage is the unique weapon superstructure capable of firing various types of 122mm or 227mm MLRS artillery rockets. It consists of an armored launch cradle with hydraulic control and a container tray, which allows the capture of up to 28 pcs of 122mm rockets or 6 pcs of 227mm MLRS rockets. The quick, easy, efficient piercing of the tanks is ensured by the ammunition handling device located in the front of the tanker and is used for the actual handling of containers located anywhere in the firing positions or in cooperation with any ammunition vehicle. The time of loading the container from its lifting until it is placed on the cradle is a maximum of 4 minutes and after it’s emptying it can immediately leave the battle position and move to another position, or it is possible to pierce the container according to needs.
Unlike the RM 70 Vampire, this unique feature gives space for compatibility with all NATO systems and is also very suitable for deployment in conflicts as currently in Ukraine, where there is a need for a rapid response to the possible need for ammunition change (standard / non-standard). In the context of the Ukrainian conflict the container tray concept enables potentially also the integration and utilization of Ukraine’s new 220mm Bureviy rockets or the locally produced 300mm Vilkha rockets.
RM70/85 Modular HIMARS can accommodate a wider range of ammunition with a greater maximum range, by type of ammunition selected, of up to 100km
The RM 70 Vampire is a missile system with a limited range of ammunition with ranges of less than 40km.
The RM 70/85 Modular / HIMARS is capable of firing ammunition with a maximum range of up to 100 km with effective destructive capabilities. In principle, there are no limits to the range, depending on the type and ability of the ammunition.
RM70/85 Modular HIMARS ammunition handling equipment
RM 70 Vampire is able to shoot 40 pieces of 122mm rockets and another 40 rockets in an additional rack.
Thanks to its crane system, the RM 70/85 Modular /HIMARS can easily and efficiently handle the container anywhere in the firing position or in the safe zone. This logistic works with the help of a support ammunition vehicle with its handling equipment, which is oversized so that it can supply 2 rocket launchers, without its supply activity limiting the combat activity.
RM70/85 Modular HIMARS has a modern navigation, communication and fire system with automatic identification of ammunition type and ballistic tables as well as systemic fire control or emergency safe launch and MASK-2 protective coating used to reduce infrared radiation.
RM70/85 Modular HIMARS are in service with the Slovak army
The RM-70 Vampir is in service with 2 armies (Azerbaijan, Indonesia)
One of the benefits of the Modular is that it can fire both JROF 122mm rockets and NATO 227mm rockets whereas the Vampir can only fire 122mm.
The Greeks currently use former East German RM-70 systems that were refurbished and deployed with the support of Slovakia – the design authority for the RM-70 system.
Given the versatility of the superstructure to accommodate multiple rocket types and the range of these rockets, coupled to its advanced systems, the Slovak bred RM70/85 Modular HIMARS System would appear to have the edge over the Czech RM-70 Vampir. We await with interest the result of the Greek competition which is expected in 2023.
Developments in precision guidance systems to prevent fratricide are a major reason for the worldwide interest in GMLRS systems. Coupled to warhead and propellant developments, these advanced systems are making their marks on the Ukraine battlefield in particular.