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Top 5 Deadliest Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) 2023

A Multiple Launch Rocket System or MLRS is a highly efficient and powerful weapon system designed to deliver e hit a specific target or target area with a barrage of rockets. These systems combine mobility, firepower and rapid deployment capabilities and pose as a significant upgrade in ground warfare. It consists of a launcher mounted on a mobile platform generally tracked or wheeled which allows for quick mobilization and relocation. Unlike conventional artillery, MLRS have a much better specifics because of their effective range, faster fire rate, self-propelled characteristic, lower recoil, higher payload and much greater inaccuracy. Several MLRSs are able to operate through satellite navigation and have very accurate positioning.

So here comes a Top 5 list of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems currently in operational service based on their range, accuracy, payload, mobility, cost, operational history etc. But before the list starts, let’s meet an honourable mention.

T-122 Sakarya

Developed and manufactured by ROKETSAN, the T-122 Sakarya is a Turkish MLRS and was produced for the Turkish Military modernization drive. It consists of two pods of 122mm launch tubes and has an in-built fire control system which can classify the types of warheads according to the targets and is able to store up to 20 target coordinates.

Variants and Effective Firing Range –

TR-122 and TRB-122 – 10km

TRG-122 – guided rocket variant with a range of 13-30km

TRLG-122 – laser guided missile variant upto 40km and can accuracy of 2m CEP

Rate of fire – Full salvo of 80 rockets in 80 seconds

Warhead – Indigenous Turkish explosive rockets, High Explosive Fragmentation rockets, Cluster ammunition, anti-personnel and anti-tank submunitions.

Operational Range – 970km

Crew – 5

Mobile System – Rheinmetall-MAN 26.32 Heavy-Utility 6×6/8×8 military Trucks are used as the Sakarya’s mobility system and have exceptional durability. The trucks have good resistance to severe environmental conditions and are fitted with add-on armour and NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) fallout protection systems). It utilizes a 6-cylinder inline water-cooled EURO 4 diesel engine capable of producing 400 horsepower and a maximum speed of 75 km/h. Moreover, it is fitted with a roof-mounted 50-calibre M2 Browning Machine Gun which acts as its secondary armament and its armour-piercing rounds are very effective against infantry, unarmoured and lightly armoured vehicles, low-flying aircrafts, drones, boats, light fortifications etc.

Cost – Unknown

Users – Since its service entry in 1997, Turkey was the main user. The Turkish Army currently has more than 140 of T-122 Sakaryas. Later it was exported to a couple of other countries. The United Arab Emirates have these MLRS just shy of 50 units while Libya has also bought more than 20 units of these. Azerbaijan has also deployed these weapon systems.

Operational History – The T-122 was a crucial component for ground invasion during the Turkish military intervention in the Second Libyan Civil War and in the Syrian Civil War too. It has also seen combat during from Azerbaijan’s side in the Azerbaijan-Armenia Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Now here comes the actual ride

5. Pinaka

Indigenously Developed by Defense Research and Development Organization and jointly manufactured by Tata Power Company Ltd and Larsen & Toubro, the Pinaka is a all-round capable MLRS primarily used by India. It is a 12-barrel weapon system and is a little hefty as an overall package as along with the main vehicle, there are three replenishment vehicles, two command post vehicles with a Fire Control System integrated computer and a DIGICORA radar.

Variants and Effective Firing Range –

Mk-1 – 37.5 km

Mk-I Enhanced – 45km

Mk-II – 60 km

Guided Pinaka – 75 km

ERR 122 – 40km (Testing phase)

MK-II Extended Range – 90km (Testing phase)

Mk-III – 120km (under development)

Rate of Fire – 12 High Explosive Rockets in 44 seconds / 40 122mm cluster munition rockets in 20 seconds

Warheads – Anti-personnel and anti-tank rockets, cluster munition, High Explosive Fragmentation (HMX) rockets, High Explosive Incendiary Rockets (Warhead weight – 100kg – 250kg).

