Artillery vehicle

One of the most powerful artillery systems ever developed

In 1998, the German army adopted the Panzerhaubitze (PzH) 2000, an incredibly powerful artillery system that is still in use today. He made a name for himself during the war in Afghanistan, earning the nickname “the long arm of [the] FIAS. Recently, it was announced that Germany would deliver the self-propelled howitzer to Ukraine, to help the country defend against the ongoing Russian invasion.

Development of a new artillery system

The development of the PzH 2000 took place following the end of the SP70 program between Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. The project, launched in 1973, had run into a number of financial and reliability problems, as well as design flaws.

The SP70 program was superseded by a new Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU), which called for a new .52 caliber barrel to replace the .32 caliber previously used. A number of German industry leaders were invited to submit projects, from which Wegmann’s was selected.

PzH 2000 in use during NATO Response Force (Land) exercises in Germany, May 2022. (Photo credit: Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

In 1996, Wegmann was awarded a contract for 185 units to be delivered to the country’s quick reaction force, a marked decrease from the original plan to order 1,254 before the end of the Cold War. This order of 185 was supplemented by an additional 410 units for the main force of the German army.

In 1998, Wegmann and Krauss-Maffei merged to form Maffei Wegmann (KMW). They partnered with Rheinmetall AG, a German automotive weapons manufacturer, to produce the PzH 2000.

Specifications PzH 2000

The PzH 2000 was developed for combined arms combat and for use in both asymmetric combat scenarios and conventional operations. It has an operational range of 420 KM, with a maximum on-road speed of 67 KM/H and an off-road speed of 45 KM/H. Its exceptional performance in off-road conditions is attributed to its continuous tracks.

Front view of a PzH 2000
German soldiers of the 1-31 Battalion fire the PzH 2000 during joint operations with the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, at the Grafenwoehr training area of ​​the 7th Army Multinational Joint Command, March 2016. (Photo Credit: US Army/SPC. Nathanael Mercado/Published/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

The artillery system includes front armor that protects it from damage from 14.5mm shells, as well as full protection from artillery shells and small arms fire. It can also be fitted with armor on the roof, to protect the crew of five (commander, driver, gunner and two loaders) from counter-battery mortar fire. Combined with automatic fire suppression and a nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection system, the PzH 2000 is considered a rather safe military vehicle.

PzH 2000 parked on a dirt road
PzH 2000. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

The PzH 2000 is armed with two guns. The main armament is the Rheinmetall 155 mm L52 artillery gun, which has a fully automatic ammunition loading and management system. Compatible with standard NATO 155 mm ammunition, it uses a modular system with six charges, five of which are identical. The secondary armament is a 7.62 mm Rheinmetall MG 3 machine gun.

Some of the projectiles the system can fire include:

  • DM121 Boattail round, with an effective firing range of 30-36 KM.
  • M1711 Base Bleed round, which is most effective between 40 and 47 KM.
  • South African V-LAP rocket-assisted projectile (RAP), with a range of 54 to 67 KM.
  • German artillery cartridge SMArt 155 mm.
German soldiers around a PzH 2000
German army soldiers repair a PzH 2000 during the “Wettiner Heide” exercise, May 2022. (Photo credit: Philipp Schulze / picture alliance / Getty Images)

The speed at which the PzH 2000 can fire is incredibly high. In burst mode, it can fire three rounds in nine seconds and 10 rounds in 56 seconds, depending on barrel temperature. This is thanks to the autoloader, which is electrically driven, digitally controlled and has the ability to load 60 flaming projectiles and reload in less than 12 minutes.

Use in Afghanistan and Ukraine

Since its introduction, the PzH 2000 has been adopted by many countries as a replacement for the M109 howitzer. Apart from Germany, countries that use the artillery system are Greece, the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Lithuania and Qatar.

Australia considered the artillery system as a potential candidate for Phase 1C of its Land Artillery Replacement Program 17, but that phase of the project was canceled in May 2012. It was revived in 2019. US Army also considered it for the Crusader concept. system, but it did not meet the necessary requirements.

PzH 2000 firing a bullet
PzH 2000 firing a bullet during the war in Afghanistan, February 2009. (Photo credit: Gerben van Es / Ministerie van Defensie / Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0)

It was first used during the War in Afghanistan, when in August 2006 the Royal Netherlands Army Fire Support Command used it against the Taliban in Operation Medusa led by Canada . It was then used by coalition troops in the province of Uruzgan, and then saw extensive use in the Battle of Chora and Operation Halmazag.

Although effective, a number of issues were noted with the PzH 2000 during this time. The main problem was with the NBC system, which could not cope with the amount of dust in Afghanistan. Other problems included damage to poorly constructed roads; the need to keep it in the shade when not in use; and its “cold barrel” effect, which required the use of “heaters”.

Number of PzH 2000 lined up outside
The soldiers of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) preparing PZH 2000s for transport to Lithuania, February 2022. (Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Recently, a number of PzH 2000s were pledged for use in the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The Dutch Armed Forces pledged that five would be transferred to Ukraine, with training and ammunition provided by the Germany.

More about us: Panzerfaust 3: the modern German armor-piercing grenade launcher

While Ukraine had initially stated its intention to eventually purchase 1,000 additional artillery systems from the German military, Chancellor Olaf Scholz feared this would harm the country’s ability to meet its NATO commitments. because it would take time to replace the vehicles. Eventually, Germany agreed to send seven to help the Ukrainian army defend against Russian forces.