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Gear + Tech

Now & Then: Rocket Launchers

Introduced in WWII, this weaponry has since advanced in mobility, range and accuracy to fulfill its futuristic promise
Photo by U.S. Signal Corps
Photo by U.S. Signal Corps


Developed to battle the Axis powers, the T34 Calliope (pronounced kuh-LY-uh-pee) rocket launcher was mounted onto an M4 Sherman tank for mobility. Fitted to the tank turret, the launcher could rotate 360 degrees and fire at the enemy with single rockets, groups of six or in a continuous barrage of 60. Once fired, the rockets could travel distances of over 2.5 miles, raining explosives on enemy equipment and troops. Because of its impressive stream of fire, the T34 was named after a musical instrument—the calliope, a steam organ. However, as the rockets had no guidance system, they were aimed with tank sights, which reduced their accuracy. Later variants, including the T34E1 and T34E2, carried more rockets and heavier payloads but didn’t represent any leap in capability. 

Crew:  5

Length:  7.5-foot launcher (19.36 feet 
with M4 platform) 


Width:  8.6-foot launcher 


Combat-Loaded Weight:  1 ton (31 tons with M4 platform) 


Traversing mechanism:  
Tank turret controls

Elevating mechanism:  
75 mm gun controls 

Sighting mechanism:  Tank sights  

Firing mechanism:  Electric, single or ripple fire 

Munition:  60 M8 4.5 inch rockets (4.3 lb. warhead)



The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is a highly mobile multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS). Transportable by C-130, it can arrive and fire within 10 minutes on ground. This all-weather, long-range system can easily target enemy artillery, suppress air defense systems and eliminate troop formations, but its ability to deliver precision strikes in urban and mountainous areas has proven particularly valuable in Iraq and Afghanistan. HIMARS can fire up to six guided MLRS (GMLRS) rockets or one tactical missile system (TACMS) with minimal collateral damage. It can also be rapidly reloaded to provide the Guard with constant firepower. After firing its payload, HIMARS moves away at high speeds from the launch site, making counterfire ineffective—a technique called “shoot and scoot.” The 1st Battalion, 181st Field Artillery, Tennessee National Guard, and 158th Field Artillery, Oklahoma National Guard, were the first two Guard units to be fielded with HIMARS.

Crew:  3

Length:  25.5 feet

Width:  8.2 feet

Combat-Loaded Weight:  18 tons

Base weight:  14.5 tons

Guidance:  GPS

Munitions:  6 M31 GMLRS (200-lb. warhead) or 1 Block IVA TACMS (500-lb. warhead)