Recently it became known that Ukraine intends to purchase about 60 AHS Krab self-propelled howitzers in addition to those 18 that Poland handed over to us.
Now it is hard to say when the Russian-Ukrainian war will end, so our defenders need regular support in the form of various types of military equipment and weapons. The military support of Ukraine from Poland is very generous (in the amount of ~ 7 billion zlotys), taking into account the capabilities of our neighbor. This is not surprising, because if Russia took over the territory of our country, Poland would be next. More recently, a batch of AHS Krabs from Poland arrived in Ukraine, but the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine wants to purchase about 60 more of these powerful self-propelled howitzers manufactured by Huta Stalowa Wola for our armed forces. In this article, we will get to know what ‘the most powerful howitzer of the Polish Army’ is capable of.
AHS Krab: how the howitzer was created
The AHS Krab is a self-propelled 155 mm tracked artillery mount developed in Poland by the Huta Stalowa Wola Military Production Center. This self-propelled unit combines the South Korean K9 Thunder chassis, the British AS-90M Braveheart turret with a 155/L52 cannon, and the WB Electronics Topaz artillery fire control system. Thus it is a modern weapon assembled from highly efficient components and equipped with the highest quality electronics.
However, achieving such a technical level was not easy, and the project itself was on the verge of failure several times. For the first time, the idea of creating a Polish heavy howitzer arose back in the 90s of the last century, back then it was decided not to buy a finished foreign product, but to produce these weapons by own efforts from scratch. But it turned out to be more difficult than expected. The first KRAB variants were based on the Polish UPG-NG chassis manufactured by the Bumar-Labendy machine-building plant. However, microcracks were soon discovered in the chassis, the cause of which the engineers could not find out. In addition, there were problems with the cooling system, leaks in the fuel and exhaust systems, which led to the poisoning of the crew. Due to these problems, in 2014 it was decided to change the chassis supplier. The chassis of the South Korean company Samsung Techwin was chosen – the one used for the Korean howitzer K9 Thunder.
However, not only the chassis caused problems: it soon turned out that the production of gun barrels for the licensed British AS-90 turret was discontinued. If a replacement had not been found quickly, the entire project could have failed. Fortunately, it turned out that the French barrel from Nexter Systems meets the necessary parameters. It turned out that they be installed into the British turret, and firing tests confirmed expectations. In the end, despite many turmoils, this combination of South Korean chassis, British turret, French cannon and Polish electronics was a great success. In the end, it became possible to equip Polish Krab self-propelled guns with Polish-made barrels. Thus, one of the most modern and powerful self-propelled artillery systems in the world was created, which is compatible with 155 mm NATO ammunition.
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AHS Krab in detail
In its current form, that is, in the latest version, the Polish Crabs combine the AS-90 turrets and the chassis from the South Korean K9 Thunder. It should be noted that these components are manufactured directly in Poland under license, and are not delivered from factories in Britain or South Korea. Of course, these are not exact copies, because the engineers adapted them to the requirements of the Polish Army and the capabilities of the industry itself. This is especially evident in the example of the chassis (no wonder it is officially called the K9 PL), the upgraded auxiliary power unit and the Polish-made hydro-pneumatic suspension. Crew protection has also been enhanced through the use of explosion-proof, fire-fighting and ventilation systems.
The Krab aelf-propelled howitzers in combat configuration weigh 52.1 tons, have dimensions of 12.05 × 3.58 × 3.13 m, and their armor is made of MIL-12560H steel sheets. The armament includes a heavy machine gun (12.7 mm WKM-B), smoke grenade launchers (2 × 4 902A 81 mm) and a 155 mm main cannon with a barrel length of 52 calibers (L/52), mounted on an cradle with electric drives. The angle of fire in the horizontal plane is 360°, and from -3.5° to +70° in the vertical plane.
The barrel of the howitzer is equipped with a wedge lock with a vertical stroke and a two-chamber muzzle brake, and the reloading process itself is semi-automatic. This means that the projectile is picked up by the loader and placed on a conveyor belt that automatically introduces it into the barrel chamber. The role of the second loader is to lay the propellant charge and primer. The crew also includes a commander and a driver.
The AHS Krab uses projectiles and classic OFdMKM high-explosive shells with a range of ~32 km and the -DV version with a gas generator (range of action ~40 km). The deployment of these howitzers takes only 30 seconds, the firing range is from 4.5 to 40 km, and their practical rate of fire is up to 2 rounds per minute or with intense fire 6 rounds for 3 minutes. The stock of shells is 40 pcs. (29 in the turret and 11 in the hull) or 48 (28 and 20 in the turret and hull, respectively), depending on the type of shells.
AHS Krab and its capabilities
The 155 mm KRAB self-propelled howitzer is designed to destroy artillery, command posts, communication centers and enemy fortifications, armored vehicles, helicopters at landing sites and enemy logistics facilities. The most important ‘tool’ for performing these tasks is a huge, more than 8 meters long (52 caliber), 155 mm cannon. It is located in the AS-90 turret, manufactured in Poland under license from the British.