Operational Range – 800km

Crew – 5

Effective firing range – 35-70km

Mobile System – The BEML-Tatra T813 or Tatra T815 truck family are used as the Pinaka’s mobility system which use T-930 mulit-fuel turbocharged intercooler-fed V8 engine and have a maximum speed of upto 80km/h. Although it is of Czech-orgin, India has its own licensed-Tatra assembly line in India.

Unique features – The Pinaka comes with a exceptionally capable MLRS-integrated radar guidance. It features Ring Laser Gyro Inertial Naviagtion with GPS/NaviC satellite guidance (ISRO’s operational autonomous tracking satellite) with Trajectory Correction System. Due to this, it has a target accuracy range as low as 7m CEP. The Pinaka can be operated in several modes – Autonomous Mode (under full automatic control of its Fire Control Computer), Stand Alone Mode, Remote Mode (can be controlled and fired at a distance of 200m away from the system), Manual Mode (fully operational even if there’s no power to activate the microprocessor-based operator console). Pinaka also features night-vision capabilities. Unlike most other MLRSs, Pinaka has the ability to accurately conduct missions in sloped terrain and mountain tops due to the testing and experience in the mountainous borders of India.

Cost – INR 430 crore ($54 million USD) per regiment

Operational History and Users – Pinaka has experienced successful combat deployment during the Kargil War against Pakistan. Currently there are 7 regiments of Pinaka in the Indian Army each with 18 launcher units and it is set to be the mainstay indigenous MLRS after the existing Soviet BM-21 Grad MLRS are retired. A deal of an additional batch of 12 more regiments of Pinaka Mark-II Extended Range was signed in August 2020 for 2580 crore INR. The Pinaka got its first export order in September 2022 as Armenia placed orders of it in a deal worth $250 million for 4 batteries and might see combat in the long-drawn Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

4. TOS-1

The TOS-1 Buratino is a very deadly MLRS primarily used by Russia. This entry is a bit unique in this list because it is a heavy-firing short range multiple rocket launcher capable of firing both incendiary rockets and thermobaric warheads and its fast firing action has given it the infamous synonym – Flamethrower.

Variants – TOS-1M Solntsepyok (220mm, 30 barrel), TOS-1A Solntsepyok (220m, 24 barrel), both mounted on a Russian T-72 tank chassis. The 24-barrel TOS-1A has been the most used mainstay rapid-firing MLRS in the Russian inventory.

Rate of Fire – 30-rounds/15 seconds

Effective firing range – 5-10km

Operational range – 550m

Crew – 3

Mobile system – The T-72 chassis which is used as the mobility system for the Buratino runs on a V-84 Diesel engine (the same engine which the T-72B Battle tanks use) and can produce 840 horsepower and achieve a maximum speed of 60km/h.

Role – The Buratino has been designed to suppress fortified enemy positions with very fast volley of rockets and is a menace to lightly armoured vehicles and equipment in open terrain. It was developed keeping in mind to use a very fast firing short-range rocket system. The rocket system can cover a wide area with a single salvo, saturating the target area and causing extensive damage to both personnel and structures. The Buratino’s specifications got more dangerous after its ability to fire thermobaric weapons. A thermobaric weapon works by dispersing a cloud of explosive materials in the air and then igniting it. The resulting explosion creates an intense blast wave and a high-temperature fireball, causing massive destruction. The lethal combination of pressure, heat, and chemical effects makes it highly deadly, devastating both personnel and structures. The use of such weapons, although not particularly banned, generally fall under a section of war crimes.

