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Artillery Systems Modernization and Market Trends

Introduction:

Artillery, a historical class of heavy military weapons, has undergone a remarkable evolution, transforming from traditional siege engines to highly mobile and technologically advanced systems. Today’s artillery systems are more accurate, longer-ranged, and more mobile than ever before. This is due in part to the ongoing modernization of artillery systems around the world. This article delves into the modernization of artillery systems, exploring key technological trends and market dynamics.

Evolution of Artillery: From Sieges to Mobility

Historical Significance:

Artillery historically played a vital role in breaching defensive structures during sieges, evolving from early siege engines to more sophisticated cannons and mortars.

Shift to Mobility:

Technological advancements have led to the development of highly mobile and versatile self-propelled artillery systems, reshaping their role on the modern battlefield.

Classification of Artillery Types

Artillery systems, pivotal in military operations, are classified in diverse ways, encompassing the type or size of the weapon, its role, and organizational arrangements. One primary classification is based on the velocity at which artillery fires projectiles.

Types of Ordinance:

  1. Cannon: The oldest artillery type with a direct firing trajectory.
  2. Bombard: A large-caliber, muzzle-loading artillery piece for sieges.
  3. Falconet: A light cannon developed in the 15th century with a smaller shot.
  4. Swivel Gun: A small cannon on a swiveling stand, offering wide arc movement.
  5. Siege Artillery: Large-caliber, immobile artillery with indirect firing for long-distance bombardment.

Field Artillery (Mobile Weapons):

  1. Infantry Support Guns: Direct support for infantry units.
  2. Mountain Guns: Lightweight guns for challenging terrains.
  3. Field Guns: Long-range direct-fire capability.
  4. Howitzers: High-angle fire, primarily for indirect-fire.
  5. Gun-Howitzers: Variable-angle fire with a longer barrel.
  6. Mortars: Short-barreled, high-trajectory for indirect-fire.
  7. Gun-Mortars: Breech-loaded, variable-angle fire with a longer barrel.
  8. Tank Guns: Large-caliber guns mounted on tanks for mobile direct fire.
  9. Anti-Tank Artillery: Mobile guns designed for direct fire against armored vehicles.
  10. Anti-Aircraft Artillery: Mobile guns for air and anti-tank warfare.
  11. Rocket Artillery: Launches rockets or missiles.
  12. Railway Gun: Large-caliber weapons mounted on specially-designed railway wagons.

Naval Artillery:

  1. Naval Cannon: Guns on warships for naval combat or coastal bombardment.
  2. Coastal Artillery: Fixed-position weapons defending a specific location, now often self-propelled.
  3. Aircraft Artillery: Large-caliber guns on attack aircraft.
  4. Nuclear Artillery: Artillery firing nuclear shells.

Modern Field Artillery: Modern field artillery is categorized into towed and self-propelