The German government promises to soon transfer 18 Boxer RCH 155 self-propelled howitzers to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. What do we know about this high-speed sister of Panzerhaubitze 2000?
What is known about the agreement
The preparation of the next stage of German-Ukrainian military-technical cooperation was reported in autumn by Welt am Sonntag. According to it, the issue of possible delivery of RCH-155 has been discussed over the past few months, and only now the results of this process and plans for the future have become known.
Since spring, the German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has repeatedly made proposals to supply Ukraine with certain armored vehicles and weapons. In particular, the company proposed to produce and transfer a certain number of Boxer RCH-155 self-propelled artillery systems to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, the production of such equipment required the official permission of the Federal Government of Germany.
According to Welt am Sonntag, in mid-July, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine sent a request to the German military department for the supply of 18 KMW self-propelled artillery systems. The production of these vehicles was proposed to be paid for by the German side – within the framework of financial assistance provided to our country.
For two months, the German government considered the Ukrainian request several times, but no decision was made for one reason or another. Only recently the application was officially approved, and now the arms transfer procedure is about to begin.
The German government has granted KMW a license to manufacture the necessary self-propelled vehicles and related products, as well as permission to export them. Also, an official Ukrainian-German agreement is to be signed, which will define all the terms of cooperation: the quantity of equipment and related products, terms of production and transfer, cost and payment procedure, etc.
According to the latest data, Ukraine will receive 18 German-made self-propelled artillery systems. The manufacturer has also expressed its readiness to provide spare parts and personnel training. The total cost of all these installations and services reaches 216 million euros – 12 million for each self-propelled vehicle, spare parts for it, etc.
What is interesting about the self-propelled howitzer Boxer RCH 155
The Boxer RCH 155 remote-controlled howitzer is a self-propelled artillery system based on the Boxer multi-purpose armoured personnel carrier and uses a 155 mm artillery gun module (AGM). This artillery system was developed by the German private company Krauss-Maffei Wegman. The Boxer RCH 155 self-propelled howitzer was first presented in 2014 at the Eurosatory 2014 arms and military equipment exhibition. The presented self-propelled howitzer is another combat vehicle based on a universal wheeled chassis suitable for the creation of various vehicles.
The purpose of the new project was to create a promising SAU with high combat performance and increased mobility. In addition, during the development of the project, great importance was attributed to the modularity of the systems, which should provide the new equipment with a great future. Thus, the requirements for fire characteristics will be met with the help of a new 155-mm artillery gun module (AGM), and the protection of the vehicle crew, mobility on the battlefield and the possibility of transporting the vehicle by air or other transport are determined by the specifications of the base vehicle. It should be noted that the development of the GTK Boxer-based combat vehicle was preceded by the creation of a combat vehicle on a tracked chassis similar to the General Dynamics ASCOD. Like the new ATV, the previous development of Krauss-Maffei Wegman (KMW) used the AGM combat module.
The basis of the advanced RCH-155 is the GTK Boxer armored vehicle developed by KMW and Rheinmetall Netherlands (Netherlands). This vehicle is a universal wheeled platform that allows building vehicles for various purposes on its basis. For example, the first serial modification of this vehicle was an armored personnel carrier capable of carrying up to eight troops with weapons. In the early 2000s, when the “premiere” of the vehicle took place, it was stated that not only an armored personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle, but also other equipment, in particular a self-propelled mortar or self-propelled artillery system, could be created on its basis.
The first firing tests took place in the same year. In general, the Boxer RCH 155 is a modern and advanced artillery system. The 155 mm artillery gun module itself was first presented back in 2004. It is based on the technology of the battle-proven PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer, which is in service with Germany and several other countries. The AGM provides the same performance as the PzH 2000, but it is cheaper to manufacture, requires a smaller crew and is significantly lighter. The artillery gun module was developed as a complement to the PzH 2000 howitzer, for cases where heavier weapons are not available, not recommended or too expensive.
Design and protection of Boxer RCH 155
RCH-155 is built on the basis of components and assemblies of the German-Dutch Boxer multi-purpose armored vehicle. Its variant with a two-seater control room and an aft platform for installing a payload is used. Everything is built on the basis of the Iveco chassis. The combat weight of the vehicle does not exceed 39 tons, of which 12.5 tons is the AGM module itself. The 804 hp engine provides a highway speed of at least 100 km/h.
That is, the Boxer RCH 155 is equipped with a more powerful engine than the standard Boxer armored personnel carrier. It is equipped with a turbocharged MTU 199TE20 diesel engine, which has a power of 804 hp, compared to 711 hp of the original armored personnel carrier.
The protection of the crew and vehicle components is provided by AMAP modular composite armor of several types. Depending on the mission, the chassis can be fitted with appropriate additional armor modules that increase the overall level of protection. When using all available modules, AMAP armor is able to withstand a small-caliber cannon shell. In addition, the GTK Boxer is equipped with bottom hull armor, which protects it from mines and improvised explosive devices.
At the stern of the chassis there is a combat artillery module AGM. This is a large armored turret with weapons and related systems. The design of the module provides horizontal circular aiming and elevation angles from -2.5° to +65°. It is claimed that the vehicle can fire sideways without the risk of swaying and turning over. At the same time, at the request of the customer, it is possible to install an additional stabilization system.
