British troops fire their new Archer howitzers for the first time

During a 14-week ‘train the trainer’ course taught at an icy military base in Boden, Swedish Lapland, the Swedish Artillery School instructed British gunners from Larkhill, Wiltshire, how to fire the Swedish Archer howitzer systems.

Defense Equipment and Support – the UK MoD’s procurement arm – acquired 14 Archer systems from the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration for the Royal Artillery, whose 32 AS90 Braveheart howitzers were donated to Ukraine before the new acquisition.

In October 2023, the first of Britain’s Archer systems arrived in the UK just six months after the government signed the contract for the systems.

The Archer FH77 BW L52 is a 155 millimeter (mm) self-propelled howitzer manufactured by BAE Systems Bofors in Karlskoga, Sweden. It is fully autonomous and can be used in traditional combat fire support as well as modern international peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions.

It has a range of 40 kilometers (km) using current standard ammunition and a range of 60 km with M982 Excalibur rounds (an extended-range guided artillery round). The Howitzer can also fire the premium Bonus attack rounds developed by Bofors and Giat (now Nexter).

The 52 caliber gun uses the proven base and recoil system design from the current generation FH 77B howitzer field trailer. Being equipped with the ability to acquire a target or target designation, the weapon is capable of direct fire.

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A commercial modular transporter allows the vehicle to be rapidly deployed and repositioned.

It also has additional protection for the crew of three to four against 7.62mm and armor-piercing rounds and six-kilogram mines.

“They have kindly offered to deliver this package so that they can convert artillery batteries in the UK to the Archer system and have bent over backwards to support us in our training, and indeed they will continue that support when we return to Wiltshire. said Lt. Col. Paddy Talbot-King, the chief instructor for the training delivery wing.

The course follows the same length and curriculum as that taught to Swedish instructors to qualify them to teach conscripts.

“The need for the extended package is that the weapon is so complex,” explained Fanjunkare (Sergeant Major) Johannes Borgstedt-Faläng, one of the Swedish gunnery instructors who has spent the last three months working closely with our artillery soldiers .

“If you’re coming from an AS90 or any other weapon platform, it’s a lot less digital and not as much manual work as on typical older howitzers. You need much more in-depth knowledge of computer system and error handling.”

The AS90 has been upgraded with BAE Systems’ digital gun sight Laser Inertial Artillery Designation System (LINAPS). LINAPS provides the gunner with gun position and accurate barrel bearing and elevation.

“The challenges of that are when you go from a physical job to pushing buttons that’s ‘hard to get your head around,’ you get used to doing it manually, and when the gun does it for you, you don’t feel comfortable. with him,” added Borgstedt-Faläng.

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Ukrainian artillery crews organize their ammunition before firing an AS90 155mm self-propelled gun. The program is part of the UK’s ongoing commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, 24 March 2023. Credit: Crown Copyright/UK Ministry of Defence.

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