Thu. May 23rd, 2024

The US Army is testing an unmanned HIMARS missile system: a threefold increase in firepower

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar May15,2024

US Army Tests Unmanned HIMARS Missile Launcher: Triple Firepower

The US Army conducted the first tests of the Autonomous Launcher (AML), an unmanned variant of the M142 HIMARS missile launcher, at the Yuma Range in Yuma Arizona Developed by the U.S. Army Air Combat Capability Development Center and the Land Vehicle Systems Center, the AML successfully launched six reduced-range rockets (RRPR) during the test.


During testing, the Autonomous Multi-Domain Launcher (AML) prototype demonstrated its mobility in a variety of mission profiles, including remote control, waypoint navigation, and convoy operations. Notably, another live-fire test of the AML prototype is scheduled for this summer as part of the biannual joint exercise Valiant Shield 24, one of the largest US military exercises conducted in the Pacific region.

An important aspect of the AML system is its compatibility with existing ammunition containers used in the M142 HIMARS and the M270 multiple rocket launcher system (RMS), allowing for interoperability and access to different munitions. These include precision-guided missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, and the reduced-range practical rocket (RRPR), a training munition without warheads and guidance systems with a maximum range of approximately 15 kilometers.

A notable feature of the AML Unmanned Launcher is its truncated cockpit section, which visually distinguishes it from the conventional M142 HIMARS. Despite its stand-alone capabilities, the AML can be operated remotely on site or at a distance using remote control techniques, providing flexibility in a variety of operational scenarios. Features such as convoy operations, autonomous waypoint navigation, remote turret control and fire control are included in the AML, which is projected to give the US military a threefold increase in firepower.

From an operational efficiency perspective, a fleet of anti-missile missiles that can be transported by the C-130 aircraft presents potential advantages in reducing personnel requirements compared to manned launch systems. Compared to a traditional US Army HIMARS unit, fewer soldiers could operate the same number of AMLs, potentially reducing vulnerability to enemy counterattacks.

The US military recognizes the potential utility of AML in future conflicts, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, where strategic competition with China is a focal point. The AML's rapid deployment capabilities, along with its ability to disrupt adversary anti-access and air defense (A2/AD) strategies, could position it as an important component of the US military's modernization efforts. In addition, there is a global trend towards unmanned military vehicles, as evidenced by the war in Ukraine.

For example, Russia plans to develop an autonomous 300-mm multiple rocket launcher system (MSRS) based on the BM-30 “Smerch” MSRS platforms. and “Tornado-C”, aimed at the modernization of jet systems using previous experience. In addition, "Uralvagonzavod" (UVZ) conducts tests of the unmanned combat robot “Sturm” built on the chassis of the T-72B3 tank, and “Rostec” develops remote-controlled infantry fighting vehicle (BMP) BMP-3 “Sinitsa” for possible deployment in Ukraine.

In addition, the US Marine Corps is also pursuing similar capabilities with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)-based Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires), for similar reasons. Marine ROGUE-Fires vehicles configured to launch Naval Strike Missile (NSM) anti-ship cruise missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles are currently under development, and a type capable of using the same ammunition containers as the M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS is being discussed. In addition, AML development aligns with broader US initiatives to enhance long-range ground strike capabilities, with additional variants and derivatives of the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) that could complement AML capabilities.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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