This colossus weighing 48 tons (fully loaded with fuel and ammunition – 52.1 tons) is controlled by a crew of four or five people (depending on needs). The 1000 hp MTU MT 881 Ka 500 diesel engine can accelerate AHS Krab up to 60 km/h on the highway, and on the road it can move at a speed of about 30 km/h. Despite its huge weight, thanks to the rubber pads, the Krab exerts less pressure on the ground than a conventional truck with a semi-trailer. With a fully filled tank, the vehicle is capable of covering a distance of about 400 km.
Polish electronic equipment of top quality
Although many important design elements are developed abroad and produced in Poland under license, the electronic equipment and modern computers of the plant are completely developed by Polish specialists. The AHS Krab is equipped with, among other things, a FiN 3110L ground navigation and topographic communication system, a GPS system, an MVRS-700 SCD ballistic radar, a fire control system, internal and external communications (VHF digital radio type RRC 9311AP), day and night surveillance devices, and as well as the OBRA-3 SSP-1 warning system. The self-defense systems of the vehicle are especially interesting: sensors mounted on the Krab armor warn the crew when an enemy laser sight is aimed at the installation. This system is so sensitive that it even detects the beam of a typical laser pointer used for presentations. When the system detects a laser beam hit, the crew can fire smoke grenades outward to cover the installation and allow it to relocate to safety. When a chemical contamination is detected in the environment, the machine is pressurized to prevent the entry of contaminated air from outside.
AHS Krabs are equipped with the TOPAZ automated fire control system, manufactured by the Polish company WB Electronics, which, among others, is the manufacturer of excellent FlyEye drones and Warmate kamikaze drones, also used in Ukraine. The data entering the system, obtained, for example, from drones circling over the battlefield, allow you to instantly calculate howitzer settings and fire almost instantly. The whole process, that is, obtaining information about the location of the enemy, sending it to the team, then directly to the commander of the vehicle, ballistic calculation and firing, takes seconds. The AHS Krab is able to take action in the shortest possible time: it can go from traveling to combat in just 30 seconds, and it takes the same time to return to the traveling position.
Fast reaction time is not the only benefit of the AHS Krab. Electronic systems, developed entirely in Poland, are responsible for very high accuracy and rate of fire. They include aiming and ballistic computers. The first is used to control the operation of the tower. The second shows the situation on the battlefield, and is also responsible for performing ballistic calculations and providing the gunner with the exact settings necessary for the shot.
Specifications of AHS Krab
- Weight: 48 t
- Length: 12,05 m
- Width: 3,60 m
- Height: 3,00 m
- Crew: 5 people
- Caliber: 155 mm
- Barrel length: 52 calibers
- Rate of fire: 6 shots per minute
- Effective firing range: 30 km
- Maximum firing range: 40 km
- Armor: steel POSCO MIL-12560H
- Auxiliary armament: machine gun WKM-B.50 BMG
- Engine: STX-MTU MT881Ka-500, 8-cylinder water-cooled diesel
- Power: 735 kW (1000 hp)
- Cruising range: 400 km
- Top speed: 67 km/h
How many AHS Krab do Polish Armed Forces have as of beginning of 2022?
Previously, the plans of the Polish Army assumed the creation of 5 divisions, with AHS Krab howitzers to become their key element. At first, the contract was for 96 vehicles, but then the order was increased to 120. Now 18 of them are already helping our military defend the Motherland. About 60 more powerful self-propelled howitzers will be purchased for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the near future.
Why do we need powerful howitzers?
As events at the front have shown, this war can be called ‘a war of artillery and missiles.’ In the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it turned out that the tanks that the Russians were counting on were burning very well. The newest anti-tank systems that our military has received have allowed them to destroy more than 1,300 tanks, which is half of all that Russia has. Therefore, they were forced to use their artillery and rocket systems – our cities, villages and positions of the military were subjected to dense artillery and rocket fire from the invaders.
Our defenders also had to reorganize and, thanks to the support of our Western partners, arm themselves with the latest howitzer systems and self-propelled guns. This allowed us to quickly restore parity at the front and give a worthy rebuff to the invaders.
The AHS Krab is, of course, not the only modern Western artillery system supplied to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The French provided CAESAR 155 mm self-propelled howitzers with turbo engine on all-wheel drive chassis 8×8 chassis. This howitzer system, depending on the ammunition used, can hit targets at a distance from 42 km (in the case of ERFB ammunition) to 50 km (if projectiles equipped with an additional RAP rocket engine are used).
In turn, the Australians, Canadians and Americans supplied the ultralight M777 155mm howitzers. The range of this howitzer also depends on the ammunition that uses it – the range of high-explosive fragmentation projectiles exceeds 24 km, rocket projectiles fire up to 30 km, and M982 Excalibur guided missiles hit targets at up to 40 km.
- All about the 155mm M777 howitzer and M982 Excalibur guided projectile
- Weapons of Ukrainian Victory: the French Caesar self-propelled howitzer
Now we can give a fitting rebuff to the hordes of the invaders. Burn in hell for them! Glory to Ukraine! Death to the enemies!