PICATINNY ARSENAL HELPING AFGHAN NATIONAL ARMY DEVELOP INDIRECT FIRE CAPABILITY
By Audra Calloway, AMC
09 Nov 11. Picatinny, in conjunction with the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, will support the acquisition of 194 D30, 122mm Howitzers for the Afghan National Army.
In addition to supporting the acquisition of the howitzers, the Program
Executive Office Ammunition, or PEO Ammo, has also helped establish a training and mentoring program at the Central Work Shop in Kabul, Afghanistan. At the CWS, mentors/instructors are teaching an Afghan work force how to properly overhaul, repair and maintain the weapons.
To accomplish this mission, PEO Ammo has enlisted the support of the Project Manager for Towed Artillery Systems, known as PM TAS, and subject matter experts in the areas of optical fire control, canon, quality assurance and weapon systems from the Armament Research Development & Engineering Center, or ARDEC.
To date, this team has successfully delivered 85 of the required 194 howitzers.
“This program supports our country’s strategy of exiting Afghanistan,” said Keith Gooding, program manager, Towed Artillery Systems. “Part of that exit strategy is helping the Afghans become self-sufficient so they can support and defend themselves.”
“We’re training the Afghan army to use the artillery properly and we’re giving them the weapons to fulfil their artillery mission,” Gooding said. “The idea is to leave them in a position that they’re able to sustain themselves when we’re gone, so they can stand on their own once American and NATO troops leave the country.”
Afghans are familiar with the D30 Howitzer capability, said Ray Espinosa, the ARDEC Project Officer for the D30 Howitzer Program.
The D30 was developed by the Soviets in the 1960s and is still the most widely used howitzer in the world today.
The Soviets brought the D30 to Afghanistan when they occupied the country in the 1980s. Even though the Soviet Army eventually left, their howitzers remained behind.
“The Afghans have been using them ever since, but have not had the resources or training to maintain them, so the howitzers have deteriorated through the years,” Espinosa said.
HELP FROM FOREIGN PARTNERS
Picatinny’s PM TAS has been tasked with procuring the D30s, overseeing the refurbishing of the howitzers, inspecting them to ensure they are operable and then delivering them to troops in Afghanistan.
To achieve this, PM TAS and ARDEC employees are working closely with Eastern European countries that are familiar with and have access to D30s.
So far PM TAS has procured and delivered 44 D-30 howitzers from the Ukraine, initiated the procurement of 60 weapons from Bosnia i Herzegovina and helped the Afghan National Army refurbish 17 weapons in their Central Work Shop.
The Bosnia i Herzegovina government donated the 60 howitzers to the program.
“Bosnia has a surplus of weapons and it costs them money to maintain these weapons because they have to store them and make sure they’re secure,” Espinosa said. “They donated 60 howitzers whose conditions range from lightly worn to heavily used. So we decided to put the howitzers through a refurbishing program before we turned them over to the Afghan National Army,” to ensure consistent quality throughout the fleet.
That refurbishing is being done in Bosnia i Herzegovina with the Bosnia i
Herzegovina company UNIS Group serving as the prime contractor that oversees three component factories also within country.
The three factories disassemble the weapons, then refurbish and reassemble the howitzers. If they pass a final inspection conducted by ARDEC employees, they are sent to the Afghan National Army.
The D30 team saved around $7 million refurbishing the howitzers from Bosnia i Herzegovina.
“We had initial estimates of $12 million, but by contracting directly with the BiH firm, we were able to bring that down to about $5.4 million,” Gooding said. “So we sav