M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
TypeMultiple rocket launcher
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1983–present
Used bySee Operators
Production history
Unit costDomestic cost:
$2.3 million per one launcher (FY 1990)
$4.7 million (in 2023)[2] per one launcher
$168,000 per one M31 GMLRS (FY 2023)[3]
Export cost:
$434,000 per one M31ER GMLRS (FY 2022)[4]
VariantsM270, M270A1, M270A2, MARS II, LRU, MLRS-I
Mass52,990 lb (24,040 kg) (combat loaded w/ 12 rockets)[6]
Length274.5 in (6.97 m)[6]
Width117 in (3.0 m)[6]
Height102 in (2.59 m) (launcher stowed)[6]

Caliber227 mm (8.9 in)
Effective firing range
  • M26: 32 km (19.9 mi)
  • M26A1/A2: 45 km (28.0 mi)
  • M30/31: 92 km (57.2 mi)
Maximum firing range
  • ATACMS: 165 or 300 km (103 or 186 mi)

Armor5083 aluminum hull, 7039 aluminum cab[6]
or 4 x PrSM
EngineCummins VTA-903 diesel engine[6]
500 hp (373 kW) at 2600 rpm[6]
600 hp (447 kW) (M270A1)[1]
Power/weight18.9 hp/ST (15.5 kW/t) (M270)[6]
SuspensionTorsion bar[6]
300 mi (483 km)[6]
Maximum speed 40 mph (64.4 km/h)[6]

The M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (M270 MLRS) is an American armored self-propelled multiple launch rocket system.

The U.S. Army variant of the M270 is based on the chassis of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The first M270s were delivered in 1983, and were adopted by several NATO and non-NATO militaries. The platform first saw service with the United States in the 1991 Gulf War. It has received multiple improvements since its inception, including the ability to fire guided missiles. M270s provided by the United Kingdom have seen use in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[8]



In the early 1970s, the Soviet Union had a clear advantage over U.S. and NATO forces in terms of rocket artillery. Soviet doctrine dictated large-scale bombardment of a target area with large numbers of truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), such as the BM-21 "Grad".[9] By contrast, U.S. artillerists favored conventional large-caliber artillery for its relative accuracy and logistical efficiency. As a result, U.S. rocket artillery was limited to the remaining stock of World War II-era systems.[10]

This mindset began to change following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which saw heavy casualties, especially from rear-area weapons like surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Israel effectively employed rocket artillery against these targets. The United States predicted that this requirement would persist in the event of a war in Europe. Thus, the need had arisen for a system that could engage enemy air defenses and provide counter-battery fire, freeing large-caliber artillery units to provide call-for-fire artillery support for ground forces.[10]

Boeing General Support Rocket System
Vought General Support Rocket System
Boeing and Vought prototypes

The MLRS was initially conceived as the General Support Rocket System (GSRS). In December 1975, the U.S. Army Missile Command issued a request for proposal to industry to assist in determining the best technical approach for the GSRS.[11] In March 1976, the Army awarded contracts to Boeing, Emerson Electric, Martin Marietta, Northrop and Vought to explore the concept definition of the GSRS.[1] In September 1977, Boeing Aerospace and Vought were awarded contracts to develop prototypes of the GSRS.[1]

In 1978, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command made changes to the program so that the GSRS could be manufactured in Europe.[1] This was to allow European nations, who had been independently pursuing their own MLRS programs, to buy in to the program.[10] In July 1979, the United States, West Germany, France and the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding for joint development and production of GSRS. In November 1979, GSRS was accordingly redesignated the Multiple Launch Rocket System.[11] Both competitors delivered three MLRS prototypes to the Army.[1]

The Army evaluated the MLRS prototypes from December 1979 – February 1980. In May 1980, the Army selected the Vought system. In early 1982, Vought began low-rate initial production.[12] In August 1982, the first production models were delivered.[10] In early 1983, the first units were delivered to the 1st Infantry Division.[12] In March 1983, the first operational M270 battery was formed. In September 1983, the first unit was sent to West Germany.[10]

European nations produced 287 MLRS systems, with the first being delivered in 1989.[12] Some 1,300 M270 systems have been manufactured in the United States and in Western Europe to date, along with more than 700,000 rockets of all kinds, with over 60,000 GMLRS guided munitions produced.[13][14]


