The German government has approved the delivery of 18 RCH 155 self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) mounted on the BOXER 8×8 platform to Ukraine. As German newspaper ‘Die Welt’ was the first to report, the approval came in response to a request by Ukraine on 14 July 2022. According to the request, Ukraine intends to order 18 RCH 155 SPHs from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW). The contract is valued at €216m, with the financing due to come from the German government’s Ukraine aid fund. With the partial example of a single early RCH 155 due sooner, it is expected that deliveries may not be possible until 2025.
In developing the Remote Controlled Howitzer 155 (RCH 155), KMW integrated a remote turret armed with the same a155 mm/L52 howitzer used on the PzH 2000 with a Boxer mission module.
The SPH’s high level of automation allows it to be operated by a crew of just two. The electrically driven remote turret is equipped with a fully automatic loading system and inductive fuze programmer. The combat load consists of 30 ready to fire projectiles and 144 modular propelling charges. The fire control system (FCS) is automated, using a fire control computer with integrated ballistic calculation for automatic gun laying. The FCS is also provided with a radio datalink to allow cueing from nearby artillery Command & Control (C2) systems, and can use positioning data provided by Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), inertial, or othernavigation systems.
The turret is capable of traverse through 360°, and the weapon has a depression/elevation range from -2.5° to +65°, allowing it to carry out both direct and indirect fire missions. The gun is capable of firing in any direction without requiring the vehicle to deploy hydraulic outriggers, which greatly speeds up the process of repositing after a fire mission. The maximum range of the weapon varies by ammunition nature, but would be approximately 40 km with base bleed ammunition, or around54 km with V-LAP rocket assisted/base bleed ammunition.Greater ranges may also be possible, Rheinmetall has previously attained a range of 67 km from their Assegai M2005-V-LAP round from a PzH 2000 during tests in South Africa in 2019. Terminal guided projectiles, such as VULCANO, and EXCALIBUR could also be used with the RCH 155.
In mid-August 2021, KMW presented a new variant of the RCH 155, showing the system’s fire on the move capability during a live fire demonstration. The newer variant featured a turret 30 cm lower than the previous version, intended to be easier to transport via road and rail. This variant also featured a Remote Weapon Station (RWS) armed with a machine guncapable of hunter-killer functionality, enabling the operator to cue direct-fire targets for the primary armament. The crew were also provided with day cameras providing 360°coverage, which are part of the Hensoldt SETAS see-through armour system, intended to improve the crew’s local situational awareness. Manufacturer qualification of this variant was completed earlier in 2022.
Artillery Weapons for Ukraine
In view of the great importance and effectiveness of long-range artillery weapons, Ukraine would like to further strengthen its own artillery over the long term. In addition to its own howitzers and those received from other countries, so far nearly 100 howitzers in the 155 mm calibre from:
- the Czech Republic
- the USA
Ukraine also possesses 18 PzH 2000s from German and Dutch stocks.
At the end of July, KMW had reached an agreement with Ukraine on the production and delivery of 100 PzH 2000s, valued at €1.7Bn. The German government has approved the start of production, but has not yet approved their export.
According to a KMW spokesman, the approval enables the company to begin preparations for production. KMW is prepared to make advance deliveries, even though it has not yet signed a contract with Ukraine. At present, the priority is to implement production and delivery as quickly as possible.
In addition to the Bundeswehr and the Ukrainian armed forces, the armed forces of Italy, Qatar, Lithuania, Croatia and the Netherlands also use the PzH 2000. A few years ago, Hungary also ordered the PzH 2000. However, since no deliveries have been reported so far, the production line is probably still ‘warm’.