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Lightweight GMLRS/MLRS Alternatives

cobra97 Rocket System

When I looked at artillery systems a few weeks ago a couple of commenters thought GMLRS was a little overkill for many situations and proposed guided mortar rounds as an alternative for organic indirect precision fires. The cancellation of LIMAW(R) airmobile forces have very few options for precise delivery of munitions unless you want to count Javelin and Apache delivered Hellfire, neither of these is indirect and have obvious disadvantages.

Reviving a lightweight carrier for a smaller number of GMLRS rounds is still an option and the ability to carry these as a module on various vehicle platforms would provide a combination of capability and flexibility.

As we are on airmobile and raiding topics at the moment I thought another option might be worth investigating, a Think Defence less than serious fancy!

How about using the 70mm CRV-7 rockets we currently fire off the Apache Attack Helicopter?

The CRV-7 is cheap, effective and can be fitted with a Kongsberg precision seeker, either GPS or Semi-Active Laser.

Mad I hear you say!

Or is it?

Both the Turkish RA-7040 and Indonesian NDL-40 system use 70mm free-flight rockets, the same type as CRV-7

They are light, easily deployed and cheap. Both can also be used in the direct fire role, a volley of which I am sure would be rather effective against certain target types and would bring much-needed firepower into the airmobile firepower mix. The Nusantara Dual Function Launcher has 20 launch tubes and a maximum range of between 6 and 8km, depending on what type of rocket motor is used. It is not a precision weapons and its dispersion means that a full volley covers an area of 200x300m. At less than 750Kg it can be mounted on almost any light vehicle, small boats, hovercraft or towed as a trailer.

The Turkish MKEK RA-7040 is a comparable system, as is the LAU97 and Brazilian Avibras SBAT, which has a similar weight of 700kg. Avibras also make a newer system than the SBAT with a longer range of 12km. These can also be used as subcalibre training rounds on the larger ASTROS rockets.

Roketsan of Turkey also make a larger 107/122mm rocket system but this is much larger than the 70mm based systems.

Do these have any advantages over 81mm mortars or 105mm light guns in the light role?

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11 Responses

  1. This is really the domain of 120mm mortars in most countries.

    A ‘smaller than MLRS’ MRL could be the Israeli Lynx/LAR-160 including TCS munitions. Its calibre was selected to be able to make use of 152mm warhead technology and. Its biggest drawback is that it’s in the very same range group as 152mm SPHs are.

  2. Hi Admin,

    Dont think the British or US forces will have much use for these systems, their adavantages in being small and portable with the ability to blanket cover an wide area of ground quickly with HE/Frag would be negated by using guided munitions which really misses the point in having the weapon.
    As Sven said weapons like the 120mm,81mm even the 60mm with guided muntions do as well, as doesnt inclued the new missiles such as spike nlos and nimrod etc.
    The MRLS only survived due the GMLS rocket with the unity warhead

  3. I think that LIMAWS(R)was cancelled basically because the MOD had to save money at the time. However, the Supacat carrier vehicle had its deficiencies. Because of senseless penny-pinching the 6 x 6 vehicle was effectively reduced to a 4 x 4, with one axle receiving no drive. After being dropped by helicopter, the vehicle would then have suffered from lack of mobility on difficult terrain and might have had to remain static in some situations.

    It also looked to me a rather flimsy vehicle, lacking in the necessary protection.

  4. A further thought. Ianb says that he doesn’t think the British or US forces will have much use for these systems. The Americans have purchased HIMARS, the lighter, truck-carried version of MLRS and have been using it (successfully, I believe) in Afghanistan. I don’t know, however, whether that is the saturation fore version of the weapon or the more recent precision fire GMLRS. Could something similar be a solution for us?

  5. It’s an interesting idea, but Western armies don’t care much for saturation barrages. Our enemies tend to hide in urban or other areas where barrages are a big no-no.

    Then there is the danger of UXOs lying around, especially if your own troops have to secure that same area (rockets are notorious UXOs).

    And ofcourse, if you can blanket the enemy with HE artillery, Tacair with CBUs (which presumably would be available during airborne ops)would be the best option.

  6. The Canadians experimented with 70mm MRL on some 8×8 overloaded weapons carrier – “Multi effects system” or similar.
    70mm MRL pods (the ones normally attached to aircraft) have been seen on anything from light strike vehicles to three ton trucks.
    The Egyptians developed a dedicated light MRL on a protected 4×4 vehicle specifically for quick laying of walls of smoke.

    Yet, in the end a long story of such munitions suggests that they cannot really convince armies. The’re frequently quite insipiring to laymen, though.

  7. I see you mention Javelin. If you watch any “combat coverage” from A-stan a pound to a penny there will be a shot of a Javelin launch. Perhaps it is a good thing that the great British public don’t realise that £50,000 firework. But it is the only organic precision weapon with the infantry.

    If you browse through any book on the Wehrmacht you will see a picture of crew crouched over anti-tank rifle on a carriage (I should go and find the exact name.) And for a while now I have thought that is what our infantry have needed. My current thinking leans towards a 57mm weapon; a good compromise with a velocity comparable to 40mm but with a smaller charge than say 105mm (used on the Stryker MGS.) I know it is only a pound of charge over Javelin’s 18lb. But if that means less civilian casualties and a more measured response so much the better. Further with the programmable air-burst ammunition (takes care of some indirect missions) and modern computerised gun laying accuracy shouldn’t be an issue.

    It takes us back to the days of yore with direct fire artillery. A 57mm gun could be placed on its own carriage which should suitable for both easy towing across rough terrains and easily air portable. (Don’t forget The Russians used to field the Universal-Carrier-esque ASU-57mm.)

    Sorry for the late entry.

  8. Do we need a lower calibre MLRS for ‘saturation barrages’ – no.

    Do we need a HIMARS type vehicle to utilize the existing Guided MLRS rockets – yes.

    In a previous post you absolutely slated the MLRS launch vehicle for its “non-standardness” etc.

    Hey, it was developed by the USA, which had lots of them, and had lots of similar derivative vehicles on the same chassis and drive train. We never bought many of the armoured logistics variant, or even of the MLRS launcher variant (although it was also the basis for Armoured Rapier).

    So, lets hand over Armoured MLRS launchers to the TA and equip the regular formations with the UK version of HIMARS as originally planned, but with your carrier vehicle of choice to fit in with your single minded and highly determined drive towards standardisation…… :-)

  9. Jed, I think that was the thrust of my earlier take on the subject, I think we already have a TA MLRS unit don’t we. So, I agree with you on that, containerise/flatrack the LIMAW(R) or HIMARS equipment and away you go.

    I came across these lightweight launchers and smaller rockets and thought it worth a post, if only to pique the interest and provide a discussion point

  10. I’d chime in with Sven (nice to do that on occasion :) that better distribution of 120mm down to infantry formations would do some real good here. (That’s also an addendum of sorts to your light-gun post. Myself I’d rather have fewer but heavier towed-gun regiments with M777, and more organic mortar capability in the infantry.) I could also be convinced by CRV-7, if conversion to a land-based platform wouldn’t drive the budgeteers round the twist.

    Some excellent Tonka porn to go with this post, too :) As another chance to bemoan an early British design lead (in rocket artillery), it’s worth looking all the way back to the early 19th century and the rocket systems used, for example, to terror-bombard Copenhagen in 1807. (Not one of the UK’s prouder moments, certainly, but quite an interesting piece of engineering for its day.)

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