The M270 MLRS weapons system is collectively known as the M270 MLRS Self-Propelled Loader/Launcher (SPLL). The SPLL is composed of three primary subsystems, namely the M269 Loader Launcher Module (LLM), which also houses the electronic Fire Control System, is mated to the M993 Carrier Vehicle.[15]

Task Force XXI Armored Treatment and Transport Vehicle (ATTP)

The M993 is the designation of the M987 carrier when it is used in the MLRS. The M987/M993 is a lengthened derivative of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle chassis.[12] The ground contact length is increased from 154 inches (390 cm) to 170.5 inches (433 cm).[16] Originally called the Fighting Vehicle System, the M987 chassis was designed to serve as the basis for many other vehicles. These included the XM1070 Electronic Fighting Vehicle, the M4 Command and Control Vehicle, the Armored Treatment and Transport Vehicle and the Forward Area Armored Logistics System, the latter encompassing three vehicles, including the XM1007 AFARV rearm vehicle.[12][17]

The original GSRS plan called for 210 mm diameter rockets. After European allies became involved with the project, these were replaced with 227 mm rockets in order to accommodate the AT2 mine.[12]

Cold War doctrine for the M270 was for the vehicles to spread out individually and hide until needed, then move to a firing position and launch their rockets, immediately move away to a reloading point, then move to a completely new hiding position near a different firing point. These shoot-and-scoot tactics were planned to avoid susceptibility to Soviet counter-battery fire. One M270 firing 12 M26 rockets would drop 7,728 bomblets, and one MLRS battery of nine launchers firing 108 rockets had the equivalent firepower of 33 battalions of cannon artillery.[10]

The system can fire rockets or MGM-140 ATACMS missiles, which are contained in interchangeable pods. Each pod contains six standard rockets or one guided ATACMS missile; the two types cannot be mixed. The LLM can hold two pods at a time, which are handloaded using an integrated winch system. All twelve rockets or two ATACMS missiles can be fired in under a minute. One launcher firing twelve rockets can completely blanket one square kilometre with cluster munitions. A typical MLRS cluster salvo consisted of three M270 vehicles each firing all 12 rockets. With each rocket containing 644 M77 submunitions, the entire salvo would drop 23,184 submunitions in the target area. However, with a two percent dud rate, that would leave approximately 400 undetonated bombs scattered over the area, which could endanger friendly troops and civilians.[18]

Production of the M270 ended in 2003, when a last batch was delivered to the Egyptian Army.[citation needed] In 2003, the U.S. Army began low-rate production of the M142 HIMARS. The HIMARS fires all of the munitions of the MLRS, and is based on the chassis of the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles.[19] As of 2012, BAE Systems still had the capability to restart production of the MLRS.[1]

In 2006, MLRS was upgraded to fire guided rounds. Phase I testing of a guided unitary round (XM31) was completed on an accelerated schedule in March 2006. Due to an Urgent Need Statement, the guided unitary round was quickly fielded and used in action in Iraq.[20] Lockheed Martin also received a contract to convert existing M30 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) GMLRS rockets to the XM31 unitary variant.[21]

The M31 GMLRS Unitary rocket transformed the M270 into a point target artillery system for the first time. Due to Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance and a single 200 lb (91 kg) high-explosive warhead, the M31 could hit targets accurately with less chance of collateral damage while needing fewer rockets to be fired, reducing logistical requirements. The unitary warhead also made the MLRS able to be used in urban environments. The M31 had a dual-mode fuse with point detonation and delay options to defeat soft targets and lightly fortified bunkers respectively, with the upgraded M31A1 equipped with a multi-mode fuse adding a proximity airburst mode for use against personnel in the open; proximity mode can be set for 3 or 10 meters (9.8 or 32.8 ft) Height of Burst (HOB). The GMLRS has a minimum engagement range of 15 km (9.3 mi) and can hit a target out to 70 km (43 mi), impacting at a speed of Mach 2.5.[22][23] In 2009 Lockheed Martin announced that a GMLRS had been successfully test fired out to 92 km (57 mi).[24]

