Russian field artillery
In 2013, among the news of the Russian military-industrial complex, one of the notable events was the presentation of promising Russian self-propelled artillery systems. It was reported that during the Russian Arms EXPO exhibition in Nizhny Tagil, two new products were presented - the deeply modernized 152-mm self-propelled howitzer 2S19M2 and the long-awaited Coalition-SV. The upgraded Msta-S (2S19M2) is equipped with a programmable complex of loading mechanisms, an upgraded guidance and fire control system, which made it possible, in particular, to increase the rate of fire of the system to ten rounds per minute (which is comparable to the rate of fire of one of the most advanced self-propelled guns today - German 155 mm PzH2000).
On wheels - faster
As for the Coalition-SV - the long-awaited ultra-long-range self-propelled howitzer - the little is known about it, and the main news is that the system will still be single-barrel, unlike the prototype shown back in 2006 (and decorating the cover one of the PM numbers). The firing range will reach 70 km, and it is planned to use some newest ammunition, adjusted according to the GLONASS coordinates.
Where technological progress is moving is understandable. Barreled artillery is trying to keep up with the innovations of modern warfare by means of instant counter-battery warfare, intelligence systems that make it possible to almost instantly reveal enemy artillery positions and deliver a neutralizing strike. For the sake of this, the range and rate of fire are increasing, the accuracy of the ammunition is increased. Self-propelled artillery installation must quickly complete its task, causing maximum damage to the target and as quickly as possible to perform anti-fire maneuver. An interesting point was the presentation of the Coalition-SV in two versions - one on the tracked platform (presumably on the promising Armata platform), the other on the KamAZ wheeled automobile chassis. The latter option resembles one of the latest Western artillery systems - the Swedish Archer self-propelled gun, which is based on the Volvo A30D triaxial chassis. Equipped with a fully automatic loading system, the Swedish gun (155 mm howitzer FH77) is capable of firing 20 shells in 2.5 minutes and leaving the position at a speed of up to 70 km / h, which is not available to the tracked vehicles.
Leave the guns at home
Despite the fact that the means of barrel artillery are created and improved in almost all countries developed militarily, for several decades there have been discussions in military science about the future of this type of weapon. Already the tactics of the German blitzkrieg provided for the actual abandonment of self-propelled and towed artillery systems: German strategists relied on the rapid introduction of tank forces into the breakthrough and moving them as far as possible into the enemy’s defense with the support of aviation. At the same time, World War II became the high point of the barrel artillery, which played a huge role, for example, during the siege of cities or the suppression of defense in depth.
In the future, a particularly acute question arose about the appropriateness of barrel artillery for the American army, which, as you know, is involved in conflicts exclusively far from its own territory. The Americans relied on the development of CAS - close air support of troops fighting on the ground - and after the Second World War, they drastically reduced the number of artillery barrels in service. The apotheosis of this approach was the landing of thousands of troops of the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army in Mazar-e-Sharif (Afghanistan) on November 25 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. This group was not given a single artillery gun for fire support. All the fighting they had to conduct exclusively with the help of small arms and with support from the air.
It is clear that in a highly mobile war, especially in the absence of a front line, artillery is quite difficult to keep up with lightly armed ground forces, and, for example, for attack helicopters this poses absolutely no problem. In addition, the guns - both towed, and even more so self-propelled - have considerable weight and dimensions, and transporting them to the other end of the world is a separate and expensive logistics problem.
However, it is clear to everyone, including the US military, that the conditions of the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be considered a model for all time. A large group of military personnel can rely only on small arms only when their own or allied aircraft are completely dominant in the air (and the enemy does not have or no longer has an effective air defense system) and when somewhere nearby there is a large group of forces ready to come to the rescue.
