The 2S23 was actually designed in the 1980s, but didn't start to enter service until 1990. At that point, the Soviet army, and the Soviet Union as a whole, was running out of money. Some vehicles were sold to China, but until recently, there was not much effort to sell it, nor much demand. But that has changed, with Cold War era self-propelled artillery rapidly aging, and becoming unserviceable. Thus the 2S23, at about $800,000 each, becomes an attractive way to get self-propelled artillery on a tight budget.
Russia is back in the artillery business with a new, post Cold War generation of weapons. The Russians have done their homework, and are offering weapons that fill niches, and provide capabilities not found anywhere else. Case in point is the 2S23, a self propelled 120mm mortar. But it looks like a wheeled tank. Looks are deceiving, because the long barrel is still just a longer range 120mm mortar. Since mortars generate less recoil than regular artillery, you can put a long barrel 120mm mortar on a 15 ton armored vehicle. With a crew of four, the 2S23 carries 30 120mm rounds, as well as a 7.62mm machine-gun. The 120mm mortar has a max range of 12.8 kilometers, although most ammo will go out only for 8.8 kilometers. The 2S23 is actually built on the chassis of the BTR-80 8x8 armored personnel carrier. This is a proven system.