Army wants to purchase 155 mm calibre guns this year

 26. 03. 2020      category: Army of the Czech Republic

According to the Concept of the Build-up of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic, it is planned, among other things, to purchase new self-propelled guns and ammunition in the NATO calibre, i.e. 155 mm as is expected.  The current systems use the 152 mm ammunition, which reflects the influence of time. Information about the acquisition of new howitzers has been recently reported on the website of the Defence Department.

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Picture: According to the Concept of the Build-up of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic, it is planned, among other things, to purchase new self-propelled guns, including ammunition in the NATO calibre | army.cz

This year, the Ministry of Defence is planning to purchase the 155 mm calibre guns (i.e. the calibre used within the NATO) to replace existing armaments from the time of Soviet provenance. The advantage will not be only compatibility with alliance partners, but also incomparably higher performance. “Such guns have at least double firing range in comparison with the DANA system, are ready to fire faster, have a wide range of ammunition and many other capabilities,“ said the Colonel Milan Kalina, the Commander of the 13th Artillery Regiment. Currently, it has a number of self-propelled howitzers, model 77 Dana (vehicle gun charged automatically) of the calibre 152 mm with 8x8 drive.

The KVACR (Czech abbreviation for the Concept of the Build-up of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic) also brings the information about new howitzers. According to the Milestone Programme 2025, which states the deadline in its title when it is optimal to meet the commitment, the self-propelled guns and mortars in the NATO calibre including ammunition, interoperable fire control system, special equipment and material for fire support management will be purchased for the artillery. If the commitment is met, there is a number of solutions that also involve the domestic defence industry. One of them is modernisation of existing systems. After all, it was already planned in 2018. However, the Minister of Defence Karla Šlechtová cancelled the contract for about 1.3 billion. It specifically covered modification of existing systems, but without conversion to new ammunition of the 155 mm calibre. 

Bojová rychlost střelby při automatickém nabíjení jsou 4 výstřely z minitu
Picture: Self-propelled howitzer, model 77 DANA, at the international exercise Joint Fires 2019 | army.cz

Nevertheless, the modernisation of existing systems would make sense to some extent. It is necessary to realise that army warehouses have currently artillery ammunition in their bowels for more than 3 billion Czech Korunas. It will be useless in case of the transition to the new 155 mm system. It is also worth thinking about maintaining the current system at least for the needs of active Army Reserves. It also strengthens and should reach up to 10,000 soldiers of the active Army Reserves by 2030 according to the KVACR.  

There has been talk of buying up to 50 new howitzers at the price of about 10 billion Czech Korunas. Ammunition should be already included in the price. However, there is still a question what type of the howitzer the Army will choose or gain in the competition. However, we can have a look at possible solutions and get inspired from our neighbours in Slovakia. 

Slovakia modernised the model DANA to the version of the 2000 ZUZANA model in the calibre 155 mm that the Slovak Army received in 1998-2000 in the number of 16 pieces. Other 12 pieces of these howitzers are available in the Greek Army in Cyprus. The Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic also ordered 25 pieces of the new model ZUZANA 2 for 172 million euros two years ago. The Slovak Army should receive the howitzers ZUZANA 2 by 2022. Their gun barrels (8200 mm) are also manufactured in Slovakia and their maximum firing range exceeds 40 km. Apart from the howitzers, the Slovak manufacturer KONŠTRUKTA will also supply the artillery ammunition of the 155 calibre, spare parts and simulator.

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Picture: Self-propelled gun howitzer Zuzana 2| KONŠTRUKTA - Defence

Nevertheless, there are more interesting self-propelled howitzers of the calibre 155 mm, e.g. Israeli howitzers ATMOS, French system CAESAR, Swedish guns ARCHER, German howitzers PzH-2000, etc. 

I am curious how the purchase of the new self-propelled guns for the Army of the Czech Republic will eventually turn out. If it ever happens considering to the current situation with respect to the Coronavirus. 

 Author: Martin Šiška