Army locks on to Lockheed rockets

The Defense Department has awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $125 million contract for further production of its all-weather, precision-guided rocket launched from mobile ground platforms.

Lockheed will build and deliver the new Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) Unitary rockets at a more normal production rate than the first 486 rockets, which were delivered at an accelerated rate in response to a June 2005 request from the Army.

Production under the new contract won't begin until the second quarter of 2008, said Craig Vanbebber, a company spokesman. He declined to say precisely how many additional systems will be built.

The GMLRS is unlike a normal rocket because it contains fins and advanced guidance technology, including global positioning systems, that give it greater accuracy than the former unguided version, he said.

'It knows where it's going and it can guide itself more accurately than just a ballistic trajectory that's flown with the old rockets,' Vanbebber said.

The GMLRS' increased accuracy, precision and maneuverability reduce by 80 percent the number of rockets needed to hit targets and it can also be fired from several different types of launchers, the company said.

The GMLRS Unitary rocket carries a single 200-pound warhead capable of reaching targets almost 45 miles away with great precision. Its advanced technology also gives it the capability of targeted detonation, Vanbebber said.

The GMLRS Unitary warhead has a tri-mode fuze, which allows airburst, point-impact and delay detonation modes.

'It [carries] a fuze that detonates the warhead at different times depending on the target,' he said. To achieve this, the multi-mode fuze allows for three different kinds of detonation: airburst, point of impact and delay, he said.

For example, he said, in attacking a heavily reinforced bunker the warhead could be programmed to explode after the rocket has burrowed into the target or it could detonate above a ground-level target like a missile-launcher to inflict as much damage as possible.

The company received a $119 million contract in October 2003 to develop and test a single warhead for the GMLRS system. It received a $108 million contract for GMLRS production in April 2004, before the Army's request for accelerated production.

David Hubler writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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