The M270 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) is an American-developed battlefield support weapon produced by Lockheed Martin Vought. It is based on the lengthened chassis of the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) to form the M993 Multiple Launch Rocket System carrier unit to which the installed launcher component is the M270. The completed system yields an impressive level of firepower for area suppression and sees the launcher house twelve tactical battlefield rockets or missiles with varying warhead types available. Initially taken on by the U.S. Army in 1982, the M270 did not see its formal baptism of fire until the 1991 Gulf War where it proved successful in its role. Today (2014), the M270 still represents the U.S. Army's primary ground-based rocket-launching platform
The M270 vehicle sports an armored cab at the front of the hull with the positional launch pod container fitted over the rear section. The launch pod consists of 2 x 6 holders. A typical operating crew is three and these personnel sit protected in the cab during action. As with the M2 Bradley vehicle, the M270 is compact enough to be air transportable in the cargo hold of a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy or Boeing C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift transport. The M270 can launch its payload through either "ripple fire" or "full fire". Ripple fire will fire the tactical payload off one rocket at a time for a staggered result at the target area. Full fire sends the entire ordnance load skyward in seconds, the rockets set to arrive on target at the same time. As with the storied multiple rocket projectors of World War 2 (1939-1945), this makes the M270 a terrifyingly effective psychological weapon as well as a tactical one.
The M270 typically is arranged to fire the standard M26 tactical rocket. This munition features a 32 kilometer range and disperses some 644 submunitions over the target area. Other munitions include the modified M26A1 and M26A2 Extended Range (ER) variants, ATACMS Block I, chemical projectiles, and practice rockets (the latter for training purposes). Guided munitions support was introduced in 2006. Additional modernization followed in 2012.
The vehicle is driven by a Cummins VTA-903T V-8 turbocharged, diesel-fueled engine of 600 horsepower output. This is mated to a Crossdrive turbo electronically-controlled transmission system. Operational range reaches 400 miles on road at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. The running gear consists of six road wheels to a hull side with the drive sprocket at front and track idler at rear. Two track return rollers are featured.
Design work on the M270 began in 1977 and production spanned from 1980 to 2003. Variants have included the original M270 vehicles followed by the upgraded M270 IPDS (ATACMS support). This marked bridged the gap between the original A1 models. The upcoming M270A1 mark was a 2005 upgrade program with an improved Fire Control System (FCS) as launcher unit.
Beyond its service with the U.S. Army, the M270 has been adopted by the forces of Bahrain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland (as the "298 RsRakH"), Germany (as the "MARS"), Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Denmark and Norway have since retired their M270 stock.
UK models were upgraded to the M270A1 form under the M270B1 designation. This project included improved armor protection not seen in the A1 upgrade.