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Artillery: Caesar Rolls Into Afghanistan
   Next Article → LOGISTICS: Contractors Are Here to Stay, And Always Have Been

July 12, 2009: France is sending eight of its Caesar, truck mounted, 155mm howitzers to Afghanistan. The roads in Afghanistan are pretty bad, and wheeled combat vehicles have a hard time of it. But Caesar was built to handle cross country operations, so it's not expected to have major problems getting around. Afghanistan will be the first time Caesar has served in combat.

A decade ago, the French Army agreed to buy a single battery of the novel new Caesar truck-mounted mobile artillery system. Developed by GIAT as a private venture, it was a 155mm howitzer mounted on the back of a heavy truck. Before being fired, the gun was backed off the rear of the truck, onto the ground. This took less than a minute. It was a marvelous system, but Caesar was having a difficult time attracting export customers. I t was believed that having even one battery in service with the French Army would help attract export sales. The French army liked Caesar so much that they eventually bought 72 of them. And there were export sales as well.

Caesar uses a 52 caliber 155mm howitzer mounted on the back of a 6x6 ten ton truck. While it is self-propelled, it only has light armor in the driver/crew cab up front. Caesar only weighs 18 tons and will fit into a C-130 transport, something that traditional tracked self-propelled artillery cannot do. Caesar's long barrel enables it to fire shells up to 42 kilometers. With onboard GPS, it can be ready to fire in minutes. The truck carries the crew of six in an air-conditioned compartment.

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ambush    We could use a versionof this   7/12/2009 8:35:04 PM
I think an American version of this would be good for the Styker Brigades, 101st , 82nd, Light Infantry and USMC.   Perhaps  using the HIMARS chassis and M-777 gun?
 
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ArtyEngineer    ambush   7/13/2009 6:35:39 PM
Im going to keep a very close eye on this deployment as I dont feel the Caeser makes for a good "Firebase" weapon.  Several years ago UDLP went into partnership with GIAT (I believe) with the purpose of pushing the Caeser for exactly the units you mentioned.  They even brought a system over for an 'Evaluation" at Yuma Proving Ground.  I dont know specifics but folks were not overly impressed  (How much of this was Not Invented Here Syndrome is anybodys guess).  The UK also evaluated it against the M777 and SupaCat Portee system and also were not overly impressed. 
 
Im not sure what type of terrain the French forces are operating in or how they intend to use teh Caeser to support their ops, but the fact that there is a LOT of Arty being pushed into that theater right now should indicate how things are going and what the boots on the ground actually need.
 
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doggtag       7/13/2009 9:28:11 PM
If the Caesar's gun can muster the 42km range frequently, it may be found it doesn't need to be moved as much to cover a given amount of area as say a US-pattern 39-cal tube that reaches 30km (and needs helos or a prime mover to move to another location) and only does anything greater with assisted shells and their inherent reduced accuracy at greater ranges.
(not being even remotely the expert here: does anyone have dispersion rates at given ranges for both the American 39-cal pieces and everybody else's 52-cal pieces? Are the 52s more accurate at any particular range than the 39s, or is it about even?)
 
I mean, it's not like every shot by US 155 artillery in Afghanistan is a precision Excalibur.
 
If the French, and Dutch + (everybody they're supporting) feel confident in using those 52-cal tubes, be it on the wheeled Caeser or the tracked PzH2000, then let 'em have their fun.
(Haven't seen any mention of anyone deploying towed 155/52s to the A-stan theater...)
 
WRT the Yuma tests of Caesar: was it the US engineers and higher ups who weren't impressed with it, or was it the grunts on the ground who would've actually used it who weren't impressed?
Just curious.
 
Just seems to me that, if I can improve my tactical advantage because I can have a gun that shoots 10 or more km greater (and the obvious area it can now cover), that just seems like a logical advantage to pursue.
Basing all my long range fire support needs around GMLRS rockets, those things don't come cheap, and take up a lot of volume per shipment for all the more I'm getting in a given resupply mission.
 
And is the HIMARS chassis' (FMTV?) mobility any better than the Caesar's?
They're both 6-wheel, 3-axle trucks.
 
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neutralizer       7/16/2009 6:55:04 AM
At 42 km the dispersion with dumb munitions is going to be huge, and totally useless for Danger Close fire missions, and in Afghanistan most fire missions are Danger Close (not forgetting the issue of avoiding collateral damage to civilians and infrastructure).  I'd suggest as a rule of thumb, if PE is greater than about 30 m then its probably unacceptable for Danger Close with dumb munitions in Afghanistan because the target is all too often less than 150 m away.  This puts a limit on maximum usable range.
 
It's most unclear what benefits this sort of truck mounted gun actually offers (and others are appearing).  It has minimal armour and being wheeled has less mobility than a tracked SP, and the crew serve the gun in the open.  But it can't be moved by heli, top traverse is limited and less than even a fairly conventional design of towed 155mm.  All it really offers is a 52 cal barrel.
 
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ArtyEngineer    Doggtag   7/16/2009 10:55:57 PM

If the Caesar's gun can muster the 42km range frequently, it may be found it doesn't need to be moved as much to cover a given amount of area as say a US-pattern 39-cal tube that reaches 30km (and needs helos or a prime mover to move to another location) and only does anything greater with assisted shells and their inherent reduced accuracy at greater ranges.

