16 Mar 23. The British Army will receive modern artillery platforms to replace those supplied to Ukraine, as part of an agreement struck with Sweden.
- Army to replace the AS90 gifted to Ukraine with new ‘Archer’ heavy artillery guns
- Rapid procurement upgrades Army artillery capability, ahead of long-term artillery programme
- Vehicles can be brought into action within 20 seconds and hit targets simultaneously
The first 14 Archer artillery systems will have ownership transferred to the British Army this month and be fully operational by next April, forming an interim replacement for the 32 AS90 artillery systems the UK gifted to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Designed and built by BAE Systems Bofors in Sweden, Archer has double the maximum range of AS90, greater operational mobility, greater availability and reduced time into action. Operated by 3-4 crew, it has a lower requirement for personnel than the AS90’s five, and benefits from a higher top speed of 70kph compared to the current 53kph.
Archer 6×6 boasts a fully automated, self-propelled 155mm howitzer gun designed for rapid deployment, with a firing range of 50km using extended range ammunition – a doubling of the AS90’s 25km range. For a sense of distance, the AS90 could fire from Central London to the M25, whereas Archer is capable of reaching the distance of Sandhurst in Berkshire.
Loading and firing of Archer is handled from inside the armoured cabin, with the unit able to be deployed into action in just 20 seconds and is ready to move after firing in the same amount of time.
Archer can fire a number of types of 155mm artillery ammunition, including extended range and precision anti-armour shells. It can also fire eight rounds a minute and four rounds in a simultaneous impact-mode, meaning several shells are fired in succession with different trajectories so they hit the same target at the same time.
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: “While continuing to double-down on our unwavering support for Ukraine, it’s imperative we simultaneously replenish our capabilities at home. Archer artillery systems are powerful, protective and can be rapidly deployed. This agreement with a close European ally will sustain the British Army’s requirements until the longer-term Mobile Fires Platform comes into service – a programme we are working hard to accelerate. The purchase of the Archers from Sweden enables the UK to quickly replace AS90 until the long-term Mobile Fires Platform delivers later this decade as part of the Future Soldier modernisation programme. Archer will contribute to the Close Support capability as part of our commitment to NATO.”
Lieutenant General Sharon Nesmith, Deputy Chief of the General Staff said: “Archer is a potent, modern artillery system procured at a speed previously unseen in Defence. Today’s agreement took only eight weeks to secure and the guns will be in service with the British Army by next Spring. Archer fires further and faster than any artillery system previously in service with the British Army – it is a step change in capability and fills a gap left by UK support to Ukraine. It will provide a bridge to the next generation of artillery systems, the procurement of which is being accelerated to speed up modernisation. The agreement has been reached in the space of just two months, demonstrating agility to procure at pace and deliver the Army requirements, following the gifting to Ukraine. It also emphasises the strong ties with our Swedish allies, who have risen to support the challenging timeframe.”
The government-to-government sale is being negotiated by Defence Equipment & Support – the UK MOD’s procurement arm – and the final contract will be signed with their Swedish counterparts, FMV, shortly.
Recognising the need to sustain Ukraine’s fighting and support capabilities, the UK and Sweden have also agreed to collaborate on bringing together efforts for repair and maintenance of vehicles granted in kind to Ukraine. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
BATTLESPACE Comment: This Archer procurement was described as, ‘The worst kept secret at the recent Indirect Fires Conference.’ The MoD appears here to have made their mind up two months ago, when they issued the RFI to the other possible contenders including Hanwha with K9A1 Thunder and Krauss-Maffei with the Boxer derivative RCH 155. Hanwha appears to have been found wanting on its industrial strategy preferring to offer the first 25 howitzers from Poland in 2024 without offering a UK solution based on its Team Thunder offering. The RCH 155 is still in development and could well be procured post 2027 as part of the Boxer options. In the early days of the procurement of Mobile Fires (Protected) MFP, Archer was seen by some as being non-compliant. However, rumours of BAE systems being part of Team Thunder was never announced, which was a clue to their ultimate intensions with Archer. One of the key MoD conditions for MFP was the offering of advanced 155m ammunition systems which BAE produces at its Glascoed facility (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.25 ISSUE 11, 13 March 2023, MISSILE, ARTILLERY, HYPERSONICS, BALLISTICS AND SOLDIER SYSTEMS UPDATE, Archer for Interim MFP?)