- Artillery played a dominant role on the battlefield in Ukraine.
- When Russia invaded in February, its artillery outnumbered the Ukrainian arsenal.
- But weapons supplied by foreign partners gave Ukraine a wide and diverse range of big guns.
With the influx of foreign weapons into Ukraine, the Ukrainian military could end up with one of the most eclectic collections of artillery in the world.
Take howitzers, for example. When Russia invaded in February, the Ukrainian military fielded the standard array of Cold War-era weaponry found in former Soviet republics and satellites.
Its array of 122mm, 152mm and 203mm guns mirrored those used by the Russian military. But in the early months of the war, Ukrainian troops found themselves outnumbered and overwhelmed by Moscow’s huge arsenal of more and more modern weaponry.
But many NATO countries have sent or promised to send a bewildering variety of weapons, including tank-like howitzers mounted on tracked chassis, wheeled guns that look more like big armored cars, and guns towed by trucks.
Despite logistical and training challenges, this hastily assembled, polyglot firepower—along with several rocket launchers such as the American-made HIMARS—allowed Ukrainian forces to successfully counterattack and begin hunting the Russian troops from the occupied territory.
As Ukraine depletes its stockpiles of Soviet artillery and ammunition, Western artillery will increasingly dominate the Ukrainian arsenal.
Here are some of the imported howitzers that Ukraine uses:
The M777 is a 155mm towed howitzer fielded by the United States Army and Marine Corps as well as the Australian, Canadian, Indian and Saudi armies. The United States, Australia and Canada have sent more than 170 M777s, along with ammunition, to Ukraine.
The 5-ton howitzer, based on a British design, can fire regular shells up to 15.5 miles and fire rocket-assisted projectiles up to 18.6 miles. With precision-guided shells like the M982 Excalibur, it can hit targets up to 25 miles away. The gun can be set up – and towed to a new firing position – in three minutes.
M777 manufacturer BAE Systems is considering restarting production of the weapon in light of renewed interest in its performance in Ukraine.
First deployed in 1979, the M198 was superseded by the M777 in the US Army and Marine Corps around 2005.
The M198 is a heavier weapon – at around 8 tons, it’s almost double what the M777 weighs – and reports indicate that it has a similar firing range to the M777 with standard shells.
But with Ukraine desperate for artillery to counter Russia’s huge number of guns, the Pentagon pulled the old M198s from storage.
Another British design, the British L119 105mm towed howitzer became the M119 in US service.
Weighing only about 2 tons, the weapon was designed for airborne and light infantry troops.
As a smaller caliber and lighter howitzer, it has a reduced range of less than 12 miles.
Germany and the Netherlands have already delivered 10 of the German-designed Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled armored howitzers to Ukraine.
Weighing 57 tons, the PzH 2000 can fire standard shells up to a range of around 25 miles and special long-range shells up to 40 miles.
The French César is a 155 mm howitzer mounted on a six-wheel truck.
Weighing around 20 tons, the Caesar can fire up to 25 miles with regular shells or up to 30 miles with rocket-assisted shells.
France has already delivered 18 Caesars to Ukraine and could deliver 12 more.
The Zusana-2 is a Slovakian 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer.
Germany, Denmark and Norway are buying 16 of the 32-ton weapons – which fire standard 155mm NATO shells – for delivery to Ukraine.
The RCH-155 is a new German 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer.
The 39-ton vehicle, which uses the chassis of the Boxer armored personnel carrier, uses the same gun as the PzH 2000.
Germany has promised 18 RCH-155s for Ukraine, but production will take at least three years.
Omnipresent in Western armies since the early 1960s, the M109 is a 155 mm tank-type armored self-propelled howitzer weighing between 28 and 35 tons.
Older models could fire up to around 14 miles, while the new M109A7 Paladins – the US Army’s heavily upgraded model – can reach 14 miles to 19 miles using regular and rocket-assisted projectiles and 25 miles in using Excalibur guided shells.
Several countries have sent or pawned various M109 models to Ukraine, including Norway, Belgium and Great Britain.
Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine and other publications. He holds a master’s degree in political science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.