Artillery vehicle

CAESAR howitzer: new generation French artillery helps Ukraine fight Russia

For all the high-tech weaponry that accompanied warring forces in Russia’s 2022 “special operation” against neighboring Ukraine, the crux of its outcome – and the cause of much of the misery of those civilians caught between the two sides—is the artillery, either cannons, howitzers, or tanks whose own big guns supplement them.

Although the Russians hold the overall numerical advantage, the Ukrainians have proven to be surprisingly good at making the most of what they have and what they get from friendly Western nations. In what often seems to be a duel between quantity and quality, a recent arrival on the battlefield has imposed itself, both for its qualities as a weapon and as a representative of France’s commitment to the Ukrainian cause.

BETWEEN CAESAR

Developed by GIAT (now Nexter) Industries in Versailles with assistance from Lohr Industries, the CAESAR was first unveiled to the public in 1994. Testing began in 1998. Its purpose is revealed in a dissection of its Latin acronym: “CAmion Equipé d’un Système d’ARTillerie” (truck equipped with an artillery system).

This fully computerized semi-automatic system is built around a wide variety of 155mm, 52 caliber North Atlantic Treaty Organization shells, capable of sustaining six to eight rounds per minute at up to a range of 26 miles with extended range shells, or over 31 miles with rocket-assisted shells. The weapon itself was 32 feet 10 inches long, 8 feet 4 inches wide, and 12 feet 2 inches high.

When it was accepted by the French army in 2003, it was mounted on a six-wheel, six-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz Unimog U2450L chassis. It was then adapted to the Renault Sherpa 5 six-by-six chassis. Both vehicles could carry 18 shells and the five or six soldiers who normally operated the gun, although three could operate it if necessary.

When NATO and other countries started ordering CAESARs, the gun proved equally adaptable to the eight-by-eight Czech-made Tatra 815-7T3RCI chassis with 410 hp engine – in fact, in 2008, the France ordered 32 CAESARs on the Tatra chassis, one in order to be completed by 2030. In turn, on September 16, 2015, the Czech Republic purchased 52 Tatra-mounted CAESARs for 200 million euros. In addition to its versatility as a self-propelled gun, the CAESAR is air-transportable, either in the C-130 or in the Airbus A400M Atlas.

REAL-WORLD TESTING

Since replacing the TRF-1 in the French artillery arsenal, the CAESAR has been battle tested. During Operation Serval in Mali from 2012 to 2014, the 68 equipped with CAESARe The African Artillery Regiment helped Malian government forces defeat Salafist jihadists in the Battle of Ifoghas from February 18 to March 31, 2009. In 2013, the French sent eight CAESARs to support their troops in Afghanistan and during the Battle of Baghuz. Fawqani, from November 8, 2018 to April 2019, the CAESARs assisted the Syrian Democratic Forces in decisively defeating the forces of the Islamic State.

Based on the experiences of these campaigns, Nexter developed an armored cabin to protect the crew from improvised explosive devices, roadside bombs and enemy shells and missiles. Although effective to some extent, the armor added 880 pounds to overall weight and 4% to 5% to cost. In February 2022, Nexter presented a new generation artillery system on a new chassis and powered by a new 460 horsepower engine, which as of today is still under development and testing.

CAESAR IN UKRAINE

On April 22, 2022, CAESAR entered a new conflict when French President Emmanuel Macron announced the donation of 12 of the artillery systems to Ukraine and the arrival of 40 Ukrainian military personnel for training in France. Soon after, the first six CAESARs, mounted on Renault Sherpa 5 chassis built by Arquus, and their newly trained crews were assigned to 55 based in Zaporizhia.e Artillery Brigade, one of the oldest units in Ukraine, dating back to the fight against the Germans in 1942.

On May 28, the Ukrainian government revealed that the first CAESARs were on the ground and credited the guns with destroying two Russian tanks, two BMD airborne infantry fighting vehicles and a few trucks, using only five rounds fired in 55 seconds at a distance of 22,110 meters. (more than 13.7 miles). Although this claim has not yet been confirmed by other sources, it represents an encouraging start, from the Ukrainian point of view. The months of fighting to come will undoubtedly determine whether or not Ukrainians are justified in saluting CAESAR.

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