ILA 2022: German Competitor of the HIMARS System

JFS-M Launcher on a wheeled platform. ILA 2022.
Photo. J. Sabak

MBDA Deutschland has developed the JFS-M rocket artillery system with a range exceeding 300 kilometers, to meet the Bundeswehr's demand for modernized rocket artillery assets. First, the system would be used to upgrade the MARS II launchers - a German variant of the M270 MLRS system. A lighter variant on the IVECO Trakker truck (6x6) has been presented during the ILA 2022 show.

Only a model of the effector and the launcher have been presented. The Joint Fire Support Missile is still a concept, but the development is at an advanced stage. The effector is based on the MBDA's experience gathered during the development of the Taurus KEPD 350 system - this shows in the design layout and the guidance system that combines GPS and INS, and optoelectronics that handle the terminal phase of the engagement. The guidance system's software is to use AI for automatic target recognition. This is to render the missile resistant to countermeasures. JFS-M is a low-RCS design, thanks to its shape and RAM coating.

More importantly, the missile may use a non-linear route to reach the target, with programmable heading, altitudes, and velocities, within the range from Ma 0.4 to Ma 0.9. The JFS-M rockets are to feature a datalink allowing for remote mission planning and establishment of communications between the launched effectors, to coordinate the strike and utilize real-time intel fed from the reconnaissance assets remaining in the target area. Another JFS-M effector may be used for that purpose, as it is planned that a reconnaissance/EW variant is developed. The manufacturer also wants to develop a variant featuring an EMP warhead.

JFS-M mock-up, presented by MBDA at ILA 2022.
Photo. J. Sabak

All of the aforesaid solutions are to be developed within the framework of MBDA’s offer in the German Zukünftigen Systems des Indirekten Feuers programme (Future System for Indirect Fires). The Bundeswehr is looking forward to fielding ZSIF during the upcoming decade. It is to enhance the MARS II’s capabilities first. The German M270 MLRS variant currently launches the MARS-E (GMLRS) guided rockets, with a range of around 80 kilometers. JFS-M would provide the MLRS systems with capabilities similar to those of the US-made ATACMS ballistic missiles. A single launch container would hold 4 JFS-M rockets, translating into 8 examples per one MARS II launcher.

Apart from the modernization of the MARS II launcher, MBDA is also offering other launcher types, including naval, or 6x6 wheeled variants. The latter variant showcased at ILA 2022 only carries 4 rockets but exhibits greater mobility. It all depends on the customer's demands. It is easy to imagine that JFS-M may also come in an air-launched variant, with greater range and high precision coupled with a relatively low weight. This would create an interesting technological/historical loop, if the JFS-M, developed based on the Taurus KEPD 350 design effort, ultimately becomes its replacement.