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M270A1 an MLRS launcher with leap-ahead lethality.

In mid-February, the FA began fielding the multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) M270A1 launcher. The basic M270 launcher, first fielded in 1983, provided a quantum leap in the ability to ripple-fire 12 M26 rockets and (in 1990) two Block I Army tactical missile systems (ATACMS). The M270 established itself as the premier long-range (seven to 165 kilometers), all-weather, indirect fire weapon in the division and corps commanders' arsenals.

However, Operation Desert Storm after-action reports (AARs) indicated a need for faster response times, global positioning system- (GPS)aided munitions and improvements to both the fire control system (FCS) and the launcher drive system. In 1992, we began efforts to improve the M270 launcher.

Why upgrade the M270? The new launcher is expected to extend the service of MLRS by 20 years and enhance its performance. It incorporates technologies that allow for continued MLRS family of munitions (MFOM) growth. The upgrade is comprised of three systems: the improved FCS (IFCS),improved launcher mechanical system (ILMS) and M993A1 carrier enhancements.

IFCS. The need for the IFCS evolved from a growing obsolescence of electronic components and additional requirements generated by the development of new munitions. IFCS replaces the existing MLRS FCS. It consists of the line replaceable units (LRUs) listed in the figure plus GPS, a boom controller (BC) and new redundant cabling between LRUs.

IFCS mitigates obsolescence, reduces the operational and sustainment burden, enhances system reliability, reduces system start-up times and accommodates the growth of MFOM. Of note, IFCS eliminates the launcher's calibration requirement.

M269A1 ILMS. This materiel change dramatically improves responsiveness. ILMS allows the launcher to move simultaneously in both azimuth and elevation. It reduces the stow-to-aim point time of 93 seconds (worst case) to just 16 seconds--a reduction of 83 percent. Additionally, reload times improve nearly 38 percent, decreasing from 260 seconds to approximately 160 seconds.

ILMS also reduces the number of parts, lowering operational and sustainment costs. It supports all MFOM and can be operated, maintained, repaired, trained and supported in all environments.

M993A1 Carrier. The M270A1 carrier is a basic M993 (Bradley variant) that has been brought back to zero miles and zero hours. Enhancements include the addition of the power take off (PTO) pump to maintain hydraulic pressure and the Centry system that maintains precise, constant engine revolutions per minute plus improvements to the electrical system. The latter includes the addition of the improved electric distribution box (IEDB).

The M993A1 can be operated, maintained, repaired, trained, and supported in all environments.

Who will get the new M270A1? Fielding began with the 2d Battalion, 20th Field Artillery (2-20 FA), 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Hood, Texas. M270A1 battalions each will receive 18 launchers. Additionally, one operational readiness float (ORF) will be allocated per battalion.

A combination of active and National Guard units will receive the M270A1 launchers. Currently, 15 battalions, prepositioned stocks and institutional training and testing centers will receive the 327 launchers that are funded. Fielding will be completed in 2009.

New Equipment Training (NET). The M270A1 NET focuses on the operational and maintenance skills to perform tasks critical to accomplishing the mission. The basic MLRS tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) do not change with the fielding of the M270A1.

MLRS crewmen receive the additional skill identifier (ASI) of Al after completing two weeks of M27OA1 training. The Al ASI can be awarded three ways: after Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 13M MLRS Crewman Advanced Individual Training (AIT); after a transition course at the Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma; or by completing NET.

Safety Features. The M270A1 has several new safety features. Two of particular note are the jury strut safety switch and rocket pod hold-down safety switch. When activated, these switches dramatically reduce the possibility of personnel injury or equipment damage.

Maintenance Concept. The M270A1 operates under a three-level maintenance concept: operator/unit, direct support (DS) and depot. The five MOS that support this concept are 13M, 27M MLRS Repairer, 63Y Track Vehicle Mechanic, 63H Track Vehicle Repairer, and 63G Fuel and Electrical Systems Repairer. These MOS do not require additional qualifications to work with the M270A1.

The M270A1's unique launcher loader module (LLM) is being supported by interim contractor support (ICS) through September 2003. Each battalion will have a contractor field technician (CFT) to maintain a database that tracks demands, returns, issues and other data; supports training activities; and repairs the M270A1 LLM LRUs. During the ICS period, Lockheed-Martin Missile and Fire Control (LMMFC) will supply M270A1-unique repair parts at no cost to the unit. Then parts will be requisitioned by either national stock number (NSN) or Army part number (APN).

Operational Testing. The M270A1 began operational testing in July 2001. The tests consisted of both ground and flight phases where soldiers from 1-12 FA, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, III Corps Artillery at Fort Sill demonstrated the capabilities of the M270A1 alongside the basic M270 launcher. The ground phase at Fort Sill consisted of three, 96-hours field exercises firing 108 reduced-range practice rockets (RRPRs). The flight phase at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, consisted of firing many pods of M26 and M26A2 rockets as well as one M39A1 ATACMS missile out to a range of 171 kilometers. The Operational Test Command evaluated the tests, which included the full range of mission profiles of the MLRS launcher and its MFOM.