Cost – approximately $6.5-7 million per launcher unit

Users – Manufactured by Uralvagonzavod and exported by Rosoboronexport, the main user of the Buratino is Russia. It is used by the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops (NBC Protection) of the Russian Armed Forces. Algeria, Azerbaijan, Syria and Saudi Arabia are the export users of the TOS-1A and it has faced combat experience in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Operational History – Although it’s operational range is the shortest in this list, its rapid-firing destructive qualities have proved itself as a very deadly MLRS. Been in service since 1988 with a good cycle of upgrades, the TOS-1 Buratino has a stellar record in the Soviet-Afghan War, Second Chechen War, Soviet-Iraq War, Donbas War, Syrian Civil War and has also been extensively used by Russia in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Although with confirmed evidence, Russia has been majorly criticized due to their alleged use of thermobaric weapons on Ukrainian civilians in the ongoing war.

3. BM-30 Smerch

Designed and manufactured by Splav State Research and Production Enterprise since 1989, the BM-30/9K58 Smerch is a Russian heavy self-propelled 300mm MLRS meant to demolish ammunition depots, command posts, artillery batteries and area-wide armoured/soft targets with 12 solid-fuelled projectiles.

System variants –

9A52 – Standard variant on MAZ-79111 truck

9A52-2 – Modified variant on MAZ-543M truck

9A52-2T – Export version, based on the Tatra T816 10×10 truck

9A52-4 – Light, airmobile version on KamAZ-6350 truck with modular 6-round rocket pack

9A54 – Upgraded standard variant with a GLONASS receiver and automated digital FCS

Warhead variants and effective range –

9M55K unguided and guided cluster munition – 20-70km

9M55K5 High explosive fragmentation rockets – 20-70km

9M528 High explosive fragmentation rockets – 25-90km

9M55C Thermobaric warheads – 25-90km

R624 High Fragmentation Precision-guided munition – 70-130km

Rate of fire – A full salvo of 12 rounds in 38 seconds

Operational Range – 850km

Crew – 3

Mobile System – The Smerch uses the 8×8 MAZ-543 ‘Uragan’ as its mobility system which is now designed and developed by MAZ (Minsk Automobile Plant) in Belarus. It utilizes a D12A-525A V12 diesel engine to produce 525 horsepower and have a maximum speed of 60km/h.

Unique features – Unlike the previous entries, it is a 300mm calibre rocket system which largely increases the potential damage capability for a MLRS. It can also withstand severe weather conditions and have night-vision capabilities. Its autonomous feature helps in independent navigation and allows the vehicle to rapidly change fire positions. It is equipped with the Soviet 9M534 UAV deployment system upto a range of 90km. The precision guided missiles and rockets firing from a Smerch have inertial navigation capabilities and can also use the GLONASS (Russian alternative of GPS-equivalent satellite navigation system).

Cost – $12 million each unit

Users – The BM-30 Smerch, although bearing a hefty price tag per unit does have many foreign operators. Apart from the 100+ units used by Russia, there are 40+ units each with Algeria, Belarus, and Azerbaijan while again 30+ units each with Morocco, Pakistan and Kuwait. Other countries using them are Armenia, Kazakhstan, Syria and Venezuela. Indian Army uses the 9A52-2T Smerch launchers, a variant based on the Tatra 10×10 chassis and according to latest data, India possesses 372 of these. Based on the BM-30, Ukraine has produced more than 100 units of the Vilkha heavy MLRS while the china manufactures the licensed-Smerch version for themselves known as the PHL-03.

Operational History – The BM-30 has seen extensive combat use in the Second Chechen War, War of Donbas and the Syrian Civil War. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have pounded each other with Smerch rockets during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  It is also one of the heavy-firing MLRS being used in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.

Also Read, Full List Of India’s Air Defence Systems

2. M270

As the oldest entry in this list, the M270 is an American armored, self-propelled MLRS. Developed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, it is a highly reliable, combat proven fielded MLRs that has exceeded many performance requirements over the years and have seen plenty of upgrades over the previous decades. It consist of 12 pods each firing 227mm calibre rockets.

System Variants

M270 – original version with tracked mobile launcher and a load of 12 rockets in two six-pack pods.

