SLU-FAE (Surface-Launched Unit, Fuel-Air Explosive)
Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) / Mine-Clearance Demolition Vehicle
The SLU-FAE mine-and-obstacle clearing vehicle failed to enter serial production.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The quick mechanized advances of World War 2 (1939-1945) taught the future war planners of the Cold War (1947-1991) the importance of expedited mine and obstacle clearance. These two battlefield hindrances could delay army forces for hours to days depending on their nature. While the Allies ultimately claimed the victory in the world-wide conflict, this experience was not lost when planning for the future wars in Europe - against a new enemy in the Soviet Union.
In the late 1970s, the United States military (Army and Navy services) funded development of a dedicated mine-and-obstacle clearance vehicle built atop the existing framework of the M548 tracked vehicle (also making up the M752 "Lance" battlefield missile carrier). This allowed the unit to be tracked and capable of keeping up with the main mechanized fighting force (presumably United States Marines undertaking amphibious assault operations). The launcher component, a collection of 30 x 345mm rocket launch tubes, was seated atop a trainable mounting over the rear of the vehicle and sported a limited retracting feature.
The vehicle was named SLUFAE - "Surface-Launched Unit, Fuel-Air Explosive) - and was crewed by four. It weighed 12 tons and held a length of 6 meters with a width of 2.68 meters and a height of 3 meters. Drive power was provided by a General Motors 6V53T diesel-fueled engine developing 375 horsepower and allowing road speeds of 60 kmh with an operational range out to 410 kilometers. The hull remained amphibious and could also manage gradients of 60% and slopes of 30%.
Testing of the SLUFAE occurred between 1976 and 1978. The XM130 rocket had a range out to 150 meters and each weighed 86 kilograms with a 45 kilogram warhead fitted. As demolition weapons, the rockets were sound for destroying obstacles and activating buried mines however range was relatively short and required the vehicle to be close enough to a target area for the rockets to be truly effective. As a second-line, engineering-minded weapon, this was acceptable (in theory).
While promising, the SLUFAE venture was not followed through on and fell to history. The U.S. military continued the concept through the CATFAE ("CATapult-Launched, Fuel-Air Explosive") system instead.