US defense giant Lockheed Martin will demonstrate an upgraded version of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) for Germany next year.
Tom H. Stanton, Director of International Business Development for Tactical Missiles and Fire Control at Lockheed Martin, disclosed this development in a recent interview with Defense News.
Teaming up with Germany’s Rheinmetall, the US-based company offers this enhanced iteration of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) called the GMARS weapon.
The “G” in GMARS signifies Germany, as this advanced system is being proposed as a potential substitute for the German armed forces’ MARS 2 multiple-launch rocket systems.
Berlin has supplied Ukraine with several MARS 2 rocket launchers and the corresponding ammunition. This has led to the possibility of the country exploring options for a much-needed replacement for its aging MARS 2 multiple-launch rocket systems.
Stanton revealed that the demonstration in Germany is anticipated to take place approximately 12 months from now, although specific details remain to be defined.
Despite the absence of an official tender for the Bundeswehr program, Lockheed officials are optimistic about securing the contract by highlighting the promise of improved firepower. This involves doubling the capacity to load various types of munitions simultaneously.
Another Lockheed executive, Howard Bromberg, vice president for strategy and business development, explained that the GMARS features a double load-out capability.
This feature enables the launcher to accommodate two Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), 12 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), Extended-Range GMLRS, or four Precision Strike Missiles (PrSMs) distributed between the two pods.
The renewed prominence of rocket artillery, especially HIMARS, in the Ukraine war has attracted attention, as its impactful strikes against Russian positions have contributed to its widely acknowledged reputation.
Recognizing a growing demand for precision in weaponry, Lockheed has noted that user nations are actively seeking accuracy in munitions like GMLRS and ATACMS, a trend influenced in part by economic considerations.
Bromberg underscored the company’s commitment to enhancing the range of newer munitions, such as the next-generation PrSM, requiring advancements in motor technology, aerodynamics, and reduced missile mass to achieve extended striking capabilities.
“With our US government partner, we are also developing PrSM Increment 2 with moving target capability,” Bromberg said.
Given Germany’s future need to replace its MARS 2 multiple-launch rocket systems, Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall are developing the “GMARS” system.
The system will mainly integrate Lockheed Martin’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) with Rheinmetall’s readily available off-the-shelf HX 8×8 chassis.
This system, akin to HIMARS but featuring a larger chassis from Rheinmetall, allows for the loading of two rocket pods instead of one. The chassis design for the new vehicle will be based on the HX 8×8, already in operational use, ensuring enhanced compatibility with the existing HX fleet.
Manufacturing of the new vehicle is scheduled to take place in Vienna, and preliminary estimates suggest a length of around 40 feet (12 meters). However, the final dimensions are still pending confirmation. Yet, this length exceeds the approximately 23 feet (7 meters) of a HIMARS truck.
Lockheed’s launcher-loader component will be integrated into the rear of the truck, with the integration process taking place in Germany. Lockheed sees this as an opportunity to enter the European market with a Europe-produced version of rocket artillery.
Regarding munitions and logistics compatibility with HIMARS, GMARS is expected to share an 80% commonality with the US multiple-launch rocket system.
Some components of the system will be procured from the United States through a combination of foreign military and direct commercial sales. The Rheinmetall truck, on the other hand, will be acquired through a direct commercial sale.
According to reports, Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall are currently engaged in discussions with Diehl, a German weapons manufacturer, to explore the possibility of locally producing additional components for the GMARS system.
Upon the contract signing, as indicated by the companies, the initial batch of five GMARS systems could be readied for testing and approval as early as 2025.
Meanwhile, a potential competitor for the Lockheed-Rheinmetall collaboration in the German program is a European version of the PULS artillery piece manufactured by Israel’s Elbit Systems.
This system is marketed through the German-Franco KNDS joint venture, a collaboration between Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter. Notably, the Netherlands has already placed an order for 20 PULS systems from Elbit Systems in May.