US NewsRevolutionizing the battlefield: US army tests autonomous rocket launcher

Revolutionizing the battlefield: US army tests autonomous rocket launcher

HIMARS launchers; illustrative photo
HIMARS launchers; illustrative photo
Images source: © US Army

8:03 AM EDT, May 11, 2024

The US Army has recently entered a new phase of testing for an innovative unmanned artillery rocket launcher, known as the Autonomous Multi-domain Launcher (AML). This launcher, which currently mirrors the HIMARS system, is poised to revolutionize military technology.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has underscored the crucial role that artillery systems play on the battlefield, prompting countries around the globe to invest in advanced weaponry. The AML's testing took place at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, where it successfully launched six M28 rockets with reduced range. These tests were a collaborative effort between the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center and the Ground Vehicle Systems Center. The AML demonstrated capabilities such as remote-controlled driving, landmark navigation, and convoy operations over several days of testing.
Highlighting the series of tests, fire trials were conducted by members of the 181st Field Artillery Regiment, Tennessee National Guard, marking a significant step towards enhancing the US Army's unmanned rocket artillery.
The project, which has been in development for four years, also saw contributions from the Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), the 18th Field Artillery Brigade from Fort Bragg, among others. Initial fire tests in June 2021 involved shooting seven rockets over distances of up to 310 miles, with plans for future versions to reach up to 621 miles.
A key focus of these tests was on establishing safe and reliable communication between the launcher and the control center, which involved adding new electronics and antennas to the test launcher. The 2024 tests are anticipated to feature a new, entirely unmanned design, making the launcher lighter and potentially doubling its firepower.
The Marine Corps is pursuing similar advancements with projects like the NMESIS and the ROGUE system launcher, which are in early delivery stages, with larger-scale production expected to begin in 2023. The ROGUE-F system, mounted on the JLTV chassis, is designed to launch the Kongsberg NSM anti-ship missiles and could potentially integrate other missile systems in the future.

These developments reflect the US military's strategic focus on potential conflicts in the Pacific, with testing scenarios simulating attacks on maritime and island targets. The use of smaller, unmanned systems aims to reduce operational costs while maintaining effectiveness. While requiring operator oversight, such systems promise to enhance the military's adaptability and resilience, with the potential for artificial intelligence to advance their autonomous capabilities further.

Unmanned systems are not limited to rocket artillery; for instance, South Korea's Hanwha Techwin (now Hanwha Aerospace) is developing an unmanned version of the K9 artillery system. Europe is exploring unmanned turrets for self-propelled guns. This shift towards unmanned military technology represents a broader trend that could redefine the future battlefield, emphasizing efficiency, adaptability, and the preservation of human life.

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