JFS-M: The new cruise missile is the most attractive option to modernize the MLRS of the Greek Army

Returning to the question of the modernization of the MLRS systems of the Greek Army, this time we examine the sub-strategic dimension of the M-270 not only for the Artillery, but also for all the Greek Armed Forces. What exactly the German proposal for the modernization of the MLRS system includes, the DR reported in detail relatively recently, so we will not go back (https://defencereview.gr/german-kmw-modernization-program-for-hellenic-artillery-m-270-mlrs/).

Beyond the possibility offered by the German proposal for the full and unrestricted use of old and new ammunition and by the modernized system, its most important advantage over the American proposal will be the possibility of using the new generation JFS-M cruise missile which is expected to enter service within the next three years. That is, until the end of 2025.

It is a completely new weapon to which the DR had mentioned epigrammatically (https://defencereview.gr/ila-2022-i-mbda-paroysiazei-to-koryfaio-vlima-e/). Below we will refer in total to the capabilities of the weapon and its operational prospects. As very rightly put through the commentary in DR’s tribute about the creation of an adequate anti-ballistic defense on the part of Greece, the cost is really huge.

Because this is absolutely true, logic leads to the conclusion that the Greek Armed Forces must also acquire offensive-deterrent power, through the acquisition of a sufficient number of ballistic and cruise missiles. We hope that the Greek political and military leaderships will immediately adopt not only this logic but also the new practices and tactics that stem from the lessons learned in the modern business field.

The Russian forces used their air power in Ukraine during the initial phase of the operations and then, due to their losses mainly in attack helicopters, they turned almost exclusively to the use of their powerful Artillery, with parallel widespread use of unmanned aerial vehicles for targeting purposes. The fact that we have come to read as news the exchange of Su-35 fighters with hundreds of unmanned aircraft from Iran (!), between Moscow and Tehran, is something that should probably concern us very seriously today and certainly in the immediate future.

We also hope that these data will greatly concern the Greek military leadership, first of all, to definitively cancel the pharaonic supply of the three MQ-9B, at a time when it is absolutely necessary to look for more economical and comprehensive solutions to cover the enormous needs of the Armed Forces in this the sector.

We close the parenthesis and return to the German proposal to modernize the Greek M-270 and the JFS-M (Joint Fire Support Missile). This is a weapon that, once acquired, will be the strongest response to Turkey’s continuous and all-level effort to isolate the islands of the eastern Aegean, creating through a network of missile systems, an anti-access and area denial network (A2/AD).

To acquire the ability to destroy A2/AD bubbles the German Army decided to develop a new cruise missile that can be launched from the M-270 MLRS systems it has in service as MARS (Medium Artillery Rocket System). In other words, it will be able to be used in sufficient numbers. The adoption of the ballistic missile solution for this purpose, to be used by the German modernized MARS II was an alternative with considerably higher costs, but also limitations.

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In contrast to the USA where the ballistic PrSM (Precision Strike Missile) is under development, in Europe the cruise missile solution was adopted for the performance of long-range precision strike capability from the modernized M-270 MLRS systems of the German and French Army in first phase. With all the advantages and disadvantages this choice entails.

Modern munitions that the modernized MARS II, like the US-built M-270A1, can use are the GMLRS guided rocket with a radius of 84 km, the GMLRS-ER rocket with a radius of at least 120 km, and the MGM-168 Block 4A ATACMS, with a range At least 300 kilometers.

So, the most important difference compared to the Americans, beyond the modernization of the MLRS system itself, is found in the long-range weapons. The PrSM will achieve IOC, that is, initial operational capability, within 2023. Its greater radius of 500 km, the larger warhead compared to that of the JFS-M, and the trajectory combined with the faster transition speed to the target, are the its main advantages.

Its higher unit cost, coupled with the fact that it will be able to be carried in fewer numbers (two instead of four for the JFS-M) than the MLRS launchers, are its major disadvantages. The group of German companies involved in the development of JFS-M, led by MBDA Germany, includes KMW and ESG. The latter has undertaken the integration of the weapon into the German Army’s ADLER III system used for intelligence management and targeting Artillery (C4I).

In order to reduce the cost of developing the new cruise missile, it was decided from the start to utilize systems and components from other MBDA missiles. For example the aerodynamic configuration of the JFS-M is the one established for the airborne SmartGlider. The length of the weapon is 2.6 meters and its maximum diameter is 29 centimeters. The wingspan reaches 1.5 meters, while the four tail fins have an X arrangement.

The engine, as in almost all weapons of this type, is a small turbo engine. In this particular case it is being developed by a company based in the eastern part of Germany, which has not been named for now. During the launch, the initial acceleration of the weapon, until the development of a cruise speed sufficient for the safe operation of the turbo engine, will be ensured by an accelerator (booster).

MBDA has undertaken its development in collaboration with Bayern-Chemie, which is also the manufacturer of most of the accelerators used in MBDA’s rocket systems. The cruise speed of JFS-M will be between Mach 0.5 and Mach 0.9. That is between 600 and 1000 kilometers per hour.

It has not yet been clarified whether the thrust of the weapon’s engine will be throttled by the weapon’s flight control system itself, or by the ground, in order to achieve the maximum possible impact distance which, due to the INF condition, is placed below the 500 kilometers.

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With a maximum cruise speed of 1000 kilometers per hour, the JFS-M will be able to engage targets at a distance of 499 kilometers within 30 minutes. The weight of the weapon when launched will amount to 250 to 300 kg. Their guidance system will be a combination of GNSS (European Navigation Satellite System) and INS, while at the same time a comparison-comparison system of images (digital photos) of the wider area of ​​the target will be used.

These images can be used by the JFS-M mission design system to compose a three-dimensional image of the target area, as well as the topography of the weapon’s path to the selected target or targets, in a minimal amount of time. space. This comprehensive 3D imagery will be able to be fed into the JFS-M’s (Image Based Navigation) navigation system to guide it to the target.

The same system will be used to plot trajectories that will feed the guidance systems of several JFS-Ms that will be directed to the same target (Multiple Missile Simultaneous Impact – MMSI, which is equivalent to MRSI – Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact). The aim is to saturate enemy air defenses by attacking from many different directions, while areas known to have a dense anti-aircraft/missile network can also be avoided through the mission planning system.

The original design called for the integration of three JFS-Ms into each of the MARS II’s two launchers. Four guns total, instead of two PrSMs or one ATACMS. Provision already exists for the development of JFS-M launchers from surface units, but also for the development of an airborne version which of course will not have a booster. The JFS-M will utilize a combination of VLO design features and a low-altitude flight profile to be difficult to detect and intercept. The Man-In-the-Loop philosophy will also be in effect here, so there will be the possibility of in-flight intervention to change the target.

Human intervention will be ensured through two-way data link and control commands. In addition to the ability to automatically and rapidly compare imagery for accurate navigation and target identification, the JFS-M will enter production in several different versions equipped with either electro-optical sensors (daytime EO TV and infrared IR), or even passive electromagnetic and with a smaller warhead to destroy enemy radars.

In other words, the weapon will be able to autonomously search for sources of electromagnetic radiation and attack them. All these sensors will of course not be integrated into one weapon but in different versions of it that will be suitable for destroying targets of different kinds. Armored and unarmoured, mobile and fixed.

In conclusion, it should be noted that its cost will be much lower than that of the previous generation and larger airborne SCALP-EG and TAURUS KEPD 350, whatever that means. Its lower price is attributed to the exploitation of already available technologies and systems from other MBDA missile systems. For Greece and its Artillery, the operational prospects it brings are too important to ignore.

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