Artillery: Smart Rockets In Demand Again

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The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is keeping production of some guided artillery launchers and munitions going. Since 2014 the UAE has ordered 36 more American HIMARS rocket launcher vehicles. Most of these are vehicles with armor on trucks normally used as wreckers (for retrieving vehicles that get stuck). The UAE has also ordered over 200 of the larger, longer (300 kilometers) range ATACMS rockets. From many parts of the UAE ATACMS can reach targets on the Iranian coast. Each ATACMS takes up an entire pod and each ATACMS carries 300 smaller bombs that can destroy armored vehicles or personnel. Also on order are 65 pods each with six GMLRS rockers each and 90 pods with shorter range (and cheaper) practice rockets. The order also includes spares, maintenance equipment and technical support and training. The UAE has also upgraded the fire control systems and other electronics on its older HIMARS launchers. The manufacturer of HIMARS and MLRS are also offering fire control and electronics upgrades to the hundreds of other HIMARS and MLRS vehicles still in service worldwide. The manufacturer also had to reopen the GMLRS and ATACMS production facility to deal with the most recent orders from the UAE and other Gulf Arab states as well as countries threatened by Russia. That facility had been closed for several years because, until Iran and Russia became more aggressive, there were no new orders.

HIMARS is a cheaper and lighter version of the original MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System). HIMARS is a truck mounted launcher, with each vehicle carrying only one six rocket pod (instead of two in the original MLRS). The 12 ton truck can fit into a C-130 transport (unlike the 22 ton tracked MLRS vehicle). The first of the initial 900 HIMARS vehicles were issued to American combat units in 2004. The U.S. Army is using most of the HIMARS, with the marines getting the rest. UAE is one of a growing number of export customers. UAE’s first order for HIMARS was in 2006 and first used them in combat during 2015 operations in Yemen.

The key to the combat success of HIMARS is its use of the 227mm diameter 309 kg (680 pound) GMLRS (guided multiple launch rocket system) GPS guided rocket. GMLRS was first used in 2004. It has a range of 85 kilometers and the ability to land within meters of its intended target at any range. This is because of the GPS, plus a less accurate back up inertial guidance system, ability to find its target. Most users buy the rockets equipped with an 82 kg (180 pound) high explosive warhead. The U.S. Army has bought over 100,000 GMLRS rockets, and this weapon has been used with great success in Iraq and Afghanistan. The guided rocket is, obviously, much more effective than the older, unguided, version and has replaced it.

As of early 2016 3,700 ATACMS missiles have been built. Nearly 600 ATACMS have been fired in combat as have over 3,000 GMLRS.

 


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