In April 2011, the first modernized MLRS II and M31 GMLRS rocket were handed over to the German Army's Artillery School in Idar Oberstein. The German Army operates the M31 rocket up to a range of 90 kilometres (56 mi).[25] A German developmental artillery system, called the Artillery Gun Module, has used the MLRS chassis on its developmental vehicles.[26]

In 2012, a contract was issued to improve the armor of the M270s and improve the fire control to the standards of the M142 HIMARS.[27] In June 2015, the M270A1 conducted tests of firing rockets after upgrades from the Improved Armored Cab project, which provides the vehicle with an enhanced armored cab and windows.[28]

In early March 2021, Lockheed announced they had successfully fired an extended-range version of the GMLRS out to 80 km (50 mi), part of an effort to increase the rocket's range to 150 km (93 mi).[29] Later in March the ER GMLRS was fired out to 135 km (84 mi).[30] In September 2023, Lockheed announced an ER GMLRS test achieved its maximum range of 150 km (93 mi).[31]

Service history

The M270 MLRS conducts a rocket launch.

When first deployed with the U.S. Army, the MLRS was used in a composite battalion consisting of two batteries of traditional artillery (howitzers) and one battery of MLRS SPLLs (self-propelled loader/launchers). The first operational Battery was C Battery, 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery, 1st Infantry Division (Ft. Riley, Kansas) in 1982. The first operational organic or "all MLRS" unit was 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery.[32]

Originally, a battery consisted of three platoons with three launchers each for nine launchers per battery; by 1987, 25 MLRS batteries were in service. In the 1990s, a battery was reduced to six launchers.[10]

The 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery was reactivated as the Army's first Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion in October 1984, and became known as the "Rocket Busters". In March 1990, the unit deployed to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico to conduct the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation of the Army Tactical Missile System. The success of the test provided the Army with a highly accurate, long range fire support asset.[citation needed]

An M270 assigned to the 41st Field Artillery Brigade.

Gulf War

The first combat use of the MLRS occurred in the Gulf War.[17] The U.S. deployed over 230 MLRS during Operation Desert Storm, and the UK an additional 16.[12]

In September 1990, the 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. Assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery, the unit played a critical role in the early defense of Saudi Arabia. As Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm, the Battalion was the first U.S. Field Artillery unit to fire into Iraq. Over the course of the war, the 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery provided timely and accurate rocket and missile fires for both U.S. corps in the theater, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 6th French Light Armored Division, the 1st Armored, 1st Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized).

A Battery 92nd Field Artillery (MLRS) was deployed to the Gulf War in 1990 from Ft. Hood Texas. 3/27th FA (MLRS) out of Fort Bragg deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in August 1990. A/21st Field Artillery (MLRS) – 1st Cavalry Division Artillery deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield in September 1990. In December 1990, A-40th Field Artillery (MLRS) – 3rd Armored Division Artillery (Hanau), 1/27th FA (MLRS) part of the 41st Field Artillery Brigade (Babenhausen) and 4/27th FA (MLRS) (Wertheim) deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield from their bases in Germany and 1/158th Field Artillery from the Oklahoma Army National Guard deployed in January 1991.

A MLRS-System with launch vehicle, loader and a command center inside an M577 command vehicle.

MLRS launchers were deployed during Operation Desert Storm. Its first use was on 18 January 1991, when Battery A of the 6th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery fired eight ATACMS missiles at Iraqi SAM sites. In one engagement, three MLRS batteries fired 287 rockets at 24 separate targets in less than five minutes, an amount that would have taken a cannon battalion over an hour to fire.[10] In early February 1991, 4-27 FA launched the biggest MLRS night fire mission in history,[33] firing 312 rockets in a single mission.[citation needed] When ground operations began on 24 February 1991, 414 rockets were fired as the U.S. VII Corps advanced. Out of the 57,000 artillery rounds fired by the end of the war, 6,000 were MLRS rockets plus 32 ATACMS.[10]

Middle East

The MLRS has since been used in numerous military engagements, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In March 2007, the British Ministry of Defence decided to send a troop of MLRS to support ongoing operations in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, using newly developed guided munitions.

