Germany to get an urgent replacement for 'MARS 2' rocket launcher by 2025

Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall have announced a partnership to develop and build a European variant of HIMARS called "GMARS."
Christopher McFadden
A Ukrainian HIMARS in the Zaporizhya region, circa June 2022.

Ukrainian Army 

Thanks to an announced partnership between Lockheed Martin and Rheinmetall, Germany will get a much-need replacement for its aging MARS 2 multiple-launch rocket systems.

Dubbed "GMARS," the new system will combine the former's High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and the latter's off-the-shelf HX 8x8 chassis. The system, once developed, will also be offered to other European nations, Defense News reports.

Germany needs to replace MARS 2

The ongoing war in Ukraine has, industry experts explain, demonstrated the demand for new rocket artillery on the continent. "Everybody is discussing what their future rocket artillery requirements are," said Howard Bromberg, vice president and deputy for strategy and business development at Lockheed Martin’s air and missile defense business line.

NATO countries, including Germany, have donated munitions such as the MARS 2, which has led to an urgent need for a replacement. On June 21, Germany recently provided Ukraine with five MARS 2 rocket launchers and their corresponding ammunition, as stated in documents released by the Ministry of Defense.

To this end, “they want to backfill those [donated systems] quickly and then move on to a modernized rocket artillery force,” Bromberg said. A spokesperson from the Bundeswehr told Defense News that there are currently 34 systems in their inventory. However, they could not provide any information on the operational readiness of the rocket launchers.

“Preparations for the replacement are underway,” the spokesperson said. According to Bromberg, the two companies have devised a solution called "GMARS," where G stands for Germany. This solution is similar to HIMARS but will come with a bigger chassis, provided by Rheinmetall, and can load two rocket pods instead of one.

According to a Rheinmetall spokesperson in an email to Defense News, the chassis for the new vehicle will be modeled after the HX 8x8, which is already in use and will allow for greater compatibility with the existing HX fleet. The new vehicle will be manufactured in Vienna and is expected to measure approximately 40 feet (12 meters) in length, although the final dimensions have not yet been confirmed. A HIMARS truck is around 23 feet (7 meters) long.

The launcher-loader component from Lockheed will be integrated into the truck's back, and the integration process will occur in Germany. “It’ll be our entrée into the European market with a European-produced version of rocket artillery … that can be offered throughout Europe,” Bromberg explained.

Also, according to Bromberg, certain parts of the system would need to be obtained from the United States through combined foreign military and direct commercial sales. Additionally, he mentioned that the Rheinmetall truck would be acquired through a direct commercial sale.

GMARS could be ready by 2025

Bromberg also explained that the companies are allegedly in talks with Diehl, a German weapons manufacturer, to produce more components locally. “We’re in industry discussions right now about what can be produced or assembled in Europe [regarding] rockets,” he said.

Upon signing the contract, the first batch of five GMARS systems could be ready for testing and approval as soon as 2025. “Then, if the Germans wanted additional capability in the interim, they could request from the U.S. government to buy straight HIMARS and then use that for a stopgap,” Bromberg added.

“We know that our HIMARS munitions will fire off anything GMARS that we do with Rheinmetall,” Bromberg explained. “We know Germany has already been approved to fire these rockets on their older systems. So this will be a natural transition as we present a new launcher to fire our munitions,” he said.

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