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The US Army plans to fire an upgraded, precision-guided, ground-fired rocket which will pinpoint enemy targets at distances up to 70 or more kilometers – while removing the prospect of leaving dangerous unexploded ordnance behind.
The first Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) Alternative Warhead rocket has recently rolled off the production line at Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility. The GMLRS Alternative Warhead was designed to engage the same target set and achieve the same area-effects requirement as the old MLRS submunition warheads, but without the lingering danger of unexploded ordnance.
“GMLRS Alternative Warhead rockets are all-weather, time-critical, rapidly deployable guided munitions that return precision area-effects capability to the battlefield commander,” said Ken Musculus, vice president of Tactical Missiles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, according to the Lockheed’s website.
The weapon is being modified to adhere to the parameters of a 2008 international agreement banning the production and use of so-called “cluster munitions” which disperse a number of small explosive in an area long after an attack has taken place. This poses risks to civilians who may wind up in the general proximity of areas previously attacked by the rocket.
Primarily designed for fixed targets, GMLRS can be used to destroy enemy bunkers, troop locations, armored vehicles, equipment or other pertinent high-value targets; during the war in Afghanistan, GMLRS was successfully used to destroy senior members of the Taliban, sources have said to scout.com.
GMLRS uses GPS and Inertial Measurement Navigation technology to guide a 200-pound warhead toward dangerous targets; the idea with the new alternative warhead is to use “height of burst” explosion technology to destroy an enemy target through what’s called an “area effect,” explained Karl Stoetzer, Business Development Manager, Precision Fires, Lockheed Martin.
GMLRS can also fire a “unitary” warhead which can destroy underground targets with a delayed fuse or achieve a proximity or “area effect” similar to the alternative warhead.
It is certainly possible, if not likely, that GMLRS is now being fired against ISIS in Iraq – however the Army quite naturally does not often wish to discuss which weapons are being used on an enemy for operational security reasons.
The GMLRS Alternative Warhead rocket will allow all users of the MLRS to have an area-effects weapon in their inventories without the need to procure additional launcher systems.
MLRS rockets with submunition warheads ended production approximately six years ago.
Lockheed Martin received the initial production contract from the U.S. Army for GMLRS Alternative Warheads in June 2015.
Each GMLRS Alternative Warhead rocket will be packaged in an MLRS launch pod and will be fired from the Lockheed Martin HIMARS or M270 family of launchers.