In September 2005, the GMLRS was first used in Iraq, when two rockets were fired in Tal Afar over 50 kilometres (31 mi) and hit insurgent strongholds, killing 48 Iraqi fighters.[10]

During the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, Israel used the M270 to fire on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which was the first time they had used the system since 2006.[34]


During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States considered sending the MLRS as part of military aid to Ukraine. Concerns were raised that this system could be used to hit targets inside Russia.[35] US President Joe Biden initially declined to send it to Ukraine,[36] but on May 31 he announced that the M142 HIMARS, another vehicle capable of firing GMLRS rockets, would be supplied.[37]

On 7 June 2022, British defence secretary Ben Wallace announced that the UK would send three (later increased to six) MLRS to aid Ukrainian forces.[38][39] On 15 June, Germany announced it would send three of its MARS vehicles from German Army stocks.[40] Ukraine announced they had received the first M270s on 15 July.[41] The German defence secretary Christine Lambrecht announced the arrival of the vehicles they contributed on 26 July 2022,[42] and on 15 September Lambrecht announced that Germany would transfer two more.[43][44]

During the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russian forces have relied on electronic warfare to jam GPS signals. The inertial navigation system is immune to jamming, but less accurate than when paired with GPS coordinates and can miss the target.[45]


A British M270 MLRS in 2008 in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan (right vehicle)
British M270 firing at Otterburn Training Area in 2015
A MARS II of the German Army

Rockets and missiles

"Steel Rain" – M77 DPICM submunition of type used by the M26 rocket. The M77 was developed from the M483A1 that was developed for artillery shells.

The M270 system can fire MLRS Family of Munitions (MFOM) rockets and artillery missiles, which are manufactured and used by a number of platforms and countries. These include:


M26 and M28 rocket production began in 1980. Until 2005 they were the only rockets available for the M270 system. When production of the M26 series ceased in 2001, a total of 506,718 rockets had been produced.[53] Each rocket pod contains 6 identical rockets. The M26 rocket and its derivatives were removed from the US Army's active inventory in June 2009, as they did not satisfy a July 2008 Department of Defense policy directive, issued under President George W. Bush, that US cluster munitions that leave more than 1% of submunitions as unexploded ordnance must be destroyed by the end of 2018.[54] (The United States is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits them). The last use of the M26 rocket prior to its use with the GLSDB occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.[54]


Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets have a GPS-aided inertial navigation system and extended range. Flight control is accomplished by four forward-mounted canards driven by electromechanical actuators. GMLRS rockets were introduced in 2005 and can be fired from the M270A1 and M270A2, the European M270A1 variants (British Army M270B1, German Army MARS II, French Army Lance Roquette Unitaire (LRU), Italian Army MLRS Improved (MLRS-I), Finnish Army M270D1), and the lighter M142 HIMARS launchers.

M30 rockets have an area-effects warhead, while M31 rockets have a unitary warhead, but the rockets are otherwise identical.[62] By December 2021, 50,000 GMLRS rockets had been produced,[63] with yearly production then exceeding 9,000 rockets. Each rocket pod contains 6 identical rockets. The cost of an M31 missile is estimated at $500,000,[64] though this may be the "export price", always higher than the amount charged to the U.S. Army.[65] According to the U.S. Army's budget, it will pay about $168,000 for each GMLRS in 2023.[66][67][68]

Both Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army report that the GMLRS has a maximum range of 70+ km (43+ mi).[69][70] According to a U.S. Department of Defense document the maximum demonstrated performance of a GMLRS is 84 km (52 mi),[71] a figure also reported elsewhere.[53][62] Another source reports a maximum range of about 90 km (56 mi).[72] In 2009 Lockheed Martin announced that a GMLRS had been successfully test fired 92 km (57 mi).[73]

During the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russian forces have relied on electronic warfare to jam GPS signals. The inertial navigation system is immune to jamming, but less accurate than when paired with GPS coordinates and can miss the target. Ukraine attempted to mitigate the jamming by changes to the software and attacking Russian jamming systems by artillery.[45]


Main article: Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb

The Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb is a weapon made by Boeing and the Saab Group, who modified Boeing's GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the addition of a rocket motor. It has a range of up to 150 km (93 mi).


