Explore The Best Of M142 HIMARS Artillery Rocket System

Embarking on a journey through the cutting-edge domain of military technology, we Explore The Best Of M142 HIMARS Artillery Rocket System, meticulously crafted by the renowned American company Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. This High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) showcases remarkable versatility and unparalleled effectiveness, earning it immense favour among numerous militaries across the globe. With the ability to unleash long-range precision fires with unwavering accuracy, this system proves its capacity to launch a diverse array of munitions, ensuring resounding success in missions.

Uniquely designed to house either six Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets or one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile within its pod, the HIMARS stands as an undeniable force to be reckoned with, offering a minimum range of 9 km and a maximum range of 499 km, contingent upon the armament employed.

The HIMARS is mounted on a highly mobile and transportable chassis, typically a 5-ton truck, which allows for rapid deployment and manoeuvrability. It can traverse difficult terrains and quickly relocate to different firing positions, enhancing its survivability on the battlefield. The FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) five-ton truck, based on the United States Army’s design, effectively launches all rockets specified in the Multiple Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOM). Serving as the designated transporter for the HIMARS, the FMTV truck was initially produced by BAE Systems Mobility & Protection Systems in 2007 and later taken over by the Oshkosh Corporation, which manufactured it from 2010 to 2017.

Notably, the complete launcher system can be easily transported via various aircraft, including the Airbus A400M Atlas, Boeing C-17 Globemaster, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, and Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin / Explore The Best Of M142 HIMARS Artillery Rocket System
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin / Explore The Best Of M142 HIMARS Artillery Rocket System

The Concept Behind The Development Of M142 HIMARS:

The development of the M142 HIMARS was driven by the need for a highly mobile, precision artillery rocket system that could provide long-range firepower to U.S. and allied forces.

Enhanced Mobility: One of the primary goals was to create a system that could quickly and effectively move across various terrains and be rapidly deployed to multiple locations. The HIMARS was meticulously designed to be mounted on a highly mobile and agile chassis, typically a 5-ton truck, which not only facilitated seamless transportation by air, land, or sea but also ensured its adaptability in diverse operational environments. This exceptional mobility enables the HIMARS to effectively support manoeuvring forces and promptly respond to emerging threats on the battlefield.

The requirement for the HIMARS initially arose in 1982 when the 9th Infantry Division recognized the need to acquire a lightweight multiple rocket launcher as a counterfire asset. However, at that time, there existed an institutional bias predominantly oriented towards heavy forces. Nonetheless, as the Cold War era waned and interest in low-intensity operations grew, both the Field Artillery School and Missile Command realized the inadequacy of the existing M270 MLRS in terms of rapid deployment. Consequently, they advocated for the allocation of funding for the development and deployment of the HIMARS.

The Gulf War played a pivotal role in revitalizing efforts towards fielding a lightweight MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System). It became apparent that the M270 MLRS was not only financially burdensome in terms of airlift assets required for deployment but also faced logistical challenges as the launchers failed to arrive with the initial wave of U.S. troops. This realization further strengthened the impetus to prioritize the HIMARS, which proved to be a more cost-effective and agile alternative for swift deployment in theatre.

The Production: The system was initially developed as a private venture by Loral Vought Systems to meet the specified requirement. Subsequently, the responsibility was transferred to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. The system made its first public appearance in 1993. In 1996, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $23.2 million contract by the U.S. Army Missile Command for the construction of four prototypes. These vehicles were then delivered to the XVIII Airborne Corps. In July 1998, a test firing of the ATACMS was conducted by the Army.

Later, in December 1999, Lockheed Martin received a $65 million contract from the Aviation and Missile Command for engineering and manufacturing development. As part of this contract, six HIMARS were delivered by Lockheed Martin in late 2001 for evaluation by the Army. In April 2003, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $96 million contract for the initiation of low-rate initial production. Around the same time, the Marine Corps placed an order for two units to evaluate. As of 2019, the launcher system and chassis are produced by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control in Camden, Arkansas.

