New "scalable effects" warhead demonstrated in flight test

New "scalable effects" warhead...
A test firing of Lockheed Martin's GMLRS (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
A test firing of Lockheed Martin's GMLRS (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
View 2 Images
Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System
Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System
A test firing of Lockheed Martin's GMLRS (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
A test firing of Lockheed Martin's GMLRS (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Aerojet has conducted a successful demonstration of its "scalable effects" warhead. The flight test was carried out on November 30, 2011, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using Lockheed Martin's new Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System-Plus (GMLRS+). As the name suggests, the scalable effects warhead allows the user to select the explosive yield of the weapon depending on the nature of its intended target.

The November 2011 flight test saw the GMLRS+ rocket score a direct hit on a target 30 miles (49 km) away. However, a GMLRS+ rocket featuring Aerojet's improved production motor was previously demonstrated in August 2011 over a range of 74 miles (119 km) - an improvement of some 31 miles (50 km) over the current GMLRS round.

"The 'scalable effects' warhead was set to low-yield prior to the flight and scored a direct hit on the target," said Scott Arnold, vice president of precision fires in Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control business. "The performance of both the GMLRS+ rocket and the scalable effects warhead were outstanding, validating our continued investment in evolving the proven GMLRS weapon system to address current and future threats."

The tests, supported by the U.S. Army's Precision Fires Program Office, were internally funded by Lockheed Martin and Aerojet.

A "scalable effects" warhead?

The ability to vary to explosive power of a warhead has clear implications for reducing risk to friendly forces, civilians and also reducing unnecessary damage to infrastructure other than the intended target. Historically, the notion of varying the explosive power of a warhead has been primarily linked with nuclear weapons, where the term "dial-a-yield" is generally used. In this case, the amount of material which can "boost" the yield (for example, tritium) can be varied, as can the performance of "initiators," which allow a chain reaction to propagate.

Achieving this with conventional (i.e. chemical) explosives presents different challenges. A plausible explanation of how this may be achieved would be varying the manner in which the explosive material contained in the warhead is detonated. However, Aerojet isn't giving away any secrets on how its scalable effects warhead is able to vary its yield.

Martin Walzek
A \"great\" achievement humanity can be proud of...unbelievable and pathetic. It is pathologic to always try to improve the efficiency of killing and shows the psychopathic thinking behind those who order this to be built and of course those who use them. Hopefully humanity will finally evolve, because this attitude and behaviour is a very sad picture for a intelligent race of human beings. How about the \"happy\" reporting about the killing (with pictures) of people in any war activity, not the official pictures, but those where limbs are ripped of and babys have been blown up, sometimes along with their mothers or even in the womb. You don´t like this picture? Welcome to what this weapons actually are designed to do - kill human life. Are you proud now?
Zeb Leonard
It would seem this development aims to reduce just that...
The scale of war has consistently been reduced. Think about it - WW1 had millions of casualties; WW2 had entire cities leveled on both sides; now look at what the goal is - kill only the specifically targeted enemies and do no harm outside of them.
Yes, an achievement.
\"Evolve\"? Yes, look at who is doing this evolution and who is not. Look at those who are killing indiscriminately vs. those who are trying to limit the killing - and then talk.
An easy way to change the yield of the device? Put in more or less explosive! Seemple!
re; windykites1
You seemed to miss the point that the weapon leaves the factory with all the explosives for a full yield detonation and presumably can give a reduced yield detonation without manually opening the warhead and reducing the explosive load. I would guess that they used a binary explosive and control how much is mixed before detonation.
Bill Bennett
ahh, war, where WHO profits? yep Lockheed-Martin spot on Martin Walzek
Marcus Carr
According to, the cost of each warhead is US$90,000. Do you really think that anyone is going to err on the side of safety when the risk is an insufficient explosion and a financial hit? It\'s just another ploy for selling new weapons - this one\'s low in fat and contains 9 essential rehydrating enzymes...
re; Marcus Carr
I believe you are mistaking the price of launcher for the price of the projectile.
Marcus Carr
@Slowburn - No I'm not. If you read the article I referenced, you'll see that "Lockheed-Martin was awarded the third low rate initial production (LRIP) contract valued at $108 million for 1,014 GMLRS rockets". That equates to about $106,509 per rocket, but let's not split hairs - that was a deal struck in 2005. The launcher is the M270 artillery system.