Main article: ATACMS

The Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) is a series of 610 mm surface-to-surface missile (SSM) with a range of up to 300 kilometres (190 mi). Each rocket pod contains one ATACMS missile. As of 2022 only the M48, M57, and M57E1 remain in the US military's active inventory.


Main article: Precision Strike Missile

The Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) is a new series of GPS-guided missiles, which will begin to replace ATACMS missiles from 2024. PrSM carries a newly designed area-effects warhead and has a range of 60–499 kilometres (37–310 mi). PrSM missiles can be launched from the M270A2 and the M142, with rockets pods containing 2 missiles. As of 2022 the PrSM is in low rate initial production with 110 missiles being delivered to the US military over the year. PrSM will enter operational service in 2023.[89][62][90]

Reverse engineering

In the Turkish SAGE-227 project A/B/C/D medium-range composite-fuel artillery rocket and SAGE-227 F experimental guided rocket were developed from reverse engineering HIMARS missiles due to trust issues[clarification needed] in 2019.

Israeli rockets

Israel developed its own rockets to be used in the "Menatetz", an upgraded version of the M270 MLRS.

British missiles

As part of the circa £2bn Land Deep Fires Programme (LDFP), the British Army intends a large scale modernization effort of its GMLRS capability involving both a increase in the number of launchers and an expansion in the variety of effectors available.[91] The British Army launchers will be upgraded to the M270A2 standard and additional launchers will be purchased and upgraded from stockpiles likely from the US for a total of 75 launchers and 10 recovery vehicles.[91][92] M270A2 will include a number of British-specific upgrades such as new composite rubber tracks, radar and video sensors, as well as the new jointly developed fire control system from the UK, US, Italy, and Finland.[92]

Alongside the procurement of GMLRS-ER and the possible procurement of the PrSM, the UK is also developing two additional effectors under its 'one launcher, many payloads' concept:

Alternative Warhead Program

In April 2012, Lockheed Martin received a $79.4 million contract to develop a GMLRS incorporating an Alliant Techsystems-designed alternative warhead to replace DPICM cluster warheads. The AW version is designed as a drop-in replacement with little modification needed to existing rockets. An Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) program was to last 36 months, with the alternative warhead GMLRS expected to enter service in late 2016.[97] The AW warhead is a large airburst fragmentation warhead that explodes 30 ft (9.1 m) over a target area to disperse penetrating projectiles. Considerable damage is caused to a large area while leaving behind only solid metal penetrators and inert rocket fragments[98] from a 90 kilograms (200 lb) warhead containing approximately 182,000 preformed tungsten fragments.[99] The unitary GMLRS also has an airburst option, but while it produces a large blast and pieces of shrapnel, the AW round's small pellets cover a larger area.[100]

In May 2013, Lockheed and ATK test fired a GMLRS rocket with a new cluster munition warhead developed under the Alternative Warhead Program (AWP), aimed at producing a drop-in replacement for DPICM bomblets in M30 guided rockets. It was fired by an M142 HIMARS and traveled 35 km (22 mi) before detonating. The AWP warhead will have equal or greater effect against materiel and personnel targets, while leaving no unexploded ordnance behind.[101]

In October 2013, Lockheed conducted the third and final engineering development test flight of the GMLRS alternative warhead. Three rockets were fired from 17 kilometers (11 mi) away and destroyed their ground targets. The Alternative Warhead Program then moved to production qualification testing.[102] The fifth and final Production Qualification Test (PQT) for the AW GMLRS was conducted in April 2014, firing four rockets from a HIMARS at targets 65 kilometers (40 mi) away.[103]

In July 2014, Lockheed successfully completed all Developmental Test/Operational Test (DT/OT) flight tests for the AW GMLRS. They were the first tests conducted with soldiers operating the fire control system, firing rockets at mid and long-range from a HIMARS. The Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) exercise was to be conducted in fall 2014.[104]

In September 2015, Lockheed received a contract for Lot 10 production of the GMLRS unitary rocket, which includes the first order for AW production.[105]


"Menatetz" (מנתץ), an Israeli upgraded version of the M270 MLRS used by the Israel Defense Forces Artillery Corps


A map of M270 operators
An Israel Defense Forces M270 MLRS "Menatetz" on display
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force M270

Current operators




Former operators


See also


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