Ukraine interested in more Zuzana 2 howitzers
Slovak-made Zuzana 2 self-propelled wheeled howitzers are already actively engaged in combat in Ukraine. The Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic recently reported that Ukraine has taken delivery of the eighth Zuzana 2 howitzer, which was delivered by the Slovak state-owned joint stock company KONSTRUKTA – Defence under a June 2022 contract. Another 16 guns are to be produced by the company under an agreement between Slovakia, Germany, Norway and Denmark. It has now been reported in the Ukrainian media that Ukraine is interested in 11 more Zuzana 2 howitzers.
Dozens of pieces of military equipment from various European and non-European countries are flowing into Ukraine in connection with the ongoing fighting in the south and east of the country. The list of military equipment and weapon systems delivered to Ukraine also includes Slovak Zuzana 2 howitzers. Slovakia has already delivered eight self-propelled guns from the workshop of the state-owned company KONSTRUKTA – Defence to the invaded country, the last of which Ukraine took delivery of this month. A total of 8 Zuzana 2 howitzers are now in Ukraine and several videos of the deployment of the previously delivered guns have already appeared on Twitter. However, these are far from the last Zuzanas to be received by Ukraine.
On October 2 last year in Copenhagen, Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď signed an agreement with his Danish ministerial colleague Morten Bødskov to produce 16 more Zuzana 2 self-propelled guns for Ukraine. The production of these howitzers will be jointly financed by Denmark, Germany and Norway, which have allocated a total of €92 million for the project. The Ministry of Defence expects that deliveries of Zuzana 2 howitzers could start in the second half of this year. However, according to the latest information from the Ukrainian media, it seems that Ukraine would like to acquire 11 more Slovak-made howitzers.
Ukraine's interest in more Zuzana 2 howitzers was confirmed by Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad himself in an online briefing by Ukraine Media Center Odesa. According to his words, he received information that Ukraine is interested in 11 Slovak-made guns and is currently waiting for the signing of agreements. At the same time, the head of the Slovak defence ministry added that negotiations with representatives of the Ukrainian defence ministry are already underway and he hopes that both sides can reach a mutual agreement. Should a contract for 11 more Zuzana 2 howitzers eventually be signed, Ukraine would have a total of 35 of these guns at its disposal, making it the largest user of them. The Slovak Armed Forces currently have 16 Zuzana 2 howitzers, but the Slovak army is due to receive 25 in total.
According to the information from July 2022, the Slovak Army should receive the remaining guns by June 2024 at the latest. The delivery date was then changed on the basis of a contract amendment signed in June 2022 by the Slovak Ministry of Defence and the state-owned company KONSTRUKTA – Defence. The reason for the rescheduling was to prioritise the delivery of 8 Zuzana 2 howitzers to Ukraine. Since then, however, an agreement has been signed for the production of another 16 Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers, which has been agreed by the aforementioned Germany, Denmark and Norway, and the production of another 11 guns of Slovak provenance for the Ukrainian army is currently under discussion. It is not yet clear how these events will specifically affect the delivery of Zuzana 2 self-propelled wheeled howitzers to the Slovak Armed Forces. However, according to the original plans, the deliveries of Zuzana 2 guns to the Slovak army were to be successfully completed by the end of 2022. In addition to 16 Zuzana 2 howitzers, the Slovak artillery also has 16 older vz.2000 Zuzana howitzers of 155 millimetres calibre, i.e. the same calibre as the Zuzana 2 howitzers.
Ukraine's interest in additional Zuzana 2 guns proves that these are quality systems and that Slovakia still has the capacity to produce competitive weapon systems. The deployment of Slovak howitzers in real combat also underlines the quality of this equipment, which thus gains a valuable reference towards potential buyers. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that the delivery schedule for the Slovak army has not yet been fulfilled; the contract for the purchase and delivery of howitzers for the Slovak Armed Forces was signed in 2018, and since then the delivery schedule has already been postponed several times. Thus, the Slovak Ministry of Defence should consider whether to prioritise the rearmament of its own troops over exports, thus ending the Slovak army's long wait for new weapon systems.