GMLRS Used Successfully in Iraq Battles
Back on May 9, 2005, DID noted that several new forms of smart artillery shells would begin to give US artillery relevance again in urban battles fought under restrictive rules of engagement. On June 28, 2005, DID profiled the multi-national Guided MLRS system in more detail. Now that GPS/INS guided system has been used in combat by the 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery Regiment in Iraq.
DID has details regarding these specific uses – along with overviews of the larger campaigns of which they are a part.
The U.S. Army news service reports that unitary-warhead GMLRS rockets were fired in Tal Afar west of Mosul, destroying two separate buildings from over 50 kilometers away with zero advance warning and less collateral damage than a precision bomb. The targets were two housing complexes that had been fortified and were known to house many insurgents, based on intelligence from units in the field that have been engaged from the structure or who had made contact with the terrorists around the structure. The rockets were fired on Sept. 9 and 10, killing 48 insurgents, said Maj. Jeremy McGuire, deputy of operations, Force Field Artillery, Multi-National Corps – Iraq.
Damage to surrounding buildings was described as “almost non-existent,” while the target’s destruction was described as “absolute.”
Col. H. R. McMaster, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the senior American officer for the US-Iraqi offensive in Tal Afar (and see enemy operational background), has said that the physical and psychological effect the GMLRS had on the enemy was extremely valuable. The lack of any visual or audible clues made defense impossible, while its precision meant that enemy structures could be taken out without destroying large portions of the city as the Islamist paramilitary death squads were hoping.
A related battery of the 3-13th fired another six GMLRS rockets on Sept. 11, destroying the Mish’al Bridge and preventing its use for insurgent forces in the Al Anbar province in Western Iraq. This operation is described as Operation Sayaid (Hunter), and the purpose of the rocket attacks was to safely destroy the bridges so U.S. forces could force incoming and outgoing traffic through pre-set bottlenecks with checkpoints. As to the larger purpose and aims of Operation Hunter, see this post.
Other benefits of the 227mm M30 GMLRS, aside from those already demonstrated, include the fact that it cannot be grounded due to weather or communications issues; meanwhile, its guidance systems allow troops to call in effective anti-personnel “steel rain” or 196-pound unitary-warhead strikes from much closer distances, thus maintaining a better visual of their targets and allowing for needed support in closer quarters situations.
Britain has also purchased the GMLRS, though DID cannot establish whether these have arrived in Britain or been deployed to Iraq; we do not believe so at this time. For even longer-range strikes, the M270 MLRS system can switch out 6 MLRS rockets in the launcher for an ATACMS missile round.