Kelly Flynn, Public Affairs Specialist of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Systems Command’s Office of Public Affairs & Communication replied to Naval News and called the white trailer the “Long-Range Fires Launcher (LRF).” The photo was first spotted on the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet’s Facebook page. The right trailer has what appears to be a tan generator before the VLS cells whereas the left trailer does not.
Naval News asked the USMC about the unmanned JLTV Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the unmanned JLTV ROGUE-FIRES, and the LRF.
As in May 2022, the USMC declined to discuss the LRF launcher’s configuration and the number of missiles the LRF can carry. “The capabilities of the Tomahawk launcher system are not being publicly disclosed at this time,” wrote Kelly Flynn via email at the end of September 2022. However, the Marines did reply to other anti-ship long-range precision fires questions by Naval News.
Naval News: Did NMESIS fire the HIMARS rockets a la ROGUE FIRES in a test?
USMC: “The Marine Corps tested a MFOM (Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Family of Munitions) Launch Unit mounted on a ROGUE-FIRES chassis in 2020. While it uses the same chassis as NMESIS, this is a different launch unit and therefore a different launcher from NMESIS. ROGUE-FIRES launched a Reduced-Range Practice Rocket (RRPR) which is a HIMARS rocket.”
Naval News: Can the USMC please explain what vehicle (MTVR?) was used to fire
the Loitering Munitions and what type of Loitering Munitions (HERO-120?)
USMC: “This is an upcoming test. Additional information cannot be shared at
this time.” [Author’s note: Marine Corps Loitering Munitions will be a different launch vehicle than the ones discussed here].
Naval News: Does the NMESIS exist in any other form besides firing Naval Strike
USMC: “NMESIS is specific to the Naval Strike Missile launcher configuration
which consists of a ROGUE-Fires chassis and an NSM Launch Unit. The Marine
Corps is considering other launch units.”
“The Marine Corps executed a successful Tomahawk cruise missile launch from its new Long Range Fires launcher, Aug. 17 at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, California. This test was not part of RIMPAC.”
Kelly Flynn, Public Affairs Specialist of the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command’s Office of Public Affairs & Communication
Naval News and Author’s Comments
While the USMC would not discuss the configuration of the Long-Range Fires Launcher, a previous story on Naval News showed that the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) cab and Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) trailer are transportable by C-130 with some preparations as seen here. It is highly unlikely that the entire cab and VLS trailer can fit inside a single C-130J aircraft as one unit for Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) since the “Strike (Module) Length VLS” is 25 feet long (7.6 meters) and the C-130J’s cargo hold is 41 feet (12.5 meters) long, 9 feet (2.74 m) high, and 10 feet (3.05 meters) wide. Furthermore, the MTVR Mark 31 cab tractor is 24.6 feet long (7.5 meters) and weighs in at 28,000 pounds, making the cab and VLS trailer too long to fit in a C-130J as one unit. The C-130J can carry loads up to 37,216 pounds.
Only the “Strike (Module) Length VLS” can fire the Tomahawk subsonic cruise missile and ballistic defense missiles (the shorter “Tactical (Module) Length VLS” is 22 feet (6.7 meters) and cannot fit the longer missiles). However, the C-130J-30’s cargo hold is 15 feet longer to 56 feet (16.9 meters) due to a fuselage extension and can carry 44,000 pounds (19,958 kilograms), but as of Fall 2022, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marines do not have stretched C-130J-30s.
The author speculates that the VLS trailer and Mark 31 tractor prime mover will have to be transported in two separate C-130Js due to length and payload constraints with a single C-130J. The tractor and trailer will then be mated at the landing site. It may hypothetically be possible to transport the tractor and trailer as one RO/RO unit with an elongated C-130J-30 for faster deployment, if the U.S. military had C-130J-30s. This does not take into account tractor-trailer RO/RO from amphibious ships. landing craft, or the upcoming Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) where the tractor-trailer combination might RO/RO straight into the destination.
It is not known if the top photo released by the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) shows “Strike Length” or “Tactical Length” VLS derivative cells, again the later not being able to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles and Standard ballistic missile defense missiles with boosters due to the shorter VLS cell length. The author speculates that the VLS trailer has four Mark 41 cells based on photographic evidence.
For speculative discussion purposes, this might also mean that the unmanned ROGUE-FIRES JLTV derivative might be able to fire the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) currently under development. Two PrSMs can fit in a “six-pack” of HIMARS ballistic rockets, giving the USMC long-range anti-ship missiles that can target moving vessels out to 650 kilometers (403 miles), and be C-130 transportable, without requiring a 6×6 HIMARS FMTV-based launcher. The ROGUE-FIRES and NMESIS unmanned JLTV and FMTV HIMARS are C-130 transportable. Thus, for Force Design 2030, the USMC will soon have four launchers—two are unmanned JLTVs, one is a manned FMTV HIMARS, and one is a towed VLS-cell trailer. This does not include the under-development OpFires or Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic missile launchers.
Naval News reached out to Mark Cancian, retired U.S. Marine colonel and Senior Advisor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for his comments on the Long-Range Fires Launcher photo.
“Our wargames showed that land-based NSM [Naval Strike Missile] was too short-ranged in most situations. Prewar limits on access and the wartime Chinese defensive bubble kept the missiles from getting close enough to engage Chinese ships. Land-based Tomahawk would allow the additional range needed to engage Chinese ships from more accessible bases. Further, these bases are easier to resupply, so the launchers do not become useless after the first salvo. An additional advantage of containerized missiles is that they can be put onto a wide variety of vessels, from unmanned to civilian cargo ships, thus greatly increasing the number of platforms that might participate in a conflict.”
Mark Cancian, Senior Advisor to CSIS
The Maritime Tomahawk Strike Missile is a precision-guided subsonic cruise missile that is reprogrammable in flight (can change its flight path after launch) and can strike targets from 1,000+ miles (1,609 kilometers) away.