January 1, 2014:
In late 2013, six years after Norway and Sweden agreed to work together to create a new 155mm artillery system both would use, Norway pulled of the deal citing Swedish failure to perform. This is headed for court because unless Norway can prove Sweden has violated the contract Norway will be subject to expensive cancellation penalties. Norway’s main complaint is that Sweden failed to deliver 24 Archer artillery systems by the end of 2013.
Archer is an FH77 155mm/L52 howitzer mounted on a modified Volvo 6x6 dump truck. The vehicle, with the howitzer on board, weighs 30 tons. L52 means the barrel is 52 times the caliber (8 meters/25 feet). When the vehicle halts, the four man crew can extend the metal braces in the rear, raise the barrel, and be firing within minutes. After firing, the vehicle can be moving in less than a minute. Archer can use the Excalibur GPS guided round, which means Archer and an ammo vehicle can supply lots of effective firepower without the need for constant resupply. Each Archer vehicle costs about $4.2 million.
In addition to the original Archer deal, in 2010 Sweden and Norway announced further cooperation with both nations agreeing to buy the Norwegian (Kongsberg) ODIN Artillery Fire System for Archer. ODIN's main function is to integrate the communications between artillery systems, all sorts of headquarters and the units that call on artillery fire. With both nations using ODIN, it will be much easier for artillery from one nation to provide support for ground units of the other. The Odin equipment will cost $16 million and be installed by 2012. This deal will apparently survive the current crises. Both nations had funded a $150 million, 14 year, development effort to create Archer and by 2010 each nation had agreed to buy 24 Archer vehicles. BAE is manufacturing the systems.
Archer is not the first weapon of this type, but is a heavier and more modern one. About the time development began on Archer (1995) a French firm was already developing a similar system (Caesar). In 2009 France sent eight of its Caesar, truck mounted, 155mm howitzers to Afghanistan. The roads in Afghanistan are pretty bad, and wheeled combat vehicles have a hard time of it. But Caesar was built to handle cross country operations. Afghanistan was the first time Caesar has served in combat. This experience encouraged Norway and Sweden about the ability of Archer to operate in the vast rural areas of both nations. Some parts of rural Norway and Sweden are similar to Afghanistan, but worse (more swamps). There are also similar systems available from South Africa and Israel.