A great mini documentary on the US Air Force Titan rocket delivery system. WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. - Over 100 artillery rockets were launched June 16 at White Sands Missile Range to test an improved version of the M270A1 Multiple Rocket Launch System.
The test, conducted at WSMR's G-16 impact area, saw an M270A1 MLRS vehicle equipped with a new armored cab fire 138 rockets to ensure the improvements didn't negatively impact the vehicle's mission performance.
"The number to be shot is equivalent of a normal high-op tempo operation," said Maj. Jaime Santiago, assistant product manager at the Precision Fires Rocket and Missile Systems Project Office. "The platform is supposed to prove out the capability and ensure the new upgrades have not degraded that capability."
The M270A1 is a tracked vehicle equipped with a missile and rocket launch rack capable of firing many different kinds of artillery rockets and missiles. This makes the vehicle a highly-capable weapons platform, able to perform many different artillery missions in support of many different Army and joint operations. With the original system adopted in 1983, and an improved version in 2001, the MLRS has proven itself in several different armed conflicts, including Operation Desert Shield and Storm, as well as more recently Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As armed conflict has evolved so have the requirements of systems like the MLRS, while it's seen several upgrades to improve its ability to put rockets and missiles on target, recent conflicts have shown a need to improve the protection the vehicle provides its crew. The Improved Armored Cab project under the Precisions Fires Rockets and Missile Systems Project office is expected to meet this goal by proving the vehicle with an enhanced armor on the cab and improving related components, like the windows.
While the core system is already proven technology, the upgrades are new, and so the Army requires the vehicle to go through a rigorous series of tests to ensure the system is ready to go to the Soldiers who will use it. By taking the system to WSMR and conducting extensive firings, the test officers were able to evaluate the improvements and ensure the new cab would hold up under the stress of combat.
To conduct the test a larger launch area had to clear then is usually needed for MLRS missions on WSMR. Typically MLRS tests involve evaluating the rockets and missiles launched from the system, and WSMR has 16 launch complexes, already equipped with concrete vehicle pads and protective berms for MLRS testing. This test however required the launchers to move between shots, so an area had to be cleared that would allow for these maneuvers without risking damage to the environment.
"White Sands is very unique in the size and availability of range space as well as airspace," said Chris Gardner, an engineer technician from the Materiel Test Directorate Precision Fires Branch Warheads Office. "The troops need to be able to maneuver, and these areas are ideal for that since they've got a lot of real estate they can use to maneuver in."
In the filed, Soldiers manning the MLRS system have to move after shooting as modern artillery radar systems can be used to identify where an artillery shell or rocket came from, allowing an opposing artillery unit to return fire. As a mobile and self-propelled system the MLRS can fire and move, getting clear of possible counter-battery fire. This firing and movement can put a lot of stress on the vehicle though, and so the test was needed to ensure the improved cab would hold up under theses conditions.
"It's different in that we're getting our hands on something before everybody else is and we'll get to pass some of this information on," said Staff Sgt. Tyler Roundtree, MLRS crew member. "As opposed to our normal training, we're really pushing the limits of fires and what these systems can really do, giving us an opportunity to really see how far we can go with this system."
In addition to its extensive experience testing the MLRS family of weapons, WSMR also is a good operational test environment for other reasons. The widely varying temperature, rough terrain and dusty environment can put additional stress on systems undergoing testing like this, improving the realism of the test.
Video Description Credit: John Hamilton Edited by ArmedForcesUpdate
Video Credit: US Air Force National Museum
Video Thumbnail Credit: Jeffagoldberg at English Wikipedia This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Jeffagoldberg at English Wikipedia Modified by ArmedForcesUpdate