M270A1 – A part of 2005 M270 upgrade programme with incorporation of Fire Control System and improved Launcher Mechanical System

M270B1- Same system with introduction of composite Rubber Tracks a vehicle camera and a radar system

M270C1/D1 – Variant with Lockheed Martin Universal Fire Control System of M142

M270A2 – Upgraded variant with better transmission, powertrain, armor protection and is able to fire Precision Guided Missiles

Warhead Variants and Effective Range –

M26 rockets – 644 DPICM M77 submunitions (15-32km)

M26A1 ER rockets- 518 M85 submunitions (15-45km)

M26A2 ER rockets – 518 M77 submunitions (15-45km)

M82A2 rockets – low-yield rockets (9km)

AT2 – 28 anti-tank mines (15-38 km)

M30 rockets – 404 DPICM M101 submunitions (15-92 km)

M30A1/A2 guided rockets – (15-92km)

M31/M31A1/M31A2 – guided high explosive unitary airheads (15-92km)

ER GMLRS rockets – upto 150km

M39/M39A1 – inertial guided surface-to-surface missiles (25-300km)

M57 – GPS-guided surface-to-surface missile (75-300km)

Rate of fire – Full salvo of 12 rockets in under 60 seconds

Operational range – 500km

Crew – 3

Mobile System – Designated as the M993 Carrier Vehicle, an lengthened derivative of the US’ Bradley Fighting Vehicle chassis is used as the mobility system for the M270 which utilizes a Cummins VTA-903T diesel engine capable of producing 500 horsepower and a maximum speed of 65km/h.

Unique features – The M270’s production line had stopped in 2003 but the system and its armaments have got several upgrade deals. The devastating power of its rockets lie in the fact that they contain 644 powerful M77 Grenades in the warhead. A drop of entire salvo firing would mean 23184 DPICM grenades in the target area. These DPICM grenades have shaped charges for anti-armor role and fragmentation for antipersonnel role hence the name Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM). M270 warheads’ destructive ability to engage area targets helps in compensating the fact that it is a slightly lower average accuracy than other entries in this list and due to their combined spread and airburst, they are more capable against dug-in troops than conventional HE rounds. The M270 has night-vision and all-weathwer operational capabilities and can fire rockets both stationary and on the move. It can be transported in C130 Super Hercules for faster mobility and foreign military support.

Cost – $2.3 million per launcher unit (according to 1990s financial year report)

Users – Although the original M270s have been retired by the Unites States Marine Corps in favour of the M142 Himars, the US still maintains a large inventory of upgraded M270A2s. More than 1300 M270s have been produced till now. The United States Army has more than 840 of these systems. Numerous countries of NATO also use it. Germany has more than 100 units while Israel, UK and South Korea have more than 50 of these units. saudi Arabia has 180 and Japan has 99 of the original M270 units. Other users include Egpyt (42), Greece, Turkey, Bahrain, Finland (40+ M270A1), Italy (20+ M270A1) and France. Ukraine have been provided with several M270s as foreign weapons support. The UK, France, Germany and Italy each provided Ukraine with more than 10 M270s. Norway which was former operator of this MLRS gave away some of their M270s to Ukraine from their stockpile.

Operational History – The M270 MLRS has seen plenty of combat in the Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War and Iraq War. More than 230 of these were deployed in Operation Desert Storm by the US and more than 6000 M270 rockets were fired in the Gulf War. The 2003 Invasion of Iraq has seen many insurgent casualties from the M270 rockets. It is also one of the most combat-experienced MLRS systems used by Ukraine in the ongoing war. However, the DPICM-grenade warheads of M270 rockets being banned in more than 100 countries by the Convention of Cluster Munitions have neither been provided by the US nor the NATO countries using M270 have been permitted by the US to give them to Ukraine.

Also Read, Top 5 Deadliest Assault Rifles of 2023

1. M142 HIMARS

Developed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, the M142 HIMARS currently stands as among the best MLRS systems due to various factors and characteristics. It uses the same launcher as the M270 but is a huge upgrade as an overall system. It consists of only one ordnance pod but can fire a variety of warheads.