State-of-the-art weaponry of Boxer RCH 155
The main weapon of the artillery gun module (AGM) is a 155 mm rifled howitzer with a barrel length of 52 calibers. This is where the name Boxer RCH 155 comes from. It uses a split loading system with a modular powder charge. It is a highly automated artillery system. It has a fully automatic loading system that loads both shells and modular charges. The automatic loading system can hold 30 shells and 144 modular rounds. Therefore, the artillery module is completely unmanned. The ammunition is fed into the barrel without human assistance. The howitzer has a fairly high rate of fire – up to 9 shots per minute.
The gun components are taken from the Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzer. The Boxer RCH 155 also retains most of the characteristics of the PzH 2000. The German self-propelled howitzer is capable of firing multiple rounds simultaneously.
This artillery system is compatible with all standard NATO 155 mm caliber rounds. The maximum range of a conventional projectile is more than 30 km, with the base projectile the range increases to 40 km, and when using the most advanced rocket-propelled projectiles, such as the powerful South African V-LAP rocket, it can reach 56 km. This is a long-range artillery shell with increased speed. The long-range principle is based on the combination of a long gun barrel and projectiles with warheads of optimal aerodynamic shape, which have a high initial velocity. Unlike classic long-range projectiles, V-LAPs are enhanced with an additional jet booster.
The SAM is also capable of using long-range Vulcano (90 km) and Excalibur (70 km) projectiles. All of them have a caliber of 155 mm and are interchangeable.
In fact, this artillery system can also be adapted to a lighter gun, such as the shorter 155mm/L39, or even a 105mm NATO-type gun.
Boxer RCH 155 has an advanced fire control system. The fire control system includes navigation aids, a ballistic computer, various sensors, including a radar projectile velocity meter, as well as a programmer for working with controlled fuses. The German self-propelled vehicle receives data about the target by radio or data transmission channel. Automatic gun aiming is carried out using fire control data.
Aiming and firing is carried out by the crew remotely from the cockpit. But in case of emergency or breakdown, this artillery system can be loaded and fired manually. It takes approximately 30 seconds to open fire. The time out of action is also only 30 seconds. After firing, the combat vehicle can leave its position almost instantly to avoid counter-battery fire.
The original version of the Boxer RCH 155 artillery system does not have defensive weapons such as machine guns or automatic grenade launchers. However, at the request of the customer, the serial variant can be equipped with additional weapons.
Crew of Boxer RCH 155
The crew of the vehicle consists of only two people. The commander-operator fully controls the 155 mm artillery gun module (AGM) using an automated workstation in the control room. The second crew member is, of course, the driver, who is located in a special compartment under the howitzer itself.
It should also be noted that in case of damage to the AGM, the AGM module itself has an additional control post. That is, the crew can evacuate from the affected vehicle, but it has the ability to fire from a 155 mm howitzer remotely.
High mobility of Boxer RCH 155
An interesting feature of the new GTK Boxer platform is the powerful chassis suspension. It is claimed that the wheeled chassis of the base vehicle allows firing a 155-mm gun without the use of external outriggers. In addition, it provides the ability to fire in almost any direction along the azimuth. This design feature facilitates the operation of the vehicle, as well as reduces the time required to prepare for firing and leave the firing position.
With the help of an 815 hp engine, the German vehicle is capable of reaching a speed of at least 100 km/h on the highway. That is, the Boxer RCH 155 is equipped with a more powerful engine than the standard Boxer armored personnel carrier. As already mentioned, it is equipped with a turbocharged MTU 199TE20 diesel engine, which has a power of 815 hp, compared to 711 hp of the original armored personnel carrier. At the same time, the self-propelled artillery system has a fairly good range of 700 km.
The vehicle is equipped with a central tire inflation system that improves mobility in difficult conditions such as sand, snow and mud. In general, the Boxer has exceptional mobility and cross-country ability. This artillery system can be very quickly redeployed from one location to another. The vehicle is equipped with an auxiliary power unit that provides power to all necessary systems when the main engine is turned off.
Tactical and technical specifications
- Wheel configuration: 8×8 (Iveco chassis is used)
- Engine: diesel MTU 199TE20
- Armament: 155 mm rifled howitzer
- Barrel length: 7.88 m (52 caliber)
- Length: 10.4 m
- Width: 2,99 м
- Height: 3,6 м
- Weight: 39 t
- Engine power: 815 hp.
- Armored personnel carrier platform: Boxer
- Number of crew: 2 persons (driver and commander).
We often hear the phrase that “artillery wins wars”. Of course, it is not devoid of hyperbolization, but the role of artillery in modern warfare is really very great. Artillery destroys enemy fortifications, ammunition depots, concentrations of military equipment and manpower, as well as covers infantry units on the battlefield. According to various estimates, at least 85% of losses in this war are caused by artillery (barrel and rocket in total).
In terms of the declared characteristics and capabilities, the German RCH-155 is a modern and effective type of weapon. It is made using proven and reliable components and technologies, and innovations do not lead to high technical risks. At the same time, high enough combat characteristics are provided, and in this respect AGM is at least not inferior to other modern artillery systems. Therefore, the purchase of the latest German self-propelled howitzers will be an excellent enhancement of our artillery potential.
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