Artillery: June 23, 2003


The U.S. Marine corps never cared much for self-propelled artillery, feeling that they could not afford the size and weight of such systems on their amphibious ships, and that towed guns provided everything they needed. The marines did not expect to do a lot of fast moving battlefield maneuvering, so a towed gun suited them just fine. Until Iraq. Granted, this was a first for the Marines. Iraq was their longest inland combat operation, and the fastest. But they now expect more of this, and are looking for a more mobile 155mm howitzer. So, it seems, is the U.S. Army, which is still trying to find adequate (lightweight and mobile) artillery support for their medium brigades. Unfortunately, the most likely solution, the Caesar truck mounted 155mm howitzer, is foreign made (in France). This makes it difficult to get the money out of Congress, which does not like to be accused of "exporting jobs." But the Caesar system fits the bill. It's a 6x6 truck that weighs 18.5 tons when loaded for combat (with 16 rounds of ammo and the six man crew on board.) Unloaded, it weighs 16.2 tons, meaning it's the right weight, and size, to be carried by a C-130 aircraft. Not only is Caesar about half the weight of conventional tracked self-propelled gun, but is faster on roads (100 kilometers an hour) and has a range, on roads,  of 600 kilometers. The crew compartment is armored and the gun can get into, or out of, firing order in less than a minute.  There have been designs like this before, and Caesar builds on past experience. The U.S. Army is evaluating a Caesar system, and the marines are keeping an eye on that. A buying decision by the military is expected by the end of the year. But a decision to buy has to get past Congress, which would be the most difficult part of the procurement process. Other nations also have systems similar to Caesar, and the marines are considering buying a truck mounted MLRS rocket system. But mobile gun artillery is still seen as a future need.


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