Australia seems highly likely to purchase the US High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS), which is being used with devastating effect against the Russian invaders of Ukraine – but there is an alternative. South Korean company Hanwha is also at the forefront of rocket artillery systems and says that if Australia is interested, it would transfer all technology – allowing for local production not only of the launchers but also more importantly the precision guided missiles that they fire.
Modern rocket artillery systems emerged from the Second World War and the success of the ‘Katyusha’ used in huge numbers by the Red Army for saturation bombardment of the battlefront. The concept was fairly simple – mount between 14 and 48 unguided rockets with explosive warheads on rails on the back of a standard truck, point them in the general direction of the enemy and ripple fire the lot within a few seconds. The individual rockets were not accurate, but this was compensated for by huge numbers of them arriving from multiple launchers onto a target area almost simultaneously.
While in widespread use in the Soviet bloc and with allied nations such as China – and North Korea – they were relatively unknown in the west until the 1980s. This is where HIMARS originated, starting life on a tracked chassis rather than the current lighter, faster, wheeled version. In parallel, the same concept was being explored by South Korea, which had to counter the North launching a massive surprise attack involving human wave tactics and sending huge numbers of technologically inferior vehicles swarming across the DMZ.
In such a nightmare scenario, relatively slow firing conventional artillery risked being overwhelmed, but a truck mounted MLRS could deliver volleys of missiles, drive away and quickly reload. It would also be able to target concentrations of North Korean artillery while remaining beyond the range of enemy shell fire. This was the genesis of the multi-calibre South Korean ‘Chunmoo’ system, introduced into service in 2015.