Lockheed Martin [LMT] yesterday said it received a $79.4 million contract from the Defense Department to develop a new variant of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that incorporates a new warhead.

GMLRS is an all-weather, precision-guided rocket that provides increased accuracy thus reducing the number of rockets necessary to defeat current targets. 

Under the contract, the GMLRS Alternative Warhead Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program will run 36 months, and focus on system performance, warhead qualification and the ability to produce it.

The GMLRS alternative warhead is unitary and will perform as a drop-in replacement for the currently fielded Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition warhead. 

“We are eager to move forward with the Alternative Warhead Program and provide soldiers and Marines with a precision-engagement capability that meets their evolving requirements,” said Scott Arnold, vice president of precision fires for Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control business. “GMLRS has been a trusted weapon of choice in current combat operations in Afghanistan, and continues to exceed operational-readiness requirements.”

During the Army’s live-fire testing, the ATK [ATK]-designed Alternative Warhead demonstrated that it meets performance and mission requirements, reduces technical risk and matches current weapon flight characteristics without major modifications to the existing GMLRS delivery system. For the program, ATK will be a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

Lockheed Martin has been steadily increasing the capability of the GMLRS over the past years.

For example, in late 2011, the company tested a new GMLRS+ scalable effects warhead, which allows users to select the range of the warhead’s detonation power depending on the target (Defense Daily, Dec. 2). Additionally, in the summer of  2011 the company tested the GMLRS+ extended-range rocket, successfully completing a 120-kilometer mission at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., an improvement in range of approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) over the current GMLRS round (Defense Daily, Aug. 10).

Almost a year ago, the Army made a $445 million follow-on contract for GMLRS Unitary rockets (Defense Daily, June 16).