Zuzana 2 for the Slovak Army Maybe in Less Than a Month
During the period from March 8 to 19, the first stage of military tests of Zuzana 2 self-propelled wheeled howitzers took place. It was to verify the tactical and technical requirements, the functionality of howitzers Zuzana 2 in practice and also to help the assessment of its contribution for the development of capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic. If the tests are successful, the first five pieces of new self-propelled howitzers could be received by Slovak soldiers on April 15.
According to the latest information from the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, it seems that the first pieces of self-propelled wheeled howitzers Zuzana 2 will soon be added to the armament of the Slovak army. The military tests taking place now are divided into two stages. The first already mentioned stage was carried out in Sučany, where they tested the howitzer’s abilities in the field and during wading. In the second stage, howitzers will be subjected to shooting tests. The purchase of 25 Zuzana 2 howitzers was planned and approved in 2018 by the previous leadership of the Ministry of Defence and the Government of the Slovak Republic. The new howitzers are to complement the existing 16 Zuzana type 2000 howitzers, and the total cost of their acquisition should not exceed 175 million Euro, including VAT.
The delivery process of Zuzana 2 howitzers has changed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the original plans, the first howitzers were to be delivered last year. Specifically, it was supposed to happen by June 30. According to Martina Kovaľ Kakaščíková, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, the covid-19 pandemic affected the subcontractors’ supply of components and the schedule needed to be adjusted. According to the new schedule, the first 5 pieces of Zuzana 2 were to be delivered by December 15, 2020, another 12 were to be delivered during 2021, and the last 8 pieces were to be taken over by December 15, 2022. However, due to the deteriorating pandemic situation, even this schedule could not be fulfilled and the first pieces are to be delivered by April 15 this year.
The Zuzana 2 self-propelled wheeled howitzer is manufactured by the state-owned company Konštrukta-Defence a.s., which belongs to the DMD Group holding. It is a product of the Slovak defence industry and the total ratio of domestic producers and foreign suppliers is 80:20. According to information published by the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic on social networks, compared to its predecessor ShKH Zuzana 2000, it is equipped with a new Tatra T 815-7 chassis, 155mm caliber weapon with a barrel length of 8200 mm (52 calibers) and is also armed with a machine gun M2HB-QCB of 12.7mm caliber. In addition, the Zuzana 2 howitzer has level 3 ballistic protection of the turret according to STANAG 4569, the crew consists of four soldiers and the maximum range of the howitzer is 41 km. The combat weight of the howitzer is 32,400 kilograms. The Zuzana 2 system passed the first tests in 2009.
The acquisition process of the new howitzers was accompanied by controversy, in connection to the price of the order and the number of ordered howitzers. One of the critics was, for example, the current Minister of Defence Jaroslav Naď, who described the price for the Zuzana 2 howitzer as too high. As an example, he mentioned the purchase of Caesar howitzers by the Danish army in 2017, when the Danes paid 40.3 million Euro for 15 howitzers made in France. In terms of the number of purchased howitzers, critics pointed out the fact that the Slovak army already had two batteries of Zuzana type 2000 howitzers. Each of the existing batteries is equipped with 8 howitzers Zuzana type 2000 and therefore it would be enough to buy only 8 new howitzers to build a third battery.
The number of 25 ordered Zuzana 2 howitzers can therefore also indicate the replacement of already established howitzers from the turn of the century. Despite several controversies, the purchase of new Zuzana 2 howitzers did not stop, and although deliveries were slowed down several times by the coronavirus pandemic, soldiers are likely to receive this new artillery machinery. The introduction of Zuzana 2 howitzers into armaments can, in several respects, outweigh the controversies that accompanied the purchase. First of all, we can describe as positive the very fact that the Slovak army will receive new howitzers of domestic production. Supporting domestic industry is one way to help the economy in the days of coronavirus. Another no less important positive is that the introduction of Zuzana 2 howitzers into the Slovak army’s armament will increase their export potential. Recent experience from the Czech Republic, where the Zuzana 2 howitzer failed in a tender, proves that having reference customers is as important to success as having a quality product.