May 5, 2012

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MGM-140A Block 1

Country:  United States of America
Alternate Name:  M39
Class:  SRBM
Basing:  Road mobile
Length:  3.98 m
Diameter:  0.61 m
Launch Weight:  1673 kg
Payload:  Single warhead, 560 kg
Warhead:  Submunitions (950 x M74 bomblets)
Propulsion:  Single-stage solid
Range:  165 km
Status:  Operational
In Service:  1991


The ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) is a series of short-range, road mobile, solid propellant ballistic missiles. The series was designed to take over the conventional role of the Lance missile, providing tactical support to ground troops. The missiles closely resemble the Lance and are deployed from modified Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launch vehicles. The ATACMS Block 1 proved itself to be an effective military weapon during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. There were a total of five variants planned, the standard Block 1, the extended-range Block 1A, the anti-tank Block 2, an anti-hard target Block 1A variant and a terminated nuclear version. The primary contractor was Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.


The ATACMS Block 1 is the standard service version of the ATACMS. It is a highly effective tactical system designed to attack critical high-value targets of rear echelon forces such as airfields, Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites, artillery/missile forces, supply areas, and command groups. The large number of M74 submunitions saturates an enemy-held area and destroys both troops and equipment. The spread on the submunitions allows the ATACMS Block 1 to be used against moving military targets or against open facilities. As it cannot ensure the complete destruction of a target, it is better used to disable targets until ground forces can permanently deal with them. It can also be used to destroy a sizable group of infantry, particularly if concentrated in staging areas or by terrain. The range of the ATACMS Block 1 allows it to attack targets behind enemy lines and it can be rapidly reloaded for sustained firing. The small size of the missile and the mobility of launch vehicle system allow the missile to be positioned for maximum effectiveness.


The M74 munitions used by the ATACMS Block 1 are Anti-Personnel/Anti-Material (APAM) weapons. Each is a round ball with a diameter of 0.06 m and a weight of 0.59 kg. They are wrapped in a tungsten fragmenting wall with a steel casing and incendiary pellets. This allows the submunition to be highly effective against both personnel, who face the tungsten shrapnel, and equipment, which is damaged from the explosive devices. The area of effect depends upon the height at which the submunitions are released, enabling either a large area of light damage or a small area of heavy damage. The munitions are ideal for the destruction of infantry and light equipment (communication gear, launch equipment, aircraft, support facilities, etc.), but are ineffective against anything heavily armored.


The ATACMS Block 1 is launched from a modified version of MLRS M270 AVMRL (Armored Vehicle Multiple Rocket Launcher), which exchanges two MRLS rockets for two ATACMS Block 1 missiles. It has a maximum road speed of 65 km/hr (40 mph), enabling it to keep up with armored units, and has a crew of three. A single ATACMS Block 1 can also be carried and fired by a US Army HIMARS XM142 wheeled light vehicle.


The ATACMS Block 1 has a range of 165 km (103 miles) and deploys a single 560 kg warhead. This warhead is equipped with 950 M74 submunitions, which are dispersed over the target area. The ATACMS Block 1 has an inertial guidance system that provides it an unknown level of accuracy; however, saturation of the area combined with the short-range of the missile provides a strong likelihood that the target will be successfully hit. The missile is 3.98 m long, 0.61 m wide and has a launch weight of 1,673 kg. It uses a single-stage solid propellant motor.


The ATACMS system ultimately derives from the 1978 ‘Assault Breaker’ technology demonstration program, which developed the concept of a ground launched guided missile equipped with guided submunitions. Formally begun as the Joint Tactical Missile System (JTACMS) in 1983, the program combined the Army’s Corps Support Weapon System and the Air Force Conventional Standoff Weapon programs. The testing phase for the ATACMS Block 1 was completed in December 1989 and the missile entered service in 1991 for use in the Persian Gulf War. In 1997, a total of 1,647 missiles had been ordered by the US Army and were in production.


The ATACMS Block 1 has been exported to a number of US allies. They have been purchased by Bahrain (30), Greece (71), South Korea (290) and Turkey (120). In 1999, Greece requested more Block 1 missile while South Korea asked for 110 Block 1A missiles.(1)





  1. Duncan Lennox, Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems 46 (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, January 2007), 193-197.

Lockheed Martin to Upgrade ATACMS

July 19, 2006 :: UPI :: News

The U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a $36 million contract to update the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). The ATACMS is a medium-range tactical missile system deployed by Army units in the field. It was designed for use against major targets such as enemy troop formations and installations, and was first deployed in Operation Desert Storm and later Operation Iraqi Freedom, where 456 missiles were fired. The Lockheed Martin upgrade, known as ATACMS Unitary, will improve the missile’s accuracy and lethality, decrease the number of munitions needed for any given target, and further reduce collateral damage. The Pentagon has recently been developing more accurate weapons to enable the engagement of insurgents in crowded urban areas, and the ATACMS Unitary appears to be well-suited for this new role. The upgrade will undergo its first flight test in early 2008. (Article, Link) 

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