Artillery: The Flatbed Terror


April 12, 2013: A UAE (United Arab Emirates) company (Jobaria) has developed a unique artillery system. The MCL (Multiple Cradle Launcher) is an armored tractor hauling a flatbed trailer on which is mounted three automatically aimed launch turrets, each holding two pods each containing 40 122mm or 107mm rockets. Thus one MCL system can carry and launch 240 rockets in less than a minute. Reloading is fast (less than ten minutes) but requires trucks, with a crane, carrying 20 tons of rockets (in six pods). The big savings is in manpower, as each MCL only requires a crew of three.

The MCL uses rockets that are made by dozens of manufacturers. The 122mm rockets are based on the Russian BM-21 design. Each of these rockets has a range of 20-40 kilometers. The 122mm rockets weigh 68.2 kg (150 pounds) and are 2.9 meters (nine feet) long. These have 20.5 kg (45 pound) warheads but not much accuracy because they are unguided. These rockets are only effective if fired in salvos or at large targets (like cities, large military bases, or industrial complexes). The longer range ones have smaller warheads and larger rocket motors, giving them a range of up to 40 kilometers.

The smaller 107mm rockets have less range (six kilometers) and are based on the Russian BM-12 design. The 107mm rocket weighs 19 kg (42 pounds) and is 84 cm (33 inch) long. This rocket has a range of 6-12 kilometers and 1.35 kg (three pounds) of explosives in its warhead. There are BM-12 variants which have a smaller warhead and larger rocket motor, which gives it a max range of 12 kilometers.

What could make the MCL truly terrifying would be the use of the GPS guided rockets that are becoming increasingly common. It was not easy getting the mechanical and electronic components to fit effectively in these small unguided rockets, but in the last few years several companies (including one in the UAE) have turned 70mm unguided rockets (long popular as aircraft and helicopter weapons) into laser guided missiles. Turning the 122mm rockets into GPS guided missiles would enable an MCL to hit over 200 targets with great accuracy in less than a minute. That would be a formidable artillery weapon.

For the last decade the UAE has been encouraging local companies to develop weapons for use by local forces and export markets. So far this has resulted in UAE firms manufacturing military trucks, guided missiles, and small arms.


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