(not being even remotely the expert here: does anyone have dispersion rates at given ranges for both the American 39-cal pieces and everybody else's 52-cal pieces? Are the 52s more accurate at any particular range than the 39s, or is it about even?)

 

I mean, it's not like every shot by US 155 artillery in Afghanistan is a precision Excalibur.

 

If the French, and Dutch + (everybody they're supporting) feel confident in using those 52-cal tubes, be it on the wheeled Caeser or the tracked PzH2000, then let 'em have their fun.

(Haven't seen any mention of anyone deploying towed 155/52s to the A-stan theater...)

 

WRT the Yuma tests of Caesar: was it the US engineers and higher ups who weren't impressed with it, or was it the grunts on the ground who would've actually used it who weren't impressed?

Just curious.

 

Just seems to me that, if I can improve my tactical advantage because I can have a gun that shoots 10 or more km greater (and the obvious area it can now cover), that just seems like a logical advantage to pursue.

Basing all my long range fire support needs around GMLRS rockets, those things don't come cheap, and take up a lot of volume per shipment for all the more I'm getting in a given resupply mission.

 

And is the HIMARS chassis' (FMTV?) mobility any better than the Caesar's?

They're both 6-wheel, 3-axle trucks.


The "Evaluation" test carried out at Yuma were conducted by the ARDEC Engineers from Picatinny Arsenal with "Green Suiters" as observors.  Bottom line is that it is a decent system but when operating at the extremes of its operational envelope it really wasnt that reliable.  Top Zone and Low QE at teh extremes of traverse were absolute kilers for teh system.  There were also concerns about stability.   The thing really jumped around and there were concerns about operating on any sort of side slope.  The High CofG also caused concern when taking it around some of the mobility courses.  One of which is called 'Rock Ledge", and having been round it numerous times I can tell you it is SCARY!!!!
 
As neutraliser points out the vast majority of Fire Missions being generated in Afghanistan are coming from Troops in Contact and as a result are "Danger \Close" and as a result even though you may be able to range the target, the fact that the Probable Errors in Range and Deflection are of such a magnitude that the fire mission is going to be denied when shooting from a 52 cal tube.  Its going to be a VERY dire situation that makes the Fire Direction Officer overide the systems decision making process and shoot that mission.
But getting back to Ceaser, one of the main rteasons it was never a serious contender for teh Airborne folk was the fact that at that time it was not considered capable of doing this:
 
 

 
http://www.youtube.com/v/2ucQUVqj9fc&hl=en&fs=1&;" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always">
 
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neutralizer       7/16/2009 11:22:57 PM
I'd be very surprised if 52 calibre per se was a problem.  The issue is that for targets 150-200 m from own troops (ie real Danger Close territory and in Afghanistan they can be closer) then 155mm dispersion effectively limits usable range to about 13km or thereabouts, it depends a bit on the gun and propellant system being used.  What this means is that while 52 calibre may give a big maximum range, most of it is unusable for close support when targets are mostly Danger Close.  And in places like Afghanstan dumb artillery munitions are not being used for anything other than close support. 
 
I'm not at all surprised that Caesar has stability problems, I reckon at exteme traverse with a high charge and low QE it would give a good impression of being about to flip over.
 
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ArtyEngineer       7/16/2009 11:52:10 PM

I'd be very surprised if 52 calibre per se was a problem.  The issue is that for targets 150-200 m from own troops (ie real Danger Close territory and in Afghanistan they can be closer) then 155mm dispersion effectively limits usable range to about 13km or thereabouts, it depends a bit on the gun and propellant system being used.  What this means is that while 52 calibre may give a big maximum range, most of it is unusable for close support when targets are mostly Danger Close.  And in places like Afghanstan dumb artillery munitions are not being used for anything other than close support. 

 

I'm not at all surprised that Caesar has stability problems, I reckon at exteme traverse with a high charge and low QE it would give a good impression of being about to flip over.


Sorry, I meant at ranges only acheivable by 52cal tubes.  Its alwasy been my understanding that at a range that both a 39 and 52 Cal could engage the PE's for a 52 Cal are smaller.
Regards
 
Arty
 
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ambush       7/18/2009 9:44:50 PM
Here is another option
 
 
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neutralizer       7/19/2009 12:11:53 AM

For a given shell and propelling charge there's no obvious reason why length of barrel shouild have any effect on round to0 round variation in MV.  So any differences whould be other factors, I wouldn't be suprised if a longer barrel magnified the round to round variation in jump!  It might be interesting to look at M109 and M109A1 FTs for a comparison.

 
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ArtyEngineer    Neutralizer   7/19/2009 12:40:17 AM
I have no first hand knowledge of anything other than a 39 cal tube, however my understanding has always been that for any given charge a 52 cal tube will result in a higher MV, which in turn means a lower QE and a shorter ToF, the primary contributers to round to round dispersion, when compared to a 39 cal tube engaging a target at the same range.  Does a 52 xcl tube experience large round to round MV variatioas counteracting teh afore mentioned factors which should result in a more precise grouping of the impacts when compared to a 39 cal tube engaging a target at an equivlelent range?
 
Regards
 
Arty
 
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