‘German’ HIMARS is being developed for European customers only

Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall have partnered to develop a European-made rocket launcher. This weapon is based on Lockheed’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems [HIMARS] and aims to benefit Germany and nearby nations. 

'German' HIMARS is being developed for European customers only
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The new GMARS system is a modern wheeled artillery system set to replace Berlin’s outdated MARS 2 multiple-launch rocket systems. Howard Bromberg from Lockheed Martin’s Air and Missile Defense Business Line shared in an interview with Defense News that the weapon combines a Rheinmetall chassis and a Lockheed Martin loader component.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine against Russian forces highlights the need for improved rocket artillery in Europe. The topic has been widely discussed at the Paris Air Show. 

Germany is working with Rheinmetall and Lockheed Martin to replace its MARS 2 systems. Some of these systems were given to Ukraine last year, and the remaining are aging. In April, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two companies. Germany aims to quickly replace the donated systems, and then focus on developing a modernized rocket artillery force.

The German Ministry of Defense will provide Ukraine with five MARS 2 rocket launchers and ammunition, according to recent documents. A Bundeswehr spokesperson mentioned they have thirty-four of these systems in their current arsenal. Further details about the operational readiness of these rocket launchers were not disclosed in the June 22 statement to Defense News. 

Photo credit: Twitter

The spokesperson also mentioned, “Preparations for the replacement are underway”. The GMARS solution, proposed by Lockheed and Rheinmetall, is comparable to HIMARS but larger and with double the firepower. The ‘G’ in GMARS stands for Germany, and the system uses a larger chassis by Rheinmetall with the ability to carry two rocket pods.

Think of a sturdy chassis, modeled after Rheinmetall’s reliable HX 8×8, a product of smart engineering. This chassis, set to join the growing HX fleet, is made in Vienna and measures an impressive 12 meters, though its size may still change. For comparison, a HIMARS truck is only 7 meters, as shared by a Rheinmetall representative on June 23. 

Imagine Lockheed’s advanced launcher-loader module being carefully installed on this large chassis. This vital assembly happens under expert supervision in Germany. “This is our first venture into the European market,” Bromberg enthusiastically said. “We are introducing a Europe-made version of rocket artillery that we think will attract attention all over Europe.”

The system components will need international cooperation, sourcing from the United States. The procurement process includes foreign military sales and direct commercial transactions, including the Rheinmetall truck.  

Lockheed and Rheinmetall are discussing with German manufacturer Diehl to localize production. Industry discussions are currently looking at producing or assembling rockets in Europe. 

Rheinmetall is considering supplying rocket motors, and Diehl might contribute to warhead production with Lockheed components. Talks are ongoing, with Lockheed and Diehl progressing in their partnership.  

With the contract signed, the first five GMARS systems could be delivered for testing by 2025. If Germany wants to expand their capabilities, it could buy HIMARS directly from the U.S. as a temporary solution.

Russia announced that it had destroyed two US-made HIMARS MRLs
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Rheinmetall could have a chassis ready for integration within months of signing a contract, according to a company spokesperson. If Germany supports its production, the GMARS will reflect about 80 percent of the HIMARS munitions packages and logistics chain. It would only require three operators, identical to the HIMARS, as Bromberg highlighted. 

Bromberg imagined a scenario where our HIMARS munitions launch any GMARS we build with Rheinmetall. He noted that Germany has already been approved to shoot these rockets with their older systems, allowing for a smooth transition as a new launcher is introduced.

“The choice between HIMARS and GMARS depends on one’s needs. HIMARS has the advantage of easy navigation, while GMARS boasts a double rocket load. It boils down to understanding the threats and formulating the battle strategy,” says Bromberg. 

In Europe, countries such as France and Germany use M270 MLRS, a tracked vehicle known for its usage in Ukraine in the past year. However, the preference is shifting towards wheeled artillery systems, as noted by Bromberg. 

Lockheed’s HIMARS system is gaining attention due to this shift. For example, Poland recently approved a $10 billion deal for up to 18 new HIMARS systems and extra equipment. They are also contemplating adding 500 launchers for over 80 batteries to their arsenal. 

American 227mm M270 MLRS and M142 HIMARS strike in Donetsk region
Photo: Wikipedia

Other countries like Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and the Netherlands have also agreed to acquire HIMARS from Lockheed Martin. Romania was the first European customer for HIMARS in 2018, adding 54 launchers to their military.


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