Artillery: Cold War Bargains Still To Be Had

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February 22, 2010: After five years of waiting, the United States has finally delivered to Pakistan 115 used M-109A5 self-propelled 155mm howitzers. The last 48 vehicles just arrived. Each of the M109A5 vehicles cost Pakistan about $487,000. This is less than a third of what a late model vehicle like the M109A5 would cost brand new. The vehicles had been put into storage by the United States after the Cold War ended (and many divisions, each with 56 M-109s, were disbanded). The stored vehicles were checked several times a year and received maintenance or repairs as needed.

This is not the latest version of the M109, that would be the M109A6 (which has lots of computers and better communications.). But the A5 version has the same long range firing capabilities as the A6 (30 kilometers). Pakistan already has 150 older (1970s vintage) M109A2s. The M109A5 upgrades came right at the end of the Cold War (late 1980s.) Pakistan may have been able to get a cheaper, equivalent system from Russia (the 2S3) or China, but getting the additional M109A5s makes it easier to upgrade the older M109A2s. That gives them an upgrade to the very successful M109A6, which uses GPS and computers to increase the speed and accuracy of the guns. Only about ten percent of the 9500 M109s ever built have been upgraded to the M109A6 standard, but this has produced one of the top self-propelled artillery systems in the world. It would cost about half a million dollars each to upgrade the M109A2s to the A6 standard, assuming most of the work was done in Pakistan, with some components manufactured there.

 

 


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