Ukraine’s new Swedish howitzer can hit the Russians with three shells at once and get away before the salvo lands

In the 11 months since Russia expanded its war against Ukraine, Kyiv’s allies have donated a dizzying array of artillery: no fewer than 700 towed and self-propelled howitzers of four main calibers.

Some are Soviet designs. Most are western types. Some are new, some are old—and some are Really ancient.

But the Archer self-propelled howitzers that Sweden just promised… are special. They could even become better great weapons in the diverse inventory of Ukraine.

Fast-moving, long-shooting, and well-armed for self-defense, the 30-ton archers could play a major role in Ukraine’s long-awaited spring counteroffensive, assuming the Russians don’t botch that operation with an offensive of their own. own.

Sweden committed the archers as part of a larger weapons package, also includes CV90 combat vehicles, which the government announced on Thursday. “Archer is an artillery system that can move quickly on wheels, fire quickly and has high accuracy,” the government said. fixed. “She has long been on Ukraine’s wish list.”

“Our warriors will master artillery and vehicles quickly.” tweeted Oleksii Reznikov, Defense Minister of Ukraine.

The Archer, at its core, is a turret-mounted Bofors FH77 155mm howitzer fitted into the bed of an armored and modified Volvo heavy-duty dump truck with room for four crew. An Archer system actually includes three-wheelers: the weapon plus an ammo carrier and a support vehicle. In combat, an Archer battery’s guns would push close to the front line while ammunition and support trucks would stay further back.

Wheeled howitzers like the Archer are all the rage. The Frenchman Cesar, the Slovakian Zuzana and ukrainian single 2S22 they are all similar. The Ukrainian military operates all three types, so you are familiar with their strengths—speed and maintainability— and weaknesseslike poor off-road mobility.

The Archer is unique among wheeled howitzers. While it fires the same NATO-standard 155mm rounds as the other weapons, it fires them further away. The range is partly a function of the efficient pre-packaged powder charges that Bofor developed together with Archer.

All artillery requires a charge. A gunner loads the shell into the barrel and then packs it into powder bags as well. More powder means more range, but too the gunpowder could rupture the barrel, destroying the weapon and endangering the crew.

Traditionally, gunners measure their own charges before an operation. The manual method of filling charge bags results in a large amount of wasted powder and volleys that do not travel as far as they would with perfectly metered charges. That’s why many wealthier militaries are moving towards preloaded modular loadouts. The US military made the switch around 2007.

An Archer crew can squeeze six and a half charges into a single shot, allowing it to launch a shell a distance of 25 miles. That’s further than most other tube artillery systems in the Russia-Ukraine war can shoot. The main exceptions are larger caliber weapons, including the 203-millimeter 2S7s used on both sides.

By changing the angle of the weapon, changing the number of charges, and firing fast (three rounds in 15 seconds), an Archer can achieve what Ulf Einefors, then Archer program manager, did in 2005. described as “momentary high effect on target via MRSI”.

MRSI is an acronym for “Multiple Round Simultaneous Hit”. That is, a single weapon hits a single target with several projectiles at the same time. Because it can be set up in 30 seconds, it fires a projectile every five seconds for 15 seconds, then gears up for movement in other 30 seconds, an Archer crew can send a salvo towards an enemy position up to 25 miles away and be on the move before all three rounds explode at the same instant.

It is not clear if some another artillery system can match that combination of speed, range, and simultaneous impact. As a bonus, the Archer is heavily armored for a howitzer and includes a remote-operated machine gun for self-defense.

The idea is for an Archer battery to fire and slide before the enemy can return fire. But if the nearby enemy forces do manage to target the archers, the howitzers can deflect small arms fire and set up suppressive fire as they escape. Einefors highlighted the Archer’s ability to press its 155mm gun parallel to the ground and fire directly at targets like a tank does, an emergency feature that could come in handy in an ambush.

The rumor is that Sweden is sending a dozen archers to Ukraine for now. The Swedish army currently has 48 archers and has ordered a further 24 examples from Bofors. With backorders and a hot production line, Sweden could probably boost its engagement with Ukraine without significantly affecting its own military capability. So those dozen Archers could just be the beginning.

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