Lockheed and Rheinmetall attempt to torpedo Israeli PULS in Germany

Over the past two years, the Israeli defense industry has made significant commercial breakthroughs in several areas, particularly in mobile artillery. Whether it is the PULS multiple rocket launcher or the ATMOS 2000 mounted cannon, Israeli systems have won in several competitions, to the detriment of American (HIMARS) or European (Caesar, Archer) equipment, including in Europe. .

If the Europeans have no other means, to counter the advance of the ATMOS 2000 gun, than to be more efficient and more competitive, with the arrival of the Archer 2, the Caesar Mk2 and the RCH-155 , Lockheed Martin, for its part, has a strong argument to keep the Israeli multiple rocket launcher at bay from its HIMARS.

Indeed, contrary to what has been announced for several months by Elbit Systems, Lockheed, supported for the occasion by Rheinmetall, has no intention of allowing it to implement the GMLRS rockets which today equip the LRM /LRU M270 within several European armies, especially those which have turned to the PULS in recent months in Europe.

The ELBIT PULS, a multiple rocket launcher with great versatility and a low price

Over the past two years, PULS has established itself in numerous competitions, particularly in Europe. In January 2023, Denmark announced that it was turning to this system, for 8 examples, but also to the ATMOS 2000 mounted cannon, to modernize its artillery, after having decided to transfer all of its 19 brand new Caesar 8x8s to the 'Ukraine.

atmos 2000 elbit
The ATMOS 2000 mounted gun was preferred to the French CAESAR in Denmark. Since then, this decision has been the subject of numerous criticisms and accusations of favoritism from the Danish Ministry of Defense.

Two months later, it was the Dutch armies who confirmed the acquisition of 20 systems, for a little over $300 million. These two armies previously used the M270, which had been withdrawn from service for several years. In both cases, the Israeli LRM won against LM's HIMARS.

Since, Spain has announced that it is turning to the Israeli system, with the acquisition of 16 PULS and 474 Accular, EXTRA and Predator Hawk rockets, for $577 million. But it's probably Germany's decision to acquire 5 Israeli systems, by piggybacking on the Dutch program, to replace the 5 MARS II, an evolution of the M270, sent to Ukraine, which is finishing ignite the powder for Rheinmetall and Lockheed.

Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall partner to build a EuroHimars

In fact, a little over a year ago, anticipating the growing needs for renewal of the fleet of multiple rocket launchers in Europe, the two companies joined forces to propose a Europeanized version of the M142 HIMARS, which would be directly assembled in Germany. At the same time, KNDS Deutschland did the same, but this time, with the Israeli Elbit, for a European version of its LRM.

Lockheed M142 HIMARS
HIMARS has proven to be one of the most effective systems sent by the West to Ukraine.

This approach is quite common across the Rhine, the German defense industry being particularly fond of this type of OEM partnership, making it possible to Europeanize, in name more than in fact, high-performance equipment with strong commercial potential.

This is how Diehl and Rheinmetall joined forces with Rafael to offer the SPIKE anti-tank missile to European armies, quickly gaining huge market shares in Europe, based on the inertia of Euromissile and MBDA in this area. More recently, similar models have been based around the APS Trophy system, or the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic system, always Israeli, and always with the “Euro” particle.

However, if LM can admit to seeing Copenhagen, The Hague and even Madrid turn to PULS, the hypothesis of letting the Bundeswehr turn to Elbit for a system as crucial as multiple rocket launchers, convinced him to pull out the claws, and try everything to derail this rapprochement.

LM and Rheinmetall deny the possibility of launching GMLRS rockets to the Israeli PULS system

To do this, the two companies broke one of the promises made by Elbit, concerning the possibility, for its system, of implementing GMLRS rockets, which today arm the M270, MARS II and other LRUs.

Lockheed Rheinmetall GMARS Proposal
Artist's impression of the GMARS, a Europeanized version of the HIMARS by Rheinmetall

At the Eurosatory show, Lockheed Martin's vice president of strategy and business development for ground forces, Howard Bromberg, was particularly blunt on this subject. » The MLRS family of munitions (from Lockheed Martin) cannot be integrated into the PULS system “, he thus declared.

And to add, even more precisely, to the microphone of the journalists from Defensenews.com » If Germany were to opt for PULS, it would not be able to access our missiles“. This is, of course, a strong argument, particularly for Berlin.

Indeed, not only could the Bundeswehr not, in such a hypothesis, rely on its stock of GMLRS rockets, for its PULS, even if they were transitional, but it could not turn to the US defense industry to replenish its stocks, if necessary.

However, as shown by the bans on re-exports of SPIKE missiles to Ukraine imposed by Jerusalem, depending on a country as particular in its geopolitical positioning as Israel, for a strategic capability such as long-range artillery, would certainly represent a excessive risk-taking for Berlin.

GMLRS Lockheed M270 rocket
The GMLRS rocket is the main ammunition of the M270 systems still in service

With Berlin having the ambition to make the Bundeswehr the central pivot of European defense, particularly in its relations with the United States within NATO, it is likely that the arguments put forward by Lockheed will hit the mark. Especially since Rheinmetall, too, went there with its murderous little phrase, through Armin Papperger.

« Others talk about the possibility of firing some kind of missile being universal, a statement most of the time not even true, favoring the fragmentation of development funds and national selfishness, while not being used at all on the field Ukrainian battleground » declared its CEO, supporting precisely where it hurts, that is to say the ban on Jerusalem from transferring equipment of Israeli design to the Ukrainian armies.

Conclusion

As we can see, Rheinmetall, like LM, have decided to strike where it hurts, to derail the negotiations between Berlin and Jerusalem, regarding the acquisition of the PULS system.

The two companies launched the offensive at the best time, since recently the Bundeswehr had recognized difficulties in discussions with Elbit, and a possible postponement of the delivery of the 5 systems, still not officially ordered, until the end of the year 2024.

It remains that the arguments put forward by the two American and German industrialists, if they are primarily intended to support their remarks, also highlight the dangers of inconsiderate sourcing of major defense equipment.

K239 Chunmoo
The reservations and prohibitions put forward by LM and RM regarding GMLRS rockets certainly also extend to the South Korean M239 Chunmoo, acquired in particular by Poland;

Indeed, whether it is Israel, like South Korea, with the Chunmoo II, also targeted by A. Papperger's remarks, if these countries can be attractive in terms of price or delivery times delivery, they are nonetheless in theaters of operation and geopolitical agendas radically different from their European clients.

What will happen, then, when The Hague wants to order new rockets from Elbit, facing Russia, when the Russian diaspora in Israel opposes it? And what will happen, in the same hypothesis, if Seoul is already engaged against Pyongyang? Will it simply be possible to protect the ships carrying these systems in the event of a widespread conflict?

The question therefore arises of the relevance, in Europe, of turning to manufacturers outside NATO, while the situation is very deteriorated on the old continent as in the world, to save a few tens of millions of euros in the face of European or American equipment?

[Armelse]

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