Artillery: July 1, 2005

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: The first artillery was towed, primarily by horses. Towed guns always had some advantages over the faster and more expensive self-propelled guns. They are lighter, which makes it easier to deploy them via aircraft (thus ensuring that a light division will have support). They are cheaper, which makes the bean-counters happy. They are also simpler, which means much less can go wrong. That said, the low price, light weight, and simplicity comes with a trade-off in tactical mobility. Towed howitzers, which rely these days on trucks to move them, have a harder time keeping up with mobile units (like armor and mechanized infantry) than self-propelled artillery. That said, there are a number of good towed artillery pieces in the world.

Russia has a variety of these guns. One of the most common around the world is the D-30 howitzer. This 122mm gun has a range of 21.9 kilometers and fires a range of ammunition to include chemical, incendiary and HEAT rounds. Another common gun in the world from Russia is the D-20, a 152mm gun that was also used as the basis of the 2S3 howitzer. Russia did the same with the 2A65 which became the basis of the 2S5 self-propelled gun. Russia has a new 152mm towed gun in service, the 2A36 Giatsint. It has a range of 28.5 kilometers firing conventional shells or 44 kilometers with extended range shells. Its ammunition system is incompatible with previous 152mm howitzers.

The United States has a 105mm howitzer, the M119, that was built in the U.S. as a licensed copy of the L118, a British howitzer that was proven in the 1982 Falklands War. This two-ton howitzer can fire shells as far as 19 kilometers away. The M198 is the standard towed 155mm howitzer. It weighs 8 tons, and can fire conventional rounds as far as 22.4 kilometers (for rocket-assisted projectiles, the range is 30 kilometers). The M198 is slated to be replaced by the XM777, which will have a weight of about 5 tons (about 37 percent less than the M198). The XM777, which is going to be the basis of the NLOS-C self-propelled gun, can fire conventional shells up to 30 kilometers, while rocket-assisted projectiles will be able to travel 40 kilometers.

Europe also has a collection of towed 155mm howitzers. Swedens Bofors FH 77 not only comes in a towed version, but also a self-propelled version. It can fire shells as far as 40 kilometers. The FH 70 is in service with the United Kingdom and Japan. It fires conventional shells 24 kilometers, and rocket-assisted projectiles 30 kilometers. Germanys FH 155-1 weighs about 10 tons, and can fire its shells 24 kilometers away. France has the TRF-1, which weighs 19 tons, and can fire conventional shells 24 kilometers, with rocket-assisted projectiles going as far as 30 kilometers.

However, the best of the towed guns at least on paper - is from South Africa. The original G5 was developed by Dr. Gerald Bull (a real genius with guns, who was killed by an Israeli hit squad after he went to work for Saddam Hussein). Weighing in at 14 tons, it can reach out with conventional shells and hit targets as far as 39 kilometers away. The newer G5-52 extends this guns reach to just over 55 kilometers. Like the Russians, South Africa created a self-propelled version of this gun, the G6 (with the newer version being the G6-52). These guns reach even further (the extended-range version can fire velocity-enhanced projectiles as far as 67 kilometers). That said, the long range can be a handicap, since the G5 and G6 are reliant upon good target acquisition systems (South Africa has designed a UAV, the Seeker II, for use with the G6-52) and secure command and control facilities (it should be noted that command and control is something the United States has had a history of going after from the Revolutionary War on just ask the British). In Desert Storm, when Iraqs target acquisition systems and command and control facilities were taken out by Coalition air strikes, the G5s were unable to hit the targets that they could not locate. Many ended up destroyed by either air strikes (aircraft and helicopters can fly further than the G6-52 can fire its shells) or MLRS counter-battery fire. When countries have been able to acquire targets and protect command and control, the G5 has been devastating as Israel proved in 1986. The G5s potential can only be achieved when the soldiers using it are well-trained. The same, of course, can be said for any of these artillery systems. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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