GUIDED UNITARY MLRS UPDATE
By Scott R. Gourley
Representatives from both the US Army’s user and developer communities have recently provided updates on the expanding US combat application of the Guided Unitary Multiple Launch Rocket System (Guided Unitary MLRS).
Most recently, Colonel David Rice, Project Manager, Precision Fires Rocket & Missile Systems, under the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, opened his 1 August update by describing Guided Unitary MLRS as “truly a transformational product in that it gives the maneuver commander a lot more responsive and effective options.”
Acknowledging that he was still relatively new to the job (taking the position just six weeks earlier), Rice went on to cite several impressive statistics regarding the use of the systems in combat. As examples, of the 273 missions fired in theater as of that date, approximately 83 percent had been fired in an urban environment with 69 percent of those missions having been fired with troops in contact (approximately half of the missions have involved support to Marine Corps elements).
Several of the conference participants referred to the “popular designation” for Guided Unitary MLRS as “the 70 km sniper rifle.”
Rice added, “Just yesterday I learned that the enemy in fact in now calling it ‘The Hand of Allah.’ In other words it comes from nowhere and sweeps you up into Paradise.”
While the latter revelation immediately drew criticism from a few of the more politically correct blogging sites, two points should be noted.
First, the observation clearly attributed the comment to enemy slang, which seems to be surfacing for several US systems (another recent report indicates that the acoustic sensor array of the “Boomerang” sniper detection system has earned the enemy moniker “Death Octopus,” because if you shoot at it, it shoots back).
But even more important is the fact that some of the critical bloggers don’t seem to understand the system being described, calling it simply “Guided MLRS.” This in spite of the fact that briefers attempted to clarify and define the distinctions between “Guided MLRS” and “Guided Unitary MLRS.”
As an example, noting that the basic M26 [MLRS] rocket had a range of approximately 30 km and would dispense just over 600 dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) bomblets, Rice explained, “In the beginning of its production run there were some DPICM Guided MLRS rockets made. As you know, there’s a lot of discussion in the international community against what are called ‘cluster munitions’ and the technical hurdles of overcoming self destruct fuzes – you want to get down to less than one percent dud rate – unexploded ordnance on the battlefield.”
He clarified that the Guided Unitary MLRS now being employed in combat “adds tremendous accuracy and reduction of collateral damage but it also has a 200 lb. unitary warhead.”
It is that 200 lb. accurately-delivered unitary warhead that meets critical combat needs while simultaneously reducing collateral damage. In what some users term “scalable precision,” the Guided Unitary MLRS now provides target planners with a precision lethality that is less than half the size of the smallest JDAM (500 lb.). The scalable precision is further enhanced through the recent combat fielding of the approximately 90 lb. 155mm Excalibur precision guided munition.
“[Guided MLRS Unitary] has added a lot of options for the maneuver commander,” Rice noted. “It’s performing very well and we’re very pleased with it. And, of course, we’re very pleased with the team effort that it takes to get our products to that level.”
In a brief follow-on marketing pitch, Mr. James (Jim) Gribshaw, Director of Precision Fires for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control observed, “We pride ourselves in delivering disciplined performance. And disciplined performance is what Guided MLRS Unitary is providing. It’s even been cal