On April 28, 2023, the U.S. Army awarded Lockheed Martin a $615 million full-rate manufacturing contract to produce additional HIMARS launchers and associated hardware. This procurement will contribute to the expansion of the U.S. Army’s launcher fleet while fulfilling orders from international partners, thereby providing increased access to enhanced precision firing capabilities for users.

The Design Analysis Of M142 HIMARS:

Mobility and Chassis: The HIMARS shares a design resemblance with the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), with the primary distinction being its utilization of a wheeled chassis instead of a tracked one. Constructed on a highly mobile 6×6 wheeled platform, the HIMARS exhibits exceptional cross-country mobility. The chassis serves as a sturdy and dependable foundation, enabling the system to navigate diverse terrains, including rough or soft surfaces while enduring the rigours of off-road operations. The HIMARS’ mobility grants it the ability to swiftly deploy and manoeuvre alongside rapidly advancing ground forces on the battlefield, maintaining synchronization with their movements.

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Rocket Launcher: The M142 HIMARS boasts a self-contained rocket launcher module. The launcher has the capability to accommodate up to six rockets in a pod, which can be swiftly loaded and fired, or alternatively, it can hold one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile within its pod. The launcher can be elevated to the desired firing angle and azimuth, ensuring the precise launch of the rockets towards their intended targets. The self-contained design of the launcher facilitates convenient reloading and rapid readiness for subsequent salvos.

Rockets and Missiles: The HIMARS is purposefully designed to facilitate the launch of a diverse range of rockets and missiles. Additionally, the HIMARS underwent testing as a unified launch system, accommodating both artillery rockets and the SLAMRAAM surface-launched variant of the AMRAAM anti-aircraft missile. The system primarily employs the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles as its main munitions. These rockets and missiles are securely stored and protected within their respective canisters or containers until the moment of launch. With its capability for rapid reload, the system ensures continuous firing to provide sustained support for ongoing operations.

Targeting Systems: The HIMARS incorporates advanced targeting systems to guarantee precise and accurate engagement of targets. In October 2017, a Marine Corps HIMARS conducted its inaugural rocket launch against a land target while at sea, from the deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage. This successful demonstration highlighted the system’s capability to operate from ships and deliver precision fire against shore defences from a safe distance. The vehicle’s targeting software was specifically enhanced to enable effective firing while on a launch platform in motion.

These sophisticated systems include a Global Positioning System (GPS) and an inertial navigation system, which provides precise location and positioning information for targeting purposes. The targeting systems are seamlessly integrated with the fire control systems, facilitating precise firing solutions and adjustments to ensure the rockets consistently hit their intended targets with exceptional accuracy.

And most recently, according to Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, the U.S. Marine Corps achieved another historic milestone by successfully eliminating a target by linking an F-35B with a HIMARS rocket blast. Rudder said that a data link was used throughout the entire shot. The F-35 used sensors to push information to a HIMARS system about the target’s location. The target was then obliterated by the HIMARS unit.

Photo Credit: Euractiv
Photo Credit: Euractiv

Communication and Integration: The HIMARS is specifically engineered for seamless network integration, facilitating effective communication and coordination with other units and command centres. It possesses the capability to receive target information from a multitude of sources, including forward observers, aircraft, UAVs, and intelligence systems. This advanced integration capability enables real-time information exchange, significantly enhancing situational awareness, target acquisition, and overall operational effectiveness.

Quality Assurance: Throughout the production process, stringent quality control measures are implemented to ensure that each HIMARS system meets the required standards. Thorough inspections, meticulous quality checks, and rigorous testing procedures are carried out at various stages to identify and rectify any potential defects or issues.

By early 2022, Lockheed Martin had been manufacturing HIMARS launchers at a rate of 48 units per year. However, in light of the commencement of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the production rate was escalated to 60 launchers. Subsequently, in October 2022, the company unveiled its intention to enhance productivity even further, targeting 96 systems annually in response to the heightened demand arising from the ongoing conflict. Nonetheless, the establishment of new industrial capacity constraints means that it will require several months before production can be escalated from five to eight vehicles on a monthly basis.

