U.K. Places First Export Order for Guided MLRS
Britain has dropped plans to purchase a bomblet-equipped version of Lockheed Martin's Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS). Instead, the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) here said that the rockets being delivered under a $55 million order, recently placed with the U.S. government, would carry a unitary warhead.
It is the first export order for the multinational GMLRS and the first order outside the United States for the unitary warhead variant. The Foreign Military Sales agreement with the U.S. Army, announced Aug. 16, is expected to be followed by further British orders to re-equip its Royal Artillery rocket units with the new extended-range, guided version of the MLRS.
A DPA spokesman said the British military decided last month to drop plans to buy a first batch of its guided rockets carrying dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs). He said they had failed to find a new bomblet fuze equipped with a highly reliable self-destruct capability. Cluster weapons such as the MLRS have become highly controversial in recent years. The inaccuracy and the high dud rate of the bomblets, until now the only type of warhead available on the weapon, has resulted in high civilian casualties.
A Lockheed Martin spokesman said testing of the DPICMs with the new self-destruct system is continuing, but he admitted the work was "slow going."
The GMLRS program being undertaken by Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States has resulted in orders only by the Pentagon. Lockheed Martin already has received orders totaling more than $290 million from the U.S. military.
The Pentagon originally ordered the bomblet-equipped DPICM version, but last year put in a quick-reaction request to Lockheed Martin to fit unitary warheads to some of the weapons due for delivery.
Although the GMLRS, with its 200-pound unitary warhead, has been rushed into service with the United States, the weapon has yet to be certified for release. The British are expecting that to occur in time to complete delivery of the weapons by March 2007.
In late July, European missile house MBDA completed a U.K. technology demonstrator program, test firing a GMLRS rocket more than 100 kilometers, compared with the 70-kilometer-range of the latest GMLRS M30 rocket.
Von: Defense News Posted 08/22/05 07:53 By ANDREW CHUTER, LONDON