MADRID and JERUSALEM — Israeli aerospace giant Elbit Systems is ramping up its production of multi-purpose rocket and drone launchers in Europe, as the Netherlands is buying the company’s PULS system which Spain also appears to be favoring for its new rocket artillery program.
On May 17 the Royal Netherlands Army announced on social media that it had contracted Elbit for the supply of 20 of the truck-mounted Precise and Universal Launching Systems. Earlier in April, the Dutch government had stated in a letter to parliament that the country would spend around $650 million on long-range weaponry.
The move is the latest example of how countries are increasingly turning their attention to ground-based strike capabilities, particularly artillery rocket systems, after how vital they have proven to be in Ukraine’s defense against Russian invaders. Earlier this month, Elbit officials said that they had witnessed a spur in interest for these types of platforms since the war broke out earlier last year. Denmark was among the first ones on the continent to purchase the Israeli system in March.
In similar fashion, at the FEINDEF international defense fair in Madrid, local companies Escribano M&E and Expal, which Germany’s Rheinmetall is buying, jointly displayed for the first time the PULS mounted on an Iveco 8X8 truck. They are said to be proposing the latter for the High Mobility Rocket Launcher System (SILAM) program for the Spanish Army, one of the pressing priorities for the country.
Spain previously operated the Teruel multiple rocket launcher, but with its retirement in 2011, it lost that capability. Replacing it will be part of a “Special Modernization Programs” section of its defense strategy.
According to Spanish media reports, the Ministry of Defense is considering a missile system with a range of at least 120 to 130 kilometers, which the PULS possesses, at a maximum of 300 kilometers. Press reports here also suggest a deal could be in the offing to produce the weapon locally.
Meanwhile, Rheinmetall and Elbit Systems said they conducted a live fire demonstration of a new automated 155mm wheeled, self-propelled howitzer. The event took place in March at a firing range in southern Israel. It was conducted in front of “high-ranking officials of the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary,” according to a statement from the companies.
The howitzer is competing for Germany’s Future System, Indirect Fire, Medium Range program, the companies said. The German army currently uses the Panzerhaubitze 2000 abbreviated PzH 2000, a 155mm self-propelled howitzer which uses the L52 gun.
Rheinmetall and Elbit signed a cooperation agreement last year to develop, manufacture and market an automated European version, the companies said. The team is led by Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH. The companies showcased the system to other potential buyers and said that the UK’s Mobile Fires Platform program also remains a focus, and other would-be customers, such as Hungary, have expressed interest.
In a joint statement John Abunassar, chief of Rheinmetall’s Vehicle Systems division, and Yehuda Vered, general manager of Elbit Systems said that “the successful demonstration of the automated howitzer highlights the synergies and innovative technologies of the Rheinmetall-Elbit team – a team that is uniquely positioned to supply the armed forces of Germany and other nations with an outstanding new tube artillery capability.”
The companies said that their efforts combine the “Rheinmetall gun into the unmanned, fully robotic artillery turret of the Elbit system. The integration is currently in an advanced phase of the verification process.
A video released by the companies shows the system driving around the southern Israel range called Shivta which is near Israel’s School for Field artillery at Camp Shivta. The area is known for a historic archaeological site that dates from the Nabatean period that is outside the firing range. The video shows the 10-wheeled truck moving the artillery a firing position, where it is then stabilized and conducts a firing drill.
Germany has been increasing defense supplies to Ukraine over the last months and announced a $3 billion aid package recently. Israeli defense companies have a number of relationships in Germany and recent reports indicated Germany was in advanced negotiations to acquire the Arrow air defense system.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.