Armaments Designed to Fire with the M142 HIMARS System:

The M142 HIMARS is designed to launch various types of rockets and missiles. The armaments designed to be fired with the HIMARS system include:

Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS): The HIMARS is capable of launching MLRS self-propelled artillery rockets, which possess partially accurate and extended range capabilities. This enables effective strikes against a diverse range of targets, including enemy artillery positions and infrastructure. The MLRS family comprises different variants that offer a variety of warhead options to suit different operational requirements.

The MLRS is a series of 227 mm rockets, including the M26, M26A1 ER, M26A2 ER, AT2 German M26 variant, and Swedish GLSDB. These rockets are specifically designed to carry submunitions and have a maximum range of 45 kilometres (28 miles) or 15 to 45 kilometres (9.3 to 28 miles).

Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS): The HIMARS is capable of launching GMLRS rockets, renowned for their high accuracy and extended range capabilities. The GMLRS family comprises various variants with diverse warhead options. The 227mm rockets were initially introduced in 2005, and by December 1, 2021, a staggering 50,000 GMLRS rockets had been produced, with annual production surpassing 9,000 rockets. Each rocket pod houses six identical rockets. Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army confirmed that the GMLRS boasts a maximum range of 80+ km. These rockets are guided by a GPS-aided inertial navigation system, facilitating precise strikes against an array of targets, including enemy artillery positions, air defence systems, and infrastructure.

The GMLRS family comprises different variants with specific characteristics:

  • M30 rockets: These rockets carry 404 DPICM M101 submunitions. Their range spans from 15 to 92 km (9.3–57.2 mi).
  • M30A1 rockets: Equipped with the Alternative Warhead, these rockets entered production in 2015. They also have a range of 15 to 92 km (9.3–57.2 mi).
  • M30A2 rockets: These rockets feature the Insensitive Munition Propulsion System (IMPS) and have a range of 15 to 92 km (9.3–57.2 mi).
  • M31 rockets: Designed with a 200 lb (91 kg) high-explosive unitary warhead, these rockets have a range of 15 to 92 km (9.3–57.2 mi). They entered production in 2005 and incorporate 51 pounds (23 kg) of PBX-109 high explosive in a steel blast-fragmentation case.
  • M31A1 and M31A2 rockets: These rockets also have a 200 lb (91 kg) high-explosive unitary warhead and a range of 15 to 92 km (9.3–57.2 mi). They come with a new multi-mode fuze.
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These various GMLRS rocket variants offer different capabilities to cater to specific mission requirements.

Photo Credit: Military
Photo Credit: Military

Extended-Range GMLRS (ER GMLRS): The HIMARS can unleash the formidable power of the Extended-Range GMLRS (ER GMLRS) rockets, designed to soar beyond the limitations of standard GMLRS rockets. These exceptional projectiles offer an extended range of up to 150 km (93 mi), enabling precision strikes on distant targets with unrivalled force. Lockheed Martin, driven by its commitment to innovation, envisions incorporating the ER GMLRS rockets into its production line with the anticipated fiscal year 2023 contract award. These cutting-edge rockets will be skillfully manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s renowned facility in Camden, Arkansas. A momentous milestone awaits in 2025 when the full operational capability is planned to be achieved, solidifying the ER GMLRS as a game-changing asset on the modern battlefield.

GLSDB: The Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) is a remarkable weapon system resulting from the collaborative efforts of Boeing and the Saab Group. By merging Boeing’s renowned GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the obsolete M26 rocket motor and incorporating a flexible swept wing design, the GLSDB acquires an impressive range of up to 150 km (93 mi), enabling precise engagement of targets at extended distances. This groundbreaking fusion of the SDB’s proven effectiveness and the M26 rocket motor’s enhanced reach represents a paradigm shift in ground-launched munitions. Serving as a force multiplier, the GLSDB provides armed forces with unparalleled precision and effectiveness in engaging and neutralizing threats on the battlefield.

Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS): The HIMARS is capable of launching the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, which are a series of 610 mm surface-to-surface missiles designed to deliver long-range precision strikes. Each rocket pod is equipped with a single ATACMS missile. As of 2022, the US military retains the M48, M57, and M57E1 variants in its arsenal. The ATACMS is specifically engineered to engage targets at extended distances, boasting a remarkable range of up to 300 kilometres (186 miles). It offers versatility in warhead options, encompassing choices such as high-explosive and cluster munitions.

  • The M48 is a missile equipped with GPS-aided guidance. It carries a 500-pound (230 kg) WDU-18/B penetrating high explosive blast fragmentation warhead, which is derived from the US Navy’s Harpoon anti-ship missile. The M48 missile has a range of 70–300 km (43–186 mi). During Operation Iraqi Freedom, M48 missiles were launched against Iraqi targets, and they were also fired during Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • The M57 missile is also equipped with GPS-aided guidance. It carries the same WAU-23/B warhead section as the M48 missile. The M57 missile has a range of 70–300 km (43–186 mi).
  • The M57E1 missile is equipped with GPS-aided guidance. It represents an enhanced iteration of the M39 and M39A1 missiles, showcasing improvements such as a re-grained motor, updated navigation and guidance software and hardware, and the implementation of a WAU-23/B warhead section in place of the M74 APAM bomblets. Notably, the missile incorporates a proximity sensor to facilitate airburst detonation. In 2017, production of the M57E1 commenced with an initial order for 220 upgraded missiles. The ongoing program is set to culminate in 2024, coinciding with the introduction of the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), which will serve as a replacement for the ATACMS missiles within the United States arsenal.

PrSM, the Munitions of the Near Future: The HIMARS system boasts remarkable flexibility, allowing it to readily accommodate emerging armaments as they are developed and deployed. A prime example of this is the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), a cutting-edge series of GPS-guided missiles poised to commence the replacement of ATACMS missiles in 2024. The PrSM introduces a newly designed area-effects warhead, with rocket pods housing 2 missiles, and an impressive range spanning from 60 to 499 km (37 to 310 mi).

As of 2023, the PrSM has entered the low-rate initial production phase, with an estimated delivery of 110+ missiles to the US military. The system demonstrates its adaptability by offering the potential to launch forthcoming rocket and missile types tailored to meet specific operational requirements or harness technological advancements.

It’s important to note that the specific armaments available for the HIMARS may vary depending on the operator’s procurement decisions and contractual agreements. Different nations may have different preferences and requirements when it comes to the armaments they acquire for use with the HIMARS system.

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine
Photo Credit: U.S. Marine / The HIMARS system is being unloaded from the C-130 Hercules.

Current Operators of the M142 HIMARS Weapon System, as of June 2023:

  1. United States: The United States Army is the primary operator of the M142 HIMARS. It has fielded a significant number of HIMARS systems across its active duty, National Guard, and Reserve units. The U.S. Army employs the HIMARS to provide artillery fire support to its ground forces.
  2. The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces utilize 12 M142 HIMARS units, enhancing their ground-based firepower capabilities. These systems bolster their ability to deliver long-range precision fires, respond to diverse operational needs, and strengthen their overall defence posture. HIMARS proves to be a versatile and formidable asset for the UAE on the modern battlefield.
  3. Jordan: The Jordanian Armed Forces also operates 12 of the M142 HIMARS. Jordan has acquired the system to bolster its artillery capabilities and support its ground forces in various operational scenarios.
  4. Romania: The Romanian Land Forces utilize 54 M142 HIMARS units as part of their artillery forces. Romania has procured these systems to enhance its operational capabilities and modernize its artillery inventory.
  5. Poland: The Polish Land Forces have acquired 20 M142 HIMARS units to bolster their artillery capabilities. The system provides the Polish military with a highly mobile and versatile artillery platform. According to reports, it is expected that they will order more of this system in the future.
  6. Singapore: The Singapore Army has also acquired 24 M142 HIMARS units as part of its artillery assets. This acquisition enhances Singapore’s artillery capabilities by providing a highly mobile and responsive platform to support its ground operations. The HIMARS system offers Singapore the flexibility and firepower required to effectively engage targets across various operational scenarios.
  7. Ukraine: In June 2022, the United States announced the supply of the HIMARS artillery rocket system, accompanied by M31 GMLRS unitary rockets, to Ukraine. Currently, 20 systems have been delivered, significantly bolstering Ukraine’s artillery capabilities. Moreover, an additional 18 systems are currently in the process of being delivered, and their completion is expected in the near future. This substantial supply of HIMARS further strengthens Ukraine’s defence capabilities in the region, enabling them to effectively respond to a wide range of operational needs.
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Photo Credit: peakpx
Photo Credit: peakpx

