Smart Rockets Rule The Battlefield
The U.S. Army has bought 4,410 more GMLRS (GPS guided MLRS) rockets, as well as 3,048 cheaper (reduced range, no explosives) practice rockets. These are packaged and used in containers (pods) holding six rockets each. This new order includes rockets for the U.S. Marine Corps and foreign customers, although the U.S. Army and Marine Corps will get most of them. Deliveries will begin next year. So far, about 2,000 GMLRS rockets have been fired in combat. GMLRS rockets cost about $100,000 each.
The 309 kg (680 pound) GMLRS (guided multiple launch rocket system) missile is a GPS guided 227mm rocket that entered service seven years ago. It was designed to have a range of 70 kilometers and the ability to land within meters of its intended target, at any range. This is possible because it uses GPS (plus a back up inertial guidance system) to find the target location it was programmed with. Three years ago, the army tested GMLRS at max range (about 85 kilometers) and found that it worked fine. This enables one MLRS/HIMARS vehicle to provide support over a frontage of 170 kilometers, or, in places like Afghanistan, where the fighting can be anywhere, an area of over 20,000 square kilometers. This is a huge footprint for a single weapon (an individual MLRS/HIMARS vehicle), and fundamentally changes the way you deploy artillery in combat. By way of comparison, Excalibur (GPS guided 155mm shell) has a max range of 37 kilometers, and 120mm mortars about 7.5 kilometers.