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 field, modern systems, such as the HIMARS from the American Lockheed-Martin or the Russian Tornado S and G, provide considerable added value over older systems, in particular due to their precision anda range unmatched by 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 away with a probable circular gap of around ten meters, and significant destruction capacities.

Certain European countries, and more particularly France, nevertheless had the know-how to develop similar devices. However, the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the drastic reduction in the formats and budgets of European armies, did not allow French engineers to embark on this path. Across the Atlantic, on the other hand, the US Army began at the end of the 90s the development of a replacement for the M270.

Intended to be more mobile and more easily projectable than the heavy M270 and its 25 tons in combat, the new device was also 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 6×6 truck rather than a tracked beach-form, and which only reached 16 tons on the scale, allowing it to be air-transported if needed.

However, it will be necessary to reach 2010 for the M142 to enter service within the US Army, then the Marine Corps and the National Guard. Despite the system's effectiveness demonstrated in Afghanistan and then in Syria, it is only in 2018 that a first European country will order the HIMARS, in this case Romania for 54 units.

Mars KMW 004 e1682425437313 Multiple Rocket Launcher | Germany | Defense Analysis
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 the European Armies keeping the M270 in their inventory considerably reduced their staffing, such as France which reduced its fleet to only 13 copies within the 1ᵉʳ Artillery Regiment, of which nevertheless 7 or 8 would be effectively operational.

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

In France, within the framework of the next Military Programming Law 2024-2030, the replacement of the M270 LRUs represents a major challenge. However, to date, the Ministry of the Armed Forces has not yet announced its arbitrations in favor of an off-the-shelf LRM, in all likelihood the American M142 HIMARS, or whether 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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  1. Afterwards, we must not forget that the LRUs remain 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 some Rafale and ground attack

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