WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Army testers successfully fired two new missiles from a prototype version of the service's newest mobile launcher, expanding the slate of viable munitions for the weapon.
An AIM-9X Sidewinder and Longbow Hellfire were both fired from the Multi-Mission Launcher during a round of weapons testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last week. Army program officials already completed a successful test launch of a Stinger surface-to-air missile from the new launcher during a recent live-fire test at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The Hellfire and Sidewinder tests shots represented "a monumental effort" by service officials to expand the real-world operational capabilities of the new system, Project Manager Army Col. Terrence Howard told Scout Warrior.
The MML consists of fifteen missile tubes that can fire off either a single large interceptor like a Sidewinder or smaller munitions, such as the Hellfire or Stinger missile, according to an Army fact sheet. Designed to protect U.S. military bases and outposts from missile and mortar attacks, the launcher can engage targets within a 360-degree radius of its location, service official say.
Once fully operational, the launcher will also be able to intercept cruise missiles and unmanned drones. The MML is one piece of the Army's larger effort, known as Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept, or IFPC Inc 2-I, to increase overall force protection for troops stationed at bases and small combat outposts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots across the globe.
Program officials anticipate rolling out six more prototype versions of the mobile missile launcher as the weapon system matures. Service leaders expect the launcher to be ready for the battlefield within five years.