British Army replaces AS90 artillery systems donated to Ukraine with Swedish Archer self-propelled howitzers

The British Army will receive modern artillery systems to replace those supplied to Ukraine, as part of an agreement struck with Sweden. The first 14 Archer self-propelled howitzers will be owned by 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.
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Archer 6x6 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 (Picture source: British Army/BAE Bofors)

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 70 kph compared to the current 53 kph.

Archer 6x6 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. This is an equivalent upgrade as firing from central London to the M25 and now being able to reach Sandhurst in Berkshire.

The main piece of the system is a fully automated 155 mm/L52 gun howitzer and an M151 Protector remote-controlled weapon station mounted on a modified 6×6 chassis of the Volvo A30D all-terrain articulated hauler. The crew and engine compartment is armoured and the cab is fitted with bullet and fragmentation-resistant windows. The system also includes an ammunition resupply vehicle, a support vehicle, BONUS submunitions and M982 Excalibur guided projectiles. 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 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 the repair and maintenance of vehicles granted in kind to Ukraine.

Defense News March 2023