Slower than the Soviet Union in the race to develop rocket artillery during World War II, but then with its potential, the US still promptly created for itself a famous artillery: the M270.
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), first developed by the Soviet Army and put into combat at the beginning of World War II. Its advantages were long range, and fast rate of fire. Its disadvantages were less accurate, large dissipation, slow reload speed; so MLRS could only be used to suppress large-scale targets, such as concentrated military bases, depots, and places of troop concentration; but couldnot use direct support for infantry like traditional artillery. The Soviet army relied heavily on rocket fire during World War II, with large numbers of MLRS versions such as the BM-13 and BM-8. Because MRLS was easy to produce, low cost, and quickly responds to the requirements of the war.
By contrast, U.S. artillerists favored cannon artillery for its relative accuracy and ammunition conservation over “area fire” rockets, and as a result were left with a small amount of World War II vintage rocket artillery. In the early 1970s, the US Army regrouped its forces to prepare for a land war in Europe. They therefore sought to improve their artillery capabilities, with a focus on striking deep behind enemy lines.
Although there were many controversial opinions, but finally the M270 multiple launch rocket system was put into service in 1983. Some 1,300 M270 systems have been manufactured in the United States and in Europe, along with more than 700,000 rockets. The production of the M270 ended in 2003, when a last batch was delivered to the Egyptian Army.
A unique feature of the M270 is that it has got no launching rails. Rockets are fired straight away from containers. Each disposable container holds 6 rockets. Rockets can be stored in containers without any maintenance for up to ten years. Vehicle carries two such containers with a total of 12 rockets.
A standard 227 mm HE-FRAG rocket is 3.96 m long and weights 307 kg. It has a 120 kg warhead. The M270 also fires two types of cluster rockets, fitted with anti-tank submunitions and the AT-2 anti-tank mines. Warheads are interchangeable. It also fires newly developed guided munitions at a range of 60-100 km.
The M270 MLRS can also launch MGM-140 ATACMS (Army TACtical Missile System) tactical missiles. The misile has a range exceeding 150 km. Two of these missiles can be carried. Furthermore vehicle can carry a mix of one missile and a pack of six rockets.
The M270 is based on the modified M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle chassis. Vehicle is powered by the Cummins VTA-903T diesel engine, developing 500 horsepower. It has an armored cab, protecting the crew against small arms fire. It is also fitted with an NBC protection and automatic fire suppression systems.
Reloading of the vehicle is made by its crew during 5-10 minutes. It is assisted by an integrated crane. Reloads are carried in the M985 high mobility utility truck.
M270 fought for the first time in the 1991 Gulf War where it proved successful in its role. The MLRS has since been used in numerous military engagements, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In the trend of developing smart rocket artillery, recently Lockheed Martin has introduced a new type of missile called GMLRS. This ammunition is guided by GPS and a single 200 lb (91 kg) high-explosive warhead. The launch range of the new ammunition is up to 70km. The first use of the GMLRS was in September 2005 in Iraq.