Friday, December 8, 2023

Long-range artillery: the French are thinking about it, German industrialists are anticipating it

Long-range artillery has become a critical operational issue for modern armies, its effectiveness in high-intensity conflicts having been widely demonstrated in Ukraine . And in this area, modern systems, such as the HIMARS of the American Lockheed-Martin or the Russian Tornado S and G, provide considerable added value over older systems, in particular due to their precision and a range unlike any previous generation systems .

In the West, only the United States had proven know-how in the field, the latter having developed the M270 MRLS which entered service in 1980 as a response to the Soviet Grad and Smerch. And in fact, several NATO armies, including Federal Germany, France, the United Kingdom, but also Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Turkey and Norway, equipped themselves in the 80s of this device making it possible to reach targets up to 45 km with a probable circular distance of around ten meters, and significant destructive capacities.

However, certain European countries, and more particularly France, had the know-how to develop similar systems. However, the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the drastic reduction in the sizes and budgets of European armies, did not allow French engineers to take this path. Across the Atlantic, however, the US Army began developing a replacement for the M270 at the end of the 1990s.

Intended to be more mobile and more easily projectable than the heavy M270 and its 25 tons in combat, the new device also had to be armed with new rockets with increased range and precision. This is how Lockheed-Martin developed the M142 HIMARS which was mounted on a 6x6 truck rather than on a tracked platform, and which weighed only 16 tonnes, allowing it to be air-transported if necessary. .

However, it will be 2010 before the M142 enters service with the US Army, then the Marine Corps and the National Guard. Despite the effectiveness of the system demonstrated in Afghanistan and then in Syria, it will not be until 2018 that a first European country will order HIMARS, in this case Romania for 54 units .

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The German MARS II like the French LRU is equipped with a firing system developed by Airbus DS and prohibits the use of rockets equipped with submunitions

At the same time, many European armies were shelving their M270s, such as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, while others were postponing their modernization, such as Great Britain. All European Armies keeping the M270 in their inventory considerably reduced its equipment, like France which reduced its fleet to only 13 examples within the 1st Artillery Regiment, of which nevertheless 7 or 8 would actually be operational.

Furthermore, even if France modernized its systems to the LRU standard, and the Bundeswehr to the Mittleres Artillerieraketensystem (MARS II) , they have for several years been considered obsolete, particularly in the face of new Russian multiple rocket launchers such as the Tornado. The war in Ukraine had the effect of an electric shock in this area in Europe and beyond, since no less than four new customers of the M142 Himars have declared themselves, the three Baltic countries and Poland, while other armies European organizations are conducting consultations in this area, including the British Army, the Norwegian Army and the Finnish Army.

In France, as part of the next Military Programming Law 2024-2030, the replacement of the M270 LRU represents a major challenge. However, to date, the Ministry of the Armed Forces has not yet announced its decisions in favor of an LRM purchased off the shelf, in all probability the American M142 HIMARS, or if the system would be developed by the French defense industry. . Across the Rhine, on the other hand, manufacturers have largely taken the lead in anticipating the future needs of the Bundeswehr.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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  1. Afterwards, we must not forget that the LRU remains a system to compensate for the lack of air superiority.
    Hence the interest in Ukraine, for our armies to have some of them yes probably, but I much prefer the Rafale and the ground attack

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