If for some reason the aircraft does not keep up (for example, is engaged in another operation), one has to rely on one's own forces. In order for these forces to still exist, the American command tried to more widely introduce mortars, both light and 120 mm, in exchange for guns and howitzers. However, the same Afghan experience showed the dubiousness of such a decision: during the Anaconda operation (assault on the Tora-Bora complex in 2002), American troops were tight, especially when the Taliban brought down fire on them with the Soviet 122-mm howitzer D-30. The range of the guns doubled the range of 120 mm mortars. In addition, the accuracy of mortar shooting is significantly inferior to that of conventional guns.
Already in Iraq, a kind of renaissance of artillery took place - in battles with the Iraqi army, armed much more seriously than the Taliban. In Iraq, the M109 Paladin 155-mm self-propelled guns were actively used, the effectiveness and rate of fire of which was significantly increased with the help of advanced automation and the work of reconnaissance units that provided fire adjustment. In particular, according to American data, during the assault on Baghdad alone, artillery of the 3rd Infantry Division destroyed about 500 vehicles, 67 fortified points and up to 3, 000 enemy troops.
Guns for air
Since a complete abandonment of artillery is not possible, especially if the enemy is not lightly armed militants, one of the directions for improving modern artillery is its relief with an eye to air mobility. In particular, the already mentioned Swedish Archer self-propelled gun on a wheeled platform is designed in such a way as to fit into the dimensions of the cargo compartment of the new military transport aircraft A400M. Another example of movement in this direction was the towed howitzer M777 manufactured by British BAE Systems. This is a 155-mm gun, which in the US, UK, Canada and Australia replaced the American-made M198 howitzer, with comparable parameters, it is smaller in size and 42% lighter than its predecessor.
The M777 weighs a little more than 4 tons and can be transported both on a truck and on aircraft: the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor and the CH-47 helicopter. Such parameters are achieved through the use of titanium as a structural material. The howitzer is equipped with a modern fire control system, which allows the gun to quickly determine its own coordinates in space and aim at the target, as a result of which the M777 can be deployed to fire in the shortest possible time after unloading from the vehicle.
Of course, the effectiveness of the guns depends not only on high mobility and a perfect fire control system, but also on the properties of the ammunition. Both Archer and M777 are compatible with the 155mm XM982 Excalibur guided missile projectile. The projectile has a bottom gas generator that creates jet propulsion and allows you to increase the firing range up to 60 km. Excalibur is equipped with a combined control system - inertial and GPS coordinates. This high-precision munition has a circular probable deviation of only 10 m (compared to a minimum of 150 m for the most accurate conventional shells).
Nothing is known about the Russian counterpart, the projectile guided by the global positioning system (in our case GLONASS) and developed for the SV Coalition, but in Russia, guided shells of the Krasnopol type (152 and 155 mm) and “ Kitolov "(120 and 122 mm). In the final section of the flight, the trajectory is corrected with the help of aerodynamic rudders, however, correction of the target requires laser lighting. In other words, even if the gun fires at a target that is outside the limits of visibility for the gun crew, someone must get close to the target and get a laser beam at it. This method of guidance plus to all unmasks intelligence tools.
So, guided or adjusted ammunition is the way that should help the barrel artillery maintain its place on the modern battlefield, eliminating its drawback as not too high accuracy compared to guided missiles and laser-guided bombs. The problem, however, is that the cost of guided ammunition is too high, and this, in turn, deprives artillery of such a beneficial advantage as the low price of shots. The cost of an Excalibur-type projectile is $ 85, 000, while the “regular ammunition” costs about $ 300.
While for the Americans and their allies the question of the appropriateness of using barrel artillery was especially relevant in connection with the “expeditionary” style of action of their forces, for Russia it was never so acute. Artillery has always been given an important role in the strategy and tactics of the domestic armed forces, but be that as it may, its further development will not be able to be carried out aside from the changes that are taking place in the military-technical sphere today. The point is that the improvement of guns and ammunition should be carried out in close connection with the development of information systems that cover all combatants on the ground and in the air and allow online intelligence to be obtained and used instantly for delivering accurate strikes.The article “Will the guns be silent?” Was published in the magazine Popular Mechanics (No. 2, February 2014).