PARIS — Tensions are running high in the race to decide Europe’s artillery rocket system of choice, with Germany emerging as a decisive player in a race between teams Rheinmetall-Lockheed Martin and Elbit-KNDS.

On the opening day of the Eurosatory trade show here, all eyes were on the German-American duo, which have paired up to offer a European-made rocket launcher based on Lockheed’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Berlin.

The trans-Atlantic team is trying to claw its way back into a tender for Germany’s next multiple-launch rocket launcher in which Elbit, offering its PULS weapon, was seen as having a leg up. The German armed forces have said they want to buy five PULS systems to replace weapons donated to Ukraine, and army formations in neighboring Netherlands, which are closely linked to their German Bundeswehr counterparts, are also slated to get the system.

The Israeli company’s offer rests on the proposition that the PULS will be able to fire the ubiquitous GMLRS missile, which prospective European customers already have in their inventories, and which Washington has given to Ukraine to fend off Russian invaders.

At the Eurosatory trade show here, Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger, whose company would build the launcher truck, pushed back against that idea without naming the competitor.

“Others speak about being able to fire a kind of missiles being universal, a claim most often not even true, promoting fragmentation of development funds and national egoisms, while not being utilized on the Ukrainian battlefield at all,” he told reporters on June 17.

Howard Bromberg, vice president of strategy and business development for land forces at Lockheed Martin, was more direct. “Our MLRS Family of Munitions cannot be integrated into the PULS system – if Germany was to opt for PULS they could not gain access to our missiles,” he told Defense News.

The same would apply to the U.S. Army’s newer Precision Strike Missile, a Lockheed spokesman added.

Elbit and KNDS signed a cooperation agreement last year to begin the joint production of the EuroPULS rocket artillery system, a Europeanized version of Elbit’s existing PULS system. At the time, the Israeli firm suggested the weapon’s open-architecture concept would enable the firing of other makers’ missiles.

An Elbit spokesman said the company had no comment on Lockheed’s claims. It’s unclear what role the U.S. defense giant would have in a potential government-level arrangement on missile interchangeability.

Germany has been on the hunt to replace its aging MARS 2 systems for some time now. Although it has yet to select a replacement, the possibility of localizing the production of the rocket launchers will likely be an important consideration at play.

A funding decision by the German Bundestag on an initial PULS batch had been expected before the summer, but was recently postponed until the end of the year, German defense trade website Hartpunkt reported earlier this month.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to reflect the fact that Germany has yet to formally commit to PULS.

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.

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