Many modern fighting forces have adopted some form of Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) for area saturation of the battlefield. Such systems proved their worth in the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945), particularly where Soviet trucks ("Katyusha" systems) and tracked vehicles were used to soften German positions prior to an amassed ground assault involving Red Army tanks and troops. Since the global conflict, simple conversions as well as more advanced developments have emerged around the globe to fulfill the MLRS role. Even the Brazilian Army, long content with adoption of foreign-originated military products, elected for a local solution in the Avibras ASTROS II MLRS system (ASTROS = "Artillery SaTuration ROcket System").
The ASTROS II product features a variable rocket load allowing it to be somewhat modular to suit customer requirements. The launcher pack can consist of anywhere between four and thirty-two High-Explosive (HE) rockets for in-direct fire out to 16,000 meters (depending on rocket). The launcher pack (AV-LMU series) is mounted atop a traversing support assembly fitted over the rear section of a Techtran Enginharia 6x6 wheeled truck chassis from a 10-ton class. Drive power is through a Mercedes OM422 8-cylinder diesel-fueled engine developing 280 horsepower and supplying the vehicle with a maximum road speed of 56 miles per hour and an operational range of 300 miles. A typical operating crew is three and local defense is through a 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) (or similar class weapon) fitted on the cab roof. Armor protection is against small arms fire and artillery spray. Vehicle dimensions include a running length of 20 feet, a width of 9.5 feet, and a height of 8.5 feet.
The ASTROS II is one section of a complete MLRS system that makes up an artillery battery. A radar-equipped truck features a radar-controlled Fire Control System (FCS) while several other trucks in the arrangement serve as rocket reload vehicles. A massed formation of ASTROS II trucks can provide a devastating effect on target areas, very useful in dislodging entrenched enemy forces. Beyond their obvious destructive element, the rocket-projecting vehicles can also have a detrimental psychological effect on the enemy.
The ASTROS II series entered service with the Brazilian Army in 1983 and has been modestly exported since, becoming Avibras' most successful product to date. Operators became Angola, Bahrain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Brazil has taken on both a land-based army variant and a "navy" variant for its Marine service. Some of the largest operators outside of Brazil are Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Iraq locally-produced the vehicle under license as the "Sajil-60" while also purchasing a stock directly from Brazil. Its global exposure has ensured it participation in modern conflicts like the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Gulf War (1991), and the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002).
There are several variants associated with the ASTROS II line. The SS-30 is a version featuring a launcher pack that supports 32 x 127 rockets and the SS-40 varies in its support of 16 x 180mm rockets. The SS-60, SS-80, and SS-150 marks support 4 x 300mm rockets. The MTC-300 is variant supporting cruise missiles which, if formally adopted, should broadly increase the battlefield value of the ASTROS II system as a whole.