March 29, 2010: Sweden and Norway are each buying 24 Archer truck mounted artillery systems. Both nations had funded a $150 million, 14 year, development effort to create Archer. BAE will manufacture the systems. Archer is an FH77 155mm/L52 howitzer mounted on a modified Volvo 6x6 dump truck. The vehicle, with the howitzer on board, weighs 30 tons. L52 means the barrel is 52 times the caliber (8 meters/25 feet). When the vehicle halts, the four man crew can extend the metal braces in the rear, raise the barrel, and being firing within minutes. After firing, the vehicle can be moving in less than a minute. Archer uses the Excalibur GPS guided round, which means Archer and an ammo vehicle can supply lots of effective firepower without the need for constant resupply. Each Archer vehicle costs about $4.2 million.
Archer is not the first weapon of this type, but is a heavier and more modern one. About the time development began on Archer (1995) a French firm was developing a similar system (Caesar). Last year, France sent 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. Afghanistan was 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 vehicles. 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. It was believed that having even one battery in service with the French Army would help attract export sales. Once they got to use it, 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 on-board GPS, it can be ready to fire in minutes. The truck carries the crew of six in an air-conditioned compartment.