New Self-propelled Howitzers for ACR – What Would Be The Cheapest

 21. 05. 2020      category: Army of the Czech Republic

A recent press conference at the Ministry of Defence brought a lot of information and promises. Apart from the promise to complete the purchase of new IFV by the end of this year (if the winning supplier agrees to spread the instalments over the course of six years), there was also a promise to purchase new 155mm howitzers. What are the real prospects of the army and what to do now with the old technology for which there is still ammunition worth billions of crowns available in our army warehouses?

Bojová rychlost střelby při automatickém nabíjení jsou 4 výstřely z minitu
Picture: It will be necessary to think about what to do with the current GTLA system (Gun on Truck Loaded Automatically, in Czech the “DANA” system). Preserve or keep for active reserves? | army.cz

This year, the Ministry of Defence plans to purchase 155millimeter caliber cannons (the caliber used within NATO), which should replace the existing armaments of the Soviet origin. The purchase should take place despite the current complications and the high state budget deficit due to the coronavirus. It is clear that the modernization of the ACR is necessary and the purchase of (not only) new machinery should not be stopped. New machinery brings a number of advantages. One of them is compatibility with the alliance partners, but also incomparably higher performance. "Such cannons (of 155mm) caliber) have at least twice the firing range of the GTLA system, are faster prepared to fire, have a wide range of types of ammunition and many other abilities,” said Colonel Milan Kalina, Commander of the 13th Artillery Regiment. The regiment currently has a number of self-propelled howitzers of the type 77 GTLA (Gun on Truck Loaded Automatically, in Czech 77 DANA), caliber 152mm with 8×8 drive. They have a maximum firing range of about 18 kilometers. Compared to the modern 155mm technology, which is standard in NATO countries, GTLA has half the firing range, not to mention that the system is growing obsolete also from the moral point of view as it has already served in the Czechoslovak People's Army.

It will be necessary to think about what to do with the current GTLA system. Preserve or keep for active reserves? It is necessary to take into account that the ACR has 152mm ammunition worth of billions of crowns.  It would therefore be mindless to abandon the system altogether.

Artillery will always play an important role, even on modern battlefields. There is a variety of interesting machines at the market with new and modernized self-propelled howitzers. Probably the most similar to our equipment is the Zuzana 2 model, which is manufactured in Slovakia. In addition to the Zuzana 2 howitzers, the Slovak manufacturer KONŠTRUKTA is also able to supply 155mm artillery ammunition, spare parts and a simulator. The Slovak army took advantage of this offer and included the Zuzana howitzers into their armament. Thanks to the 8200mm cannon, this artillery is able to destroy targets at a distance of 40 kilometers. The price of the sets can be deduced. The Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic ordered 25 pieces of ZUZANA 2 howitzers for 172 million Euro, which in today's exchange rate amounts to approximately 180 million crowns per piece.

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

Another interesting candidate is the Israeli ATMOS howitzer, however, the purchase price is several times higher than the one of the Zuzana howitzer. ATMOS has a somewhat different design, but it should be noted that the ATMOS cannon was chosen by Poland for their wheeled AHS Kryl. If this cannon was chosen, it would be possible to cooperate with Poland, which would of course be very advantageous

AHS_Kryl_MSPO
Picture: The ATMOS cannon was chosen by Poland for their wheeled AHS Kryl | Wikimedia Commons

The French CAESAR system, which often uses chassis and cabs by TATRA, costs approximately 80 million crowns if purchased purely as a cannon (i.e. without a chassis), e.g. Denmark bought 15 pieces for 45 million Euro.

CAESAR houfnice
Picture: Self-propelled howitzer Caesar 8x8 on a Tatra chassis | NEXTER

One of the most powerful self-propelled cannons today is the German type PzH 2000. This self-propelled cannon fully meets the requirements of the ACR, and the geographical proximity of the manufacturer is also an advantage. On the other hand, what serves as a disadvantage of the PzH 2000 type is its high weight and also its higher price. German howitzers PzH-2000 were purchased, for example, by Croatia in 2015. Twelve pieces of this machinery cost them about 41 million Euro, i.e. at today's exchange rate, it would amount to about 90 million crowns per piece, nevertheless this is a five years old price figure.

Dutch_Panzerhaubitz_fires_in_Afghanistan
Picture: Panzerhaubitze 2000 (shortly PzH 2000) | Wikimedia Commons

The Czech artillery, haunted for many years by the reduction of numbers and the obsolescence of its weapon systems, certainly deserves modernization, so we will see what is eventually purchased.

The domestic defence industry and state-owned enterprises should of course be included in the acquisition of new self-propelled howitzers for the ACR.

 Author: Martin Šiška