The Ministry of Defense of Spain is in full search for your new long range rocket launcher integrated into a vehicle. He program is called SILAM (High Mobility Launcher System) and comes to solve one of the deficiencies most demanded by the Army after the withdrawal of the Teruel rocket launcher systems in 2021 and which had been operational since the 1980s.
With the technology choice program still open, one of the best positioned SILAMs is the one presented by Escribano and Expal in the third edition of the International Defense Fair (FEINDEF), which was held in Madrid. Present at the launch were Lieutenant General García de las Hijas, head of the Army Logistics Support Command (MALE), and Admiral Rosique Nieto, General Director of Armaments and Material (DIGAM).
“It is an opportunity, from the point of view of the Armed Forces […]not only to increase our operational availability or to promote development, but also to recover lost capacities so important that we must immediately put in a security context”, declared García de las Hijas. He also highlighted the assessment of a “national solution” that guarantees “the entire life cycle” of the system.
At first, and as a more direct solution, evaluated the acquisition of American HIMARS system manufactured by Lockheed Martin and how well it is performing in the Ukraine, but the idea was scrapped because the deadlines were not going to be met. Among the other programs being evaluated are the South Korean K239s of Hanwha Defense in association with Madrid’s Tecnesis 3000 and the Brazilian Astros of Avibras with an SMS alliance.
Among the objectives of the Ministry of Defense is that the next rocket launcher has a high national development component, with around 75% of the total. This also includes the ammunition that accounts for practically 90% of the budget, according to the estimates indicated by Infodefense.
Advantages over HIMARS
The SILAM proposal of Escribano and Expal —acquired by the German Rheinmetall in November— is based on the technology of the PULS rocket launcher system of the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. As indicated in the presentation, there is a technology transfer that allows PULS to be adapted to the particular requirements and specifications of the Army.
The Spanish-Israeli licensing also includes manufacturing of all systems in Spain. As explained by José Manuel Fernández Bosch, CEO of Expal, they have been working for more than two years to identify this capacity for the Army. “We have been looking at all technology alternatives, all procurement possibilities and have clearly identified Elbit as the technology partner that can best contribute to the realization of this key capability.”
But, beyond the economic impact on Spanish companies and the creation of jobs —more than 1,000 as indicated in the presentation—, PULS has some important improvements over HIMARS American.
One of the most important is the price. Although there is no data on Spain’s intention to purchase HIMARS, the Netherlands did give some indicative figures when it decided on the Israeli system a couple of months ago and definitively signed the contract on May 18. As collected Popular Mechanics, the cost of acquiring 20 PULS launchers along with their armament is approximately one fifth than what US HIMARS would cost.
The Defense budget for the SILAM program is 22 million euros for this 2023 as a first contribution. The latest data indicates that the DGAM intends to Acquire a first batch of 12 launcher vehicles with the possibility of another similar batch and a couple more training sessions. In the period 2023 to 2028, the forecast is to allocate around 290 million euros to the program.
Another of the essential points in favor of PULS with respect to HIMARS is the amount and variety of ammunition compatible that you can use Elbit has developed its launcher as an open system so that purchasing countries can adapt or manufacture ammunition on demand without restriction. This characteristic was precisely one of those highlighted by the Israeli company during the presentation of SILAM in Madrid.
In total and for the moment, the solution proposed by Escribano and Expal can equip up to 6 types of ammunition of different caliber and purpose. Also, when compared to the number of units of each type it can accommodate at one time, PULS also wins every time.
For example, for the longer-range ammunition, the PULS can accommodate up to 4 units of the Predator Hawk ballistic missile—2 in each pod— 370 millimeters in diameter, 800 kilograms and with up to 400 kilometers of operational range, more than the HIMARS that Morocco has. In an equivalent ammo type, the HIMARS can only equip one missile per launcher, putting it at a distinct disadvantage. The same goes for the rest of the rockets.
The vehicle shown at FEINDEF that accompanied the presentation is still not the final one. For the exposed platform, they opted for an Iveco 8×8 truck, which at the moment has not been confirmed as being in charge of providing mobility to the rocket launcher system. The original PULS can also be integrated into 6×6 trucks with less weight and size, which gives it an extra point of flexibility; even for transport by air aboard the Airbus A400M.
The PULS (Precise & Universal Launching System) is the modernized version of the Lynx launcher developed by the former Israel Military Industries which bought Elbit System in 2018. Since then, this rocket launcher solution has become popular and armies such as Denmark and the Netherlands are waiting to receive the first units.
“The autonomous artillery rocket system provides a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for accurately fire all kinds of advanced rocketswith an optimal response capacity”, they indicate from Elbit. “Unlike standard artillery, with PULS it is not necessary to move artillery units according to the required firing range”.
Among the weapons shown in the presentation, in addition to the aforementioned Predator Hawk, are the Extra rockets of 450 kilograms and 150 kilometers of range of which the PULS launcher can carry up to 8, distributed in 4 in each pod. The smallest of the entire family and with a diameter of 122 millimeters is the Accular, which achieves a radius of action of 40 kilometers and 18 units in each structure, giving a total of 36.
Thanks to this system of interchangeable structures, each of the launchers can be configured according to the needs of the mission, combining the different types of ammunition, which Expal will be in charge of manufacturing. Besides, Escribano will integrate its GPS and inertial navigation and guidance systems which provides them with a precision that guarantees a margin of error of less than 10 meters.
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