By Nikki Ficken, AMRDEC Public AffairsJune 19, 2018
WHITE SANDS, N.M. (June 19, 2018) -- After six years of extensive research, engineers at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center have conducted a successful test flight of an advanced tailed controlled missile system.
The Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-GMLRS, performed its first flight test March 29 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System entered production in 2003 and is the Army's primary precision strike artillery weapon. The current production GMLRS has control surfaces on the front end of the rocket, which contribute to precision effects but were not designed to maximize the range of the system.
The TC-GMLRS program is a partnership between AMRDEC and the Program Executive Office, Missiles & Space intended to dramatically extend the range of the GMLRS. During the first flight test, the missile system reached a distance of 112.9km, or roughly 70 miles.
"The flight test couldn't have gone better," said Brett Wilks, AMRDEC's project lead for TC-GMLRS. "We got the opportunity to start early, study the problem, develop a concept, and now we have a solution that's available to the program office. AMRDEC has bridged the gap between a need and a material solution."
The performance achieved with the first flight test demonstrates the successful design, development, and integration of new advanced capabilities into the GMLRS form factor by AMRDEC. These capabilities include an insensitive munition compliant composite motor case with an integrated wire tunnel, innovative electro-mechanical actuators with folding fins, aerodynamic efficient ogive and tail fins, novel and robust flight software that guided and controlled the rocket over 112 km downrange to a near-vertical impact within two meters of the target.
"It's truly phenomenal when you consider the complexity of the technology that had to go right the first time to achieve this performance," said Dr. Thomas Kelly, AMRDEC's Guidance & Control lead for TC-GMLRS.
TC-GMLRS, designed and built by AMRDEC, demonstrates a concept to increase the range of effects of the GMLRS system and add maneuverability for future missions.
There are currently 66 MLRS-class foreign rocket systems that either meet or exceed the maximum range of GMLRS, including non-state actors. TC-GMLRS is pathfinding the technology required to dramatically reduce this overmatch in range. Increasing the strike range of the GMLRS will greatly enhance the Army's readiness and provide economy of range and precision.
"Apart from the rocket motor, every part of the missile came from AMRDEC," Wilks said. "We did the design and analysis, we performed ground testing on the various sub-components, we constructed the mechanical drawings that were turned into missile parts. This was a ground-up AMRDEC research and development endeavor. We collected massive amounts of in-flight data on sub-component performance and environment conditions that will be very useful to the entire MLRS Family of Munitions."
Flight two will be near maximum range for TC-GMLRS, around 139km, nearly doubling the GMLRS's current performance.
"A majority of our time has been spent in the lab, running analyses, finding solutions, but when you get to experience putting a missile down range, it makes everything real," said Wilks. "When you see engineers light up, you get metal hot, there's smoke and fire, it's just fun. This has been the most exciting experience of my career."
The program is a government owned, government operated effort. This allows the Army to retain rights to the data at a potential cost savings for the future.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center is operationally aligned to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, and administratively aligned to the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. This joint alignment established a closely woven research, development, acquisition, and sustainment team to provide increased responsiveness to the nation's Warfighters. AMRDEC has the mission to deliver collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions.