Ukraine has taken delivery of the first Mittleres Artillerie Raketen System (MARS) launchers in an apparent sign of Germany’s ramp up of the deliveries of heavy weapons for Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion.
German defense minister Christine Lambrecht revealed to reporters on Tuesday that the latest weapon delivery included the three additional PzH2000 self-propelled armored howitzers that were promised in June, as well as an unspecified number of MARS multiple rocket launchers.
Earlier reports said Germany was eyeing a potential transfer of four MARS, which is the German version of the basic multiple launch rocket system, which was developed by the partner nations Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the US and Italy in the early 1980s and introduced in the US armed forces in 1983. The MLRS that has been in use in Germany since 1990 can fire different types of ammunition at individual targets over distances of over 70 km with GMLRS.
“The promised Mars II multiple rocket launchers and another three PzH2000s have been delivered. We keep our word,” defense minister Lambrecht said.
The defense minister made the comments after her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov said on Monday that the first three Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (SPAAG) are already in Ukraine.
In addition to the 18 self-propelled howitzers, which Germany is delivering together with the Netherlands, and the MARS launchers, Ukraine will receive 30 of the Gepard systems. Retired from Germany Army service in 2012, the Gepard is based on the Leopard 1 tank and carries a pair of 35 mm Oerlikon cannons and two radar dishes for target acquisition.
A counter-battery radar for these weapon systems is expected to be delivered by the end of September, the German defense minister added.
Lambrecht also noted that Ukrainian soldiers are expected to start training on the IRIS-T SLM medium-range air defense systems “in a few days.” The defense minister confirmed this despite earlier reports saying German chancellor Olaf Scholz was delaying the delivery of 11 of the air defense systems to Ukraine. The system would provide Ukraine with the capability to intercept fighter jets, helicopters and missiles at ranges of 40 kilometers.