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Swedish Archer Howitzer Revolutionizes the Ukrainian Battlefield in the Fight Against Russian Forces

The Swedish ARCHER 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer demonstrates its efficiency with the 45th Artillery Brigade of the Ukrainian Army in combat against Russian forces.
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The Swedish ARCHER 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer is in service with the 45th Artillery Brigade of the Ukrainian Army.  (Picture source Russian Social Network VK)

Sweden has delivered eight ARCHER 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, marking a significant boost in Ukraine's artillery capabilities against Russian forces. This delivery, confirmed on November 4, 2023, by the Swedish Ministry of Defense, is part of Sweden's ongoing military support to Ukraine, which reached approximately $2 billion since the onset of the war.

The ARCHER Artillery System, a highly advanced 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer, is produced by BAE Systems Bofors, a subsidiary of the British defense, security, and aerospace company BAE Systems. Based in Karlskoga, Sweden, BAE Systems Bofors specializes in artillery and naval guns, ammunition, and missile systems. The company has a rich history dating back to the early 20th century and has evolved through various mergers and acquisitions. BAE Systems, its parent company, is one of the world's largest defense contractors, renowned for its extensive range of products, including naval ships, submarines, armored vehicles, and advanced electronics. The ARCHER system itself is a prime example of BAE Systems Bofors' expertise in artillery, combining precision, mobility, and rapid deployment capabilities, and has been recognized for its significant role in modern artillery warfare.

The ARCHER artillery system is notable for its high mobility, rapid response capabilities, and precision. Mounted on a 6x6 Volvo A30D all-terrain vehicle, the ARCHER can swiftly maneuver across different landscapes. Its automated loading system allows for rapid engagement within 30 seconds, enabling effective use of the "shoot and scoot" tactic, which involves firing and immediately moving to a new location to avoid enemy counterattacks. The ARCHER is capable of hitting targets up to 40 kilometers away with standard ammunition and can extend its range beyond 50 kilometers with precision-guided munitions. The system's advanced navigation and fire control systems ensure accurate strikes, minimizing collateral damage.

The ARCHER howitzer stands out for its rapid rate of fire, dispatching up to six rounds per minute, and its ability to relocate quickly after engagement. This provides a tactical advantage, allowing for sustained operations with minimal exposure to enemy fire. The system is compatible with NATO standards, ensuring seamless integration into existing military frameworks. Technically, the ARCHER's gun system is an FH77BW L52, a development of the FH77B 155mm field howitzer, with a longer gun barrel for increased range and accuracy. The fully automated magazine of the ARCHER carries 21 rounds and can handle both standard and smart munitions, offering a variety of tactical options. It also features Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) capability, allowing several shells to hit the target simultaneously for maximum impact.

Sweden's commitment to supporting Ukraine's military defense was further emphasized by the announcement of additional aid packages, including these howitzers. Sweden, being the launch customer for the ARCHER system, received the last of the initial 48 vehicles in 2022. The ARCHER howitzers are part of a larger trend of military support from various countries to Ukraine, including different types of self-propelled howitzers like the Zuzana 2, M777, FH70, CAESARs, M109A6, Krab, and PzH 2000.

This military aid by Sweden aligns with the broader international support Ukraine has been receiving in its conflict with Russian forces. The ARCHER howitzers, with their advanced capabilities, are expected to significantly enhance Ukraine's artillery strength and its ability to effectively counter adversarial forces.

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The ARCHER is a 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer designed and manufactured by the Company BAE Systems. (Picture source Russian Social Network VK)

The urgent need for artillery systems in Ukraine to combat Russian forces has been a significant aspect of the ongoing conflict. The situation on the ground in Ukraine highlights the crucial role of artillery in modern warfare, especially in the context of Ukraine's defense against Russian aggression.

The U.S. Army, recognizing the critical role of artillery in this conflict, is developing a new conventional fire strategy. This strategy is influenced by the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine, emphasizing the importance of both precision and conventional fires. The U.S. has already supplied Ukraine with substantial artillery support, including 198 155mm howitzers, 72 105mm howitzers, millions of artillery rounds, and 38 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. The new strategy will consider both existing capabilities and future needs, focusing on technological advancements like improved propellants for midrange cannons and autoloaders for munitions, to enhance artillery effectiveness on the battlefield.

Despite these efforts, there remains a significant artillery shortage on the Ukrainian front, defining the nature of the conflict. The demand for shells in Ukraine has been so high that even major defense companies like Rheinmetall have struggled to keep up. The U.S. has provided cluster munitions as a "bridging capability" to meet immediate needs. Meanwhile, Russia has experienced its own challenges, relying on Soviet-era reserves and facing shell rationing due to a significant deficit in artillery ammunition.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been vocal about the need for more substantial military support, including advanced tanks like the German-made Leopards, emphasizing that Ukraine is in a defensive posture and not on the offensive. The European Union has also expressed its support for Ukraine, with the European Parliament calling for a special tribunal to investigate war crimes. The EU's message of support extends to Ukraine's bid to join the European Union, highlighting the geopolitical significance of the conflict.

The situation in Ukraine underscores the central role of artillery in modern warfare and the challenges of meeting the demand for such weaponry in a high-intensity conflict. The ongoing support from the U.S. and other allies, coupled with Ukraine's requests for more advanced systems, reflects the evolving nature of the war and the strategic importance of artillery in determining its outcome.

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