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The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is the newest member of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) family. HIMARS is a highly-mobile artillery rocket system offering the firepower of MLRS on a wheeled chassis.
HIMARS is being developed by Lockheed Martin Vought Systems under an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) programme. The ACTD contract was placed in 1996 and calls for four prototypes for evaluation in 1998. The evaluation phase of the development will be carried out by the US Army XVIII Airborne Corps.
The purpose of HIMARS is to engage and defeat tube and rocket artillery, air defence concentrations, trucks, light armour and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. The method of deployment of the HIMARS makes it very difficult for an enemy force to launch a counter attack.
HIMARS is able to launch its weapons and move away from the area at high speed before enemy forces are able to locate the launch site.
HIMARS retains the same self-loading and autonomous features installed on the MLRS. The Improved Launcher Mechanical System (ILMS) upgrade and electronics of the Improved Fire Control System (IFCS), now being implemented onto MLRS M270 launchers, will be standard equipment on production HIMARS vehicles.
HIMARS fire control system, electronics and communications units are interchangeable with the MLRS M270 launcher, and the crew and training are the same as the current system.
The launcher unit is equipped with an onboard land navigation system which allows the crew to remain within the safety of the armoured cabin while accurately monitoring their position.
FIRE CONTROL COMPUTER
HIMARS is operated by a crew of three - driver, gunner and section chief - but the computer-based fire control system enables a crew of two or even a single soldier to load and unload the system. The fire control system includes video, keyboard control, a gigabyte of programme storage and global positioning system. The fire control computer allows firing missions to be carried out in automatic or manual mode.
A major design consideration for both MLRS and HIMARS was that they should be easy to use by the crew under maximum stress in the heat of the battle. The computer provides “prompt” instructions to the crew through each successive operation, and also checks the status of the systems mission-critical functions. The launcher can aim at a target in just 16 seconds. The crew retains full control over the launch sequence with the fire control computer in either manual or automatic mode.
In a typical mission, a command and control post would transmit the selected target data via a secure data link to the HIMARS on-board launch computer.
The computer then aims the launcher and provides prompt signals to the crew to arm and fire a preselected number of rounds. It is possible for the crew to select preprogrammed multiple mission sequences which have been stored in the computer.
In addition to the standard MLRS round, HIMARS is capable of launching the entire MLRS family of munitions, including the Extended-Range Rocket, the Reduced Range Practice Rocket and all future variants. HIMARS will carry a single six-pack of MLRS rockets, or one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile.
M26A1 EXTENDED-RANGE ROCKET
The Extended-Range MLRS Rocket (ER-MLRS) improves the basic M26 range of 32 km to more than 45 km and the area of influence by 107%. In order to achieve a longer range, the rocket motor was extended to 274 mm and the warhead shortened. The extension of the rocket motor has resulted in a reduction in the payload to 518 M85 grenades, but the dispersion of the grenades is improved for better effectiveness with fewer grenades. ER-MLRS rocket deliveries are scheduled to begin in 1998.
M28A1 REDUCED RANGE PRACTICE ROCKET (RRPR)
In order to practice the firing of HIMARS and MLRS on existing artillery ranges it was necessary to develop a reduced range rocket which would provide safe and realistic live-fire training. The M28A1 Reduced Range Practice Rocket (RRPR) has been in production since 1993.
ARMY TACTICAL MISSILE SYSTEM (ATACMS)
HIMARS is capable of firing the long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) guided missile. ATACMS Block I and Block IA are the currently fielded systems and ATACMS Block II and Block IIA missiles are in development.
The combat-proven Block I missile delivers 950 anti-personnel anti-materiel (AP/AM) baseball-sized M74 submunitions (or bomblets) to ranges exceeding 165 km. ATACMS Block I missile was successfully deployed in Operation Desert Storm.
The Block IA missile, which was operational by the end of 1997, doubles that range to more than 300 km by reducing the payload to 300 bomblets, and is augmented by a global positioning system (GPS).
The Block II missile, scheduled to be operational by October 2000, also has an improved missile guidance section with GPS, and delivers 13 BAT (Brilliant Anti-Tank) submissiles to Block I ranges to defeat moving armoured targets.
The Block IIA missile, scheduled to be operational by the year 2003, will deliver six improved BAT submissiles to the same ranges as the Block IA missile.
HIMARS will carry a single six-pack of rockets on the Armys new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) 6x6 all-wheel drive 5-ton truck supplied by Stewart and Stevenson, Texas. The HIMARS vehicle weighs approximately 24,000 pounds compared to more than 44,000 pounds for the MLRS M270 launcher.
HIMARS is transportable on the C-130 aircraft, allowing the system to be moved into areas previously inaccessible to the larger C-141 and C-5 aircraft required for the M270 launch vehicle.