Operational History of the M142 HIMARS Weapon System:

The HIMARS has been extensively used by the United States Army in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. It provides vital fire support to ground forces, leveraging its exceptional mobility, precision, and extended range. These capabilities enable precise and timely engagement of enemy positions and targets.

An exemplary deployment of the HIMARS took place during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where it played a pivotal role in offering fire support to U.S. and coalition forces involved in counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Thanks to its remarkable mobility, the HIMARS could swiftly relocate to different firing positions, ensuring prompt and accurate fires in support of ground operations. This capability greatly bolstered the effectiveness and efficiency of the overall mission.

As of June 2023, the ongoing Russo-Ukraine War has witnessed significant developments. On June 1, 2022, the US announced its intention to supply four HIMARS systems to Ukraine, along with M31 GMLRS unitary rockets. Subsequently, Ukraine deployed these systems against Russian forces starting on June 25, 2022. However, the US imposed restrictions on Ukraine, preventing the firing of HIMARS rockets into Russian territory in order to avoid escalating the conflict. Due to the same concern, Ukraine has not received the longer-range ATACMS missile, which has the capability to engage targets within Russia.

By February 2023, approximately 9,500 HIMARS rockets had been expended by Ukraine, as reported by CNN. In response to the impact of the HIMARS system, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared it a high-priority target for Russian troops. Furthermore, Ukrainian officials identified Russia’s kamikaze drones as the most significant threat to the HIMARS system. Disturbingly, on May 5, 2023, reports emerged that Russia had successfully jammed the GPS guidance system of the HIMARS, resulting in decreased accuracy of the system’s rockets.

It’s important to note that the operational history of the HIMARS continues to evolve, with ongoing deployments, exercises, and potential future conflicts shaping its usage. The system’s combat performance and effectiveness have demonstrated its value as a versatile and capable artillery rocket system on the modern battlefield.

Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

Technical Specifications Of The M142 HIMARS Weapon System:

  • Crew to operate:  Total 3
  • Traverse:  Complete 360°
  • Weight:  16,250 kg ( 35,800 lb ) Complete system
  • Length:  23 ft ( 7 m )
  • Width:  7 ft 10 in ( 2.4 m )
  • Height:  10 ft 6 in ( 3.3 m )
  • Warhead:  High-explosive Blast fragmentation warhead weighing approx 91 kg
  • Detonation:  Various impact fuze options
  • Propellant:  Solid propellant ( Insensitive Munition Propulsion System (IMPS)
  • Range:  HIMARS depends on the armament type, ranging from 9 km (5.6 mi) when armed with basic MLRS, up to 499 km (310 mi) when armed with PrSM
  • Speed:  85 km/h ( 53 mph )
  • Guidance system:  Older variants are free-fall, however, the latest variants ( M48, M57, M57E1, PrSM  ) are equipped with GPS-aided guidance
  • Accuracy: The system demonstrates a very high rate of accuracy, achieving a Circular Error Probable (CEP) within 1 meter, as supported by reliable sources.

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In conclusion, the M142 HIMARS has established itself as a highly effective and versatile artillery rocket system. Its operational history includes deployments in various conflicts, providing critical fire support to ground forces. With its mobility, precision, and extended range, the HIMARS has demonstrated its ability to deliver accurate and timely strikes against enemy positions. Its participation in international operations and NATO exercises highlight its adaptability and value on the modern battlefield. The HIMARS continues to be a reliable asset, enhancing the firepower and operational capabilities of the armed forces that utilize it.

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