Artillery – both barrel and missile – is a key type of weapon in the war in Ukraine. It is estimated that on both sides of the conflict it is responsible for up to 60 percent. precipitate. Initially, Ukraine defended itself using the same artillery as the Russian aggressor. After four months of the conflict, an extremely important change takes place: thanks to foreign aid, Ukraine begins rearming for artillery of the Western model. What equipment does he have at his disposal?
155 against 152 mm
On the day of the Russian attack, Ukraine had artillery of eastern origin – its basis were 152.4 mm howitzers (and also smaller caliber 122 mm). The artillery used in the broadly understood West uses a slightly larger caliber – 155 mm (and also others, like 105 mm).
While the difference between the commonly used calibers is very slight, modern Western artillery dominates the Russian range. The Russian 155 mm howitzer 2S3 Akacja can fire at a distance of about 18.5 km. The more modern 2S19 Msta-S howitzer, of the same caliber, has a firing range of 24 km.
Western equipment can shell targets at distances of approx. 5-10 km larger. The given distances apply to standard ammunition – the one with a gas generator has a range of 20-30%. larger, and missiles with additional propulsion have a range of up to 60-70 km and more, but they are not widely used.
Longer barrel – greater range
The advantage of Western artillery is largely due to longer barrels. The current standard (Krab, PzH2000, CAESAR, Zuzana 2) are those with a length of 52 calibers, where, for example, the Russian 2S19 Msta-S has a barrel with a length of 40 calibers.
Although the length is intuitively given in centimeters and meters, in the case of artillery, the unit is the caliber, i.e. the diameter of the barrel. In practice, this means that the Krab or PzH2000, firing 155 mm rounds, have barrels of a very similar length – about 8 meters (155 mm × 52).
Availability of ammunition
Western artillery deliveries to Ukraine are important not only because of the capabilities of this weapon. The key issue in times of intense conflict is the availability of ammunition and the serviceability of weapons.
Eastern-born equipment is gradually wearing out or deteriorating, and the stocks of available ammunition are dwindling and it is not possible to replenish them at the rate at which they are used up. Deliveries cover only 10-15 percent. needs, and some units – including artillery – lost up to half of their initial numbers.
Deliveries of 155 mm artillery partially solve this problem, allowing the supply of necessary ammunition, common in NATO countries, to Ukraine along with weapons. What artillery systems have been sent to Ukraine so far?
Among the equipment donated by Poland to Ukraine were 18 Krab howitzers (Ukraine additionally bought 54 more). The Polish equipment is a combination of the British AS90 turret system (caliber 155 mm, barrel length 52 caliber) with the Korean chassis from the K9 Thunder howitzer.
The Crab can fire the first three missiles in just 10 seconds. The first 18 – within three minutes. Continuous fire is possible with a rate of fire of about two shots per minute. The Krab carries 40 separate-charge ammunition, and the firing range is approximately 32 km.
Ukraine received an additional 12 Panzerhaubitze 2000 cannon-howitzers (seven German and five Dutch). The PzH2000, developed in Germany, is very highly rated – according to experts, it is one of the best, if not the best weapons of this type in the world.
The Panzerhaubitze 2000 can – like the Polish Krab – make the first three shots in 10 seconds, but the continuous fire, compared to the Krab, can be much more intense – it can be fired with a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute.
An important feature of the PzH2000 is the ability to fire in MRSI mode, where up to five bullets fired from one barrel hit the target at the same time.
The French army has slightly different priorities than the Poles or the Germans, as exemplified by the CAESAR howitzer. Compared to the Krab or PzH2000, the French CAESAR looks much less impressive – it is a cannon placed on a truck, but the designers of this equipment managed to provide the five-man staff with a relatively high level of protection.
The main goal of the designers was to reduce the weight of such a set. Ukraine received 18 pieces of this equipment.
Weighing only 18 tonnes, CAESAR can easily be transported to the end of the world by air, and the wheeled chassis – although it is less able to handle very rough terrain – provides great mobility on hard roads. The low weight was paid for by a small amount of transported ammunition (16 pieces), as well as limited firing angles.
M109 howitzers dominated NATO self-propelled artillery for several decades. Although the equipment has been manufactured since the 1960s, thanks to constant modernization, the latest versions – such as the M109A6 Paladin and M109A7 – offer possibilities comparable to weapons developed today (which will additionally increase the planned addition of an autoloader).
However, much older howitzers have arrived in Ukraine – at least 22 M109A3s, handed over by Norway. Their barrels are 39 calibers long, which means that the firing range is about 18 km.
ShKH Zuzana 2
The Slovak equipment is a new version of the Zuzana howitzer, a modernization of the Czechoslovak Dan set. Ukraine bought at least eight examples of these weapons from Slovakia.
Zuzana 2 has – compared to its predecessor – a barrel extended to 52 calibers (previously 40), and the ability to fire in the range of 360 degrees.
This equipment is also distinguished by the use of a wheeled chassis. However, it is not a lightweight set (like CAESAR), but a weapon weighing up to 30 tons, equipped with armor and, above all, a closed, rotating turret with a cannon.
The American M777 howitzer is the only representative of the towed artillery in this list. It was designed to reduce the weight as much as possible, so that the howitzer weighs about four tons.
This translates into mobility – howitzers can be easily transported over long distances by air – also by helicopters.
In the fighting area, they do not need heavy vehicles – they can be towed by ordinary off-road vehicles (it was assumed that they weigh less than three tons), and seven-person staff will handle the movement at the fire position. The low weight comes with a 39-caliber barrel, which limits the firing range to about 22 km. Ukraine received at least 118 such weapons from the USA and Australia.
Łukasz Michalik, journalist of Wirtualna Polska