The M270A1 performed magnificently--in many cases, exceeding expectations. It demonstrated it can load, hide, move, aim, shoot, and reload in an unprecedented manner. When compared to the M270, the M270A1 reduced nearly every time standard, to include total mission cycle time, launcher lay to completion of fire, reload and last round fired to first movement. The shorter times improved effects on target and increased soldier survivability. The M270A1 demonstrated it can receive, process, service the target and move long before the crew is susceptible to counterfire.

The M270A1 easily met or exceeded its mean time between operational missions and failure. At the system level, the time it took for the system to fail was nearly double the time required in the test. This indicates a unit's personnel and funding will not be excessively taxed to maintain operational readiness.

What are the future improvements to the system? Several improvements are being planned, including environmental conditioning and the addition of an auxiliary power unit, a low-cost fire control panel (LCFCP) and the Force XXI battle command brigade and below ([FBCB.sup.2]) system.

When a repair was necessary, the M270A1's built-in-test functionality proved its value. In many cases, faults were isolated to a specific group--saving time, reducing maintenance man-hours, eliminating human errors and improving operational readiness rates.

Environmental Conditioning. The temperature of the M270A1 cab can approach 130 degrees, adversely affecting both soldiers and the electronic equipment. Plans include possible temperature conditioning for the M270A1.

Auxiliary Power Unit. An MLRS crew spends significant time in the hide position. Ideally, the engine should be off (communications equipment operational) the majority of this time. The demand for electrical power increases as more electronic units are placed in the vehicle. These demands may affect silent running time to the point an auxiliary power supply may be necessary.

LCFCP. This panel will replace the FCP and include a new display, mass storage unit and ancillary equipment. The LCFCP will improve functionality and ease of use. Fielding will begin in FY03.

[FBCB.sup.2]. Current plans call for incorporating [FBCB.sup.2] into M270A1 launchers in FY04. The launcher chief will use the [FBCB.sup.2] to display digital maps and other situational awareness information.

These enhancements to the venerable M270 launcher increase combat effectiveness, improve soldier survivability and reduce operations and sustainment costs. The M270A1 launcher ensures that FA rocket and missile fires will be an integral part of the future combat force.
IFCS LRU Replaces the...

Fire Control Panel Old FCP and Electronics
(FCP) Unit (EU)





Power Switching Electronics Box (EB)
Unit (PSU)



Launcher Interface EU, Fire Control Unit
Unit (LIU) (FCU) and Communica-
 tions Processor






Weapon Interface FCU, Short/No-Voltage
Unit (WIU) Tester (SNVT), Payload
 Interface Unit (PIU) and
 EU

Position Navigation Stabilization Reference
Unit (PNU) Package/Position
 Determining System
 (SRP/PDS)


IFCS LRU Function Provides...

Fire Control Panel A man-machine interface with
(FCP) internal and external systems
 with a high-resolution display,
 full-text keyboard, audio-visual
 alarms and 350 megabyte
 storage with bit status.

Power Switching A vehicle power source interface
Unit (PSU) and high-current power
 distribution; operates under LIU
 control.

Launcher Interface An interface with the boom
Unit (LIU) controller (BC) that incorporates
 a 'Kill Switch"; aims and
 controls the launcher loader
 module (LLM); and has system
 power management and
 communications processing
 functions.

Weapon Interface SNVT functions, ballistics
Unit (WIU) calculation processing and
 weapon interfaces.


Position Navigation Launcher position and navigation
Unit (PNU) data and an embedded global
 positioning system (GPS) with an
 interface to the guided missile
 launch assembly (GMLA).

Improved Fire Control System (IFCS) Line Replaceable Unit (LRU)
Capabilities Summary


Lieutenant Colonel Rocky G. Samek, Acquisition Corps (AC), is the Assistant Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) System Manager for Rocket and Missile Systems (TSMRAMS) for Crusader, part of the Futures Development and Integration Center, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He began his AC assignments in 1994 and, since then, has served as the Assistant Project Manager (PM) for Crusader Logistics and MANPRINT and Test Officer at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, firing direct and indirect fire weapons ranging from 60-mm mortars to the 203-mm 8-Inch howitzer. He was the Commander of B Battery, 2d Battalion, 80th Field Artillery in the FA Training Center (FATC) at Fort Sill and the G3 Mobilization Officer, also in the FATC. He holds a Master of Science in Materiel Acquisition from Florida Institute of Technology.
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Author:Samek, Rocky G.
Publication:FA Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Words:1609
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