The M270 MLRS stands as one of NATO’s most potent non-nuclear weapons, surpassing the combat capabilities of the M142 HIMARS. It possesses formidable destructive power, capable of accurately striking targets deep within enemy territory. With a normal range of 80 kilometers and the potential to reach 300-500 kilometers with tactical ballistic missiles, the M270 boasts exceptional reach.
Carrying up to 12 rockets or 2 tactical ballistic missiles, the M270 enables twice the number of hits compared to the M142 HIMARS. This advanced rocket artillery system has been continuously enhanced over time, solidifying its reputation as one of the deadliest weapons developed by the United States.
Regarded by many military experts as the United States Army’s long-range sniper rifle, the M270’s range and firepower have been consistently improved through upgrades.
Commissioned by the US in 1983, each M270 complex was originally intended to destroy a 100-hectare area using its 12 M26 Rockets. Each M26 rocket carries 644 M77 sub-warheads and can strike targets at a maximum distance of 45 kilometers.
During the Desert Storm campaign (1990-1991), these MLRS complexes showcased their immense firepower, even with the basic M26 ammunition. Subsequently, the M85 variant replaced the M77 warhead, offering the same destructive power but with a significantly reduced failure rate of 1% compared to 5%.
However, a notable weakness of the M270 at that time was the lack of a guidance system for the rockets, resulting in lower accuracy and an increased risk of unintended damage on the battlefield.
The United States developed the M30 rocket, equipped with a seeker and 404 M85 sub-warheads to address this. While reducing the overall damage, this modification significantly enhanced accuracy.
The M85 cluster warhead was replaced by a 100kg High-Explosive, allowing targeted destruction without causing collateral damage. The new warhead is equipped with an Inertial and satellite navigation system and achieves precision strikes within a 10-meter radius.
The rocket’s range has been extended to approximately 80km, enhancing its capability to counter conventional rocket artillery systems and ensuring battlefield survivability. In addition, the M270 can launch the MGM-140 missiles, recognized as advanced tactical ballistic missiles globally. Developed by Lockheed Martin, the MGM-140 ATACMS line offers striking ranges of 150-300 kilometers, depending on the variant.
Lockheed Martin has further advanced the ATACMS project, introducing the MGM-140B-Block IA, MGM-164 ATACMS – Block 2, and MGM-168 ATACMS – Block 4A variants.
Each variant is tailored for specific mission requirements, with the MGM-168 ATACMS – Block 4A boasting a range of up to 300 kilometers and a potent 230kg warhead. Weighing 1.6 tons, measuring 4 meters in length, and featuring a body diameter of 610mm, the MGM-140 missile is capable of carrying various warhead types, including High Explosive and Fragmentation warheads, delivering devastating damage over a wide area. The missile’s guidance relies on the Global Positioning System and Inertial guidance.
The United States has recently embarked on the development of a new missile with a striking range exceeding 500 kilometers. The M270 MLRS has been provided to Ukraine by the United Kingdom and Germany, with Berlin planning to deliver two units of the MARS 2 rocket artillery systems, a German-produced version of the original M270.
Together with the M142 HIMARS, Ukraine employs the M270 to counter the Russian Army. The provision of US-supplied M31 rockets to Ukraine has conferred certain advantages to their forces.