WASHINGTON — The Army and Lockheed Martin are preparing for the first test firing of the extended-range version of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS), which will double the rocket’s reach.
The goal is get the current GMLRS rocket out to 150-plus kilometers, Gaylia Campbell, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of precisions fires and combat maneuver systems, told Defense News in an interview leading up to the Association of the U.S. Army’s virtual conference.
The flight test is expected in mid-November at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and will be the first of several engineering and manufacturing development-phase tests ahead of a production decision.
“GMLRS is kind of the backbone of the field artillery” and it’s a cost effective way for the Army and its allies with the system to have more flexibility when it comes to reach, Campbell said. “If you think about certain regions of the world, like Poland and Romania, and the reach that a 75-kilometer distance away system gives them today and being able to take that to 150 kilometers gives them a lot more flexibility in how they operate and where they position their forces,” she said.
The design to extend the range of GMLRS includes a modernized pod expected to improve reload operations, which will still contain six rounds per pod, Campbell said. The pod will be able to accommodate both legacy and extended-range rockets.
The GMLRS rounds come in two variants: the Guided Unitary and the Guided Alternative Warhead.
The new pods and the extended-range GMLRS will be compatible with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and MLRS M270 launchers, Campbell said.
To double the range of the system, Lockheed used advances in technologies and a “slightly” increased rocket motor size. “We’re doing a tail-driven guidance as well,” she noted.
The Army and Lockheed will continue a test campaign through fiscal 2021 with a goal of getting into production beginning in early FY22, Campbell said.
Lockheed is planning to produce the new extended-range rockets at its Camden, Arkansas, facility.
According to a company statement, Lockheed has produced more than 45,000 GMLRS rounds and is under contract to provide another 9,000 GMLRS Unitary and AW rockets as well as over 300 Low-Cost- Reduced-Range Practice Rockets for both U.S. Army and international customers.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.