Warheads and Effective firing range

M26 rockets – 644 DPICM M77 submunitions (15-32km)

M26A1 ER rockets- 518 M85 submunitions (15-45km)

M26A2 ER rockets – 518 M77 submunitions (15-45km)

M82A2 rockets – low-yield rockets (9km)

M30 rockets – 404 DPICM M101 submunitions (15-92 km)

M30A1/A2 guided rockets – (15-92km)

M31/M31A1/M31A2 – guided high explosive unitary airheads (15-92km)

GLSDB (Ground Launched Small Diamater Bombs) – a M26-rocket based weapon by Boeing and Saab, with a warhead similar to the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (upto 150km)

M39 – inertial guided anti-material/anti-personnel missile (25-165km)

M39A1 – inertial guided missile (20-300km)

M48 – GPS-guided 500-pound high explosive blast fragmentation missile (70-300km)

M57/M57E1 – GPS-guided missiles (70-300km)

Precision Strike Missiles (PrSM) – with GPS-guided area-effect warhead (60-500km)

SLAMRAAM – surface-launched variant of the AMRAAM beyond-visual range anti-aircraft missile (testing phase)

The ability of the HIMARS to be able to fire this much variety of rockets and missiles with much more range ranks it up over the other MLRS platforms.

Rate of fire – A full salvo of 6 rockets in under 60 seconds

Operational Range – 480km

Effective firing range – 10-500km

Crew – 3

Mobile System – A FMTV (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles) produced by BAE Systems and Oshkosh Corporation is used as the mobility platform of the HIMARS which utilizes a Caterpillar 3116 ATTAC 6.6l diesel engine producing 290 horsepower and a maximum speed of 85km/h.

Unique Features – The HIMARS has a 360 degrees traverse feature for its pod which makes it a very lethal system as it can fire in any direction needed. Moreover, it has an astounding accuracy of 1m CEP. It can be transported by the Airbus A400M Atlas and the Lockheed Martin C130 Super Hercules. In October 2017, it successfully demonstrated target-hitting aboard the deck of the USS Anchorage which shows its capability to deliver precision fire from a standoff range against shore defenses. Since then its targeting software have been upgraded for the utmost accuracy even when the launch platform is in motion. It supports all-weather network-centric operations for improved battlefield cooperation. The HIMARS has real-time situational awareness and battlefield information sharing. It has a milestone characteristic of data-linking itself to a F-35 Lightning to attack positions showing its multi-platform operability dominance.

Cost – $4 million per unit

Users – More than 540 M142 HIMARS have been produced till now. Apart from the US military being its primary user, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Jordan and UAE have got their hands on this platform too. Poland with 20 of them already in their armed forces is negotiating a mega deal with US for 500 HIMARS. Australia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Morocco are also expected to be potential future HIMARS users considering their ongoing in-progress deals. 20 HIMARS have been delivered to the Ukraine by the US in support of the Russo-Ukrainian War while more are in talks to be delivered. Operational History – The HIMARS has been in active service since 2010 and has seen the Afghanistan War, Syrian Civil War and Iraq Civil War. It had been effectively used in Kandahar, Afghanistan to neutralize Taliban hideouts. More than 400 registered HIMARS rockets had been fired against Islamic State militants in the Middle east warfare. It has also been very efficient Ukraine with more than 30 confirmed Russian command station and storage facility destruction, and has also slowed Russian advances. Ukraine’s reviews on it has been very positive and since then its foreign interest and demand have increased much. By early 2022, Lockheed Martin was producing HIMARS at a rate of 48 launchers annually which has now increased to 60 due to the Ukraine war with Lockheed targeting 96 systems annually.


Subhodip Das

An Average Mechanical Engineering student from Jadavpur University, Kolkata who dreams of having a fully customized AR-15 draped on the wall....very childish ain't it ! Well apart from that, Art is the one absolute thing I practically live for.

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