Will France engage in the development of a long-range artillery system?

If there is one piece of equipment that has demonstrated its usefulness on the Ukrainian battlefields, it is unquestionably long-range artillery, and more specifically rocket-launching systems such as the famous American HIMARS, but also the Grad, Smerch and other Tornado S and G used by the two belligerents. Capable of striking at short notice in the depth of the enemy's system, these munitions are precise, fast and difficult to intercept by anti-aircraft defense. In addition, being able to be implemented, for the most advanced of them, relatively far from the line of engagement, they suffer from relatively low attrition compared to traditional artillery systems more sensitive to shell fire. counterbatteries. We can thus consider that the arrival of the first American HIMARS within the Ukrainian forces, at the end of spring 2022, played a determining role in the evolution of the balance of power on several fronts, in particular by destroying numerous Russian logistics sites .

The effectiveness of long-range rocket launcher systems is not a discovery for military staffs, including in the West. Thus, most NATO armies ordered the new American M80 system in the mid-270s, produced in more than 1500 units, including 951 for the US armies, 252 for the Bundeswehr, 64 for the British Army and 57 for the French Army. However, once the Soviet threat was removed and the Cold War was considered to be over, these systems lost much of their splendor, especially as they suffered from 2 critical defects. First of all, they were expensive, not only to purchase (almost $3 million in 1982 for the launcher alone), but also to own, the system requiring heavy maintenance to guarantee its effectiveness and the availability of the rockets. Secondly, they were of little use during the counter-insurgency combats in which Western armies participated from the mid-90s.

the lru Analyzes Defense | France | High Intensity War
The M270 is being replaced by the HIMARS system within the US armies and several allied forces

In fact, most M270 parks melted like snow in the sun in European armies from the early 2000s, and numbers were sacrificed on the altar of the country's benefits. This is how today, the Bundeswehr aligns only 40 M270 brought to the MARS II standard (Mittleres Artillerieraketensystem ), the British Army 44 non-modernized systems and the Army 13 systems brought to the LRU standard for Unitary Rocket Launcher, while these 3 countries have transferred certain units to Ukraine, and the actual availability of these parks is much lower to these theoretical values. In addition to their small number and their questionable availability, these systems are also largely outclassed, particularly in range and accuracy, by more recent systems such as the American HIMARS, the South Korean K239 but also, in a more problematic way, by the Russian 300mm Tornado S and 122mm Tornado G. If, within the framework of the next Military Programming Law 2024-2030, an effort is planned to replace the LRUs with a more modern system, there has long been talk of an off-the-shelf purchase of an imported system, the HIMARS having been often mentioned. But according to the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sebastien Lecornu, it may well be that Paris finally decides to develop its own system.


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