Georgia interested in Slovak Zuzana 2 howitzers
The first Zuzana 2 self-propelled wheeled howitzers were taken over by the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic (AF SR) in the summer of 2021. In the first half of December 2021, the howitzers were deployed to Latvia as part of NATO's Operation Forward Presence (eFP), where the Zuzana 2 howitzers have the opportunity to reach potential customers. One of them could be Georgia.
Slovakia has been operating in Operation Forward Presence in Latvia since 2018. Currently, a total of 135 Slovak troops are stationed in Latvia and 9 new Slovak-made Zuzana 2 howitzers will join them in December 2021. Recently, the Slovak garrison in Latvia was visited by President of the Slovak Republic Zuzana Čaputová, Minister of Defence Jaroslav Naď and Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces General Daniel Zmeko. During this visit, which took place on 20 December 2021, Jaroslav Naď said that Georgia had expressed interest in the Slovak Zuzana 2 howitzers. The interest was declared to Minister Naď by his Georgian counterpart Juansher Burchuladz. According to Jaroslav Nada, the Georgian defence minister had good references for the howitzers also from their use in Latvia.
Chances in Georgia
Georgia's interest in the Zuzana 2 howitzers is not accidental. Georgia currently uses several types of self-propelled howitzers. According to The Military Balance 2021, Georgian artillerymen have 20 2S1 Gvozdika howitzers, 32 Czechoslovakian-made DANA vz. 77 howitzers, 13 2S3 Akatsiya howitzers, and one each of 2S7 Pion and 2S19 Msta, both on tracked chassis. From the point of view of the structure of the self-propelled wheeled howitzers, it can be seen that all the self-propelled howitzers are of Soviet and, in the case of the DANA howitzers, Czechoslovak manufacture. According to the Georgian Ministry of Defence, these systems are currently completely ineffective in the Caucasus region. For this reason too, the Georgian Ministry of Defence decided to prepare and present a vision to improve the current situation.
In the summer of 2021, the Action Plan of the Georgian Armed Forces for the period 2020-2030 was presented. According to the words of Georgian Defense Minister Juansher Burchuladze, who officially presented this plan to the public on 22 July, the Action Plan includes 5 priority areas of development: anti-tank capabilities, air force, artillery, reconnaissance and engineer capabilities. According to available information, intensive development of artillery is planned for the period from 2024.
As part of the improvement of artillery capabilities, Georgia will be interested in using the capacities of the domestic defence industry to produce mortars, and other artillery systems are reportedly to be purchased from abroad. The plan to develop Georgian artillery capabilities is thus an excellent opportunity for the Slovak defence industry to win its first foreign reference contract for the Zuzana 2 howitzer. The eventual success of the Slovak howitzers would certainly open up other opportunities for the Slovak defence industry on the world market.
The Zuzana 2 self-propelled wheeled howitzer is manufactured by Konštrukta-Defence. The howitzer is built on a new Tatra T 815-7 chassis and is equipped with a 155 mm calibre cannon, turret protection is level 3 according to STANAG 4569 and the maximum range of the howitzer is 41 km. The only current user of the Zuzana 2 howitzers is the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, which is to receive a total of 25 units from the manufacturer by the end of 2022.