Artillery: Ukraine Buys More Caesar Artillery Systems


January 8, 2024: After receiving some Caesar artillery systems as aid from NATO, Ukraine found that this novel truck mounted 155mm howitzer was more effective than towed or conventional self-propelled artillery systems that ran on tracks, like a tank. That led Ukraine to purchase more Caesar systems from the French manufacturer. The French had already increased production of Caesar systems to six a month and were preparing to increase that to eight a month. The manufacturer has also made several improvements and upgrades. These are often based on feedback from Ukrainian users. The changes include adapting Caesar for use on different types of trucks and upgrades to the fire control system that allow the use of different types of 155mm shells, including some that can hit targets fifty kilometers away accurately. This required upgrades to the fire control system to increase effectiveness of regular missions and as well as the accuracy of long-range missions. A semi-automatic loading system increases the rate of fire and requires less physical effort from the crew.

Ukraine found that their first Caesar systems were the key to developing a more effective counterbattery, aka destroying enemy artillery. NATO was able to help with that because NATO also supplied very effective counterbattery radars that are used to calculate where enemy shells and rockets were coming from. This enabled the Ukrainians to fire back quickly, often while the Russian artillery was being moved to avoid counterbattery fire. Ukraine did this by developing a better fire control system that was much quicker to react using multiple well-dispersed individual guns and artillery rocket launchers, as well as their own UAVs that specialized in detecting targets, especially enemy artillery systems that were not firing. The Russians have nothing as effective as this and neither does NATO.

Ukraine has some of the best software engineers in the world and they mobilized after 2014 to improve Ukrainian military capabilities. An additional advantage was the many Ukrainian civilians in Russian-occupied areas kept their Ukraine cellphones and, once the invasion began, joined local clandestine networks to provide GPS locations for Russian troops, headquarters, and supply stockpiles. The corrupt and poorly led Russian forces were unable to deal with the Ukrainian target location and artillery advantage. This is a major reason why, by late 2022 the Russians were not just retreating but often running away from the advancing Ukrainian troops and their numerous artillery attacks on targets behind the front line.

These Ukrainian successes with artillery also revealed which artillery weapons were the most effective. The big winners were not armored self-propelled guns firing new, longer-range shells. The Ukrainians found that towed 155mm guns, like the M777 or truck mounted 155mm guns like Caesar were the best for supporting front line troops and counterbattery fire against enemy artillery near the front line. For more distant targets the best solution was systems like the American High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS. This was a truck-mounted system that carried either six guided 227mm diameter rockets with a range of 80 kilometers, or one or two larger guided rockets with ranges of up to 500 kilometers.

Western nations, especially the United States, have spent a lot of time and money trying to develop longer range shells and came up with larger armored self-propelled guns firing very expensive GPS-guided shells that could hit targets up to 70 kilometers away. The shorter barrel on the M777 and Caesar fired unguided shells out to 40 kilometers. This approach was a lot cheaper because M777 and Caesar were cheaper and more effective because both could set up quickly, fire several shells and then be gone in about a minute or two. That was quick enough to avoid counterbattery fire and the truck-based artillery systems were easier to keep operational. Tracked armored vehicles require a lot more maintenance by the crew and need replacement parts, like new tracks to replace worn ones, more frequently as well as a lot more fuel. The armor was sometimes useful but the truck mounted HIMARS system got a lot of battlefield experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere and found that some lightweight armor on the crew cabin was sufficient for protection from bullets and shell fragments. Truck mounted systems like Caesar often use this protected crew compartment feature as well.




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