Artillery: Killer Drones Versus Howitzers


July 3, 2024: Ukraine has developed its own version of the French Caesar truck-mounted 155mm howitzer. The Ukrainian version is called the 2S22 Bogdana. This is a 28 ton, six-wheel truck armed with a NATO standard 155mm howitzer and operated by a crew of five. Development of the 2S22 began in 2015 and the first prototype was available in 2018 for test firings and other tests. Mass production began in January 2023 and by the end of 2023 production was ten 2S22s a month.

Currently 2S22a are replacing the many similar artillery systems sent to Ukraine after the 2022 Russian invasion. The first of these were eight Swedish Archer truck mounted 155mm artillery systems. Ukrainian artillerymen used the Archers for counterbattery, as in destroying enemy artillery. Ukrainians used UAVs to find targets for Archer and sent target locations to the nearest Archer system. Archer then fired a few 155mm shells at the target and moved, all in less than two minutes. Archer has 21 155mm shells onboard in a magazine that automatically loads these shells into the gun. This contributes to the speed of operation capability that makes Archer so effective. The Russians are also looking for counterbattery opportunities but have nothing like Archer, which can move, halt, fire and then resume moving faster than any Russian artillery. Archer can fire 20 shells at the rate of one every 7-8 seconds.

Archer counterbattery tactics have destroyed a growing number of Russian artillery and the Russians have not developed any defensive measures, except to shut down artillery operations and seek a hiding place from Archer. The Russians eventually developed the ability to use UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to find and destroy these truck-mounted artillery systems.

In the 19902 a French firm developed the truck-mounted 155mm Caesar, which entered service in 2003. In 2009 France sent eight Caesar 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 had served in combat and was successful. The French Army ordered about a hundred and another hundred have been exported. Caesar is the lightest of the truck-mounted 155mm howitzers, weighing 18 tons. Other nations have built heavier 20-30 ton systems, usually on a 6x6 heavy truck chassis.

None of these systems can be considered an exotic piece of technology. For example, 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 8 meters long, or 52 times the caliber. When the vehicle halts, the four-man crew can extend the metal braces in the rear, raise the barrel, and be firing within minutes. After firing, the vehicle can be moving in less than a minute. Archer can use 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 $5 million.

This French experience with Caesar in Afghanistan encouraged Sweden about the ability of its Archer system to operate in the vast rural areas of Scandinavia. Some parts of rural Sweden are similar to Afghanistan, but worse, with more swamps. Sweden had had some Archer systems in service 2013 and 24 by 2017 and eventually 48. More were ordered because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The original Caesar system has been produced in larger quantities, with about 870 delivered or on order so far. Every time Caesar or similar systems like Archer have been used in combat, they have been successful. Their mobility has reduced losses and only four have been lost in combat so far. Three of those losses were in Ukraine, where these systems quickly experienced the most intense combat operations they were ever exposed to. Because of the demand by Ukrainian forces, production of Caesar systems has increased and Ukraine is supposed to receive over a hundred Caesar systems. Ukraine has already received 49 and lost about ten of them, usually to Russian UAVs. Ukraine is receiving lots of replacement systems in the form of the French Caesar, the Swedish Archer and the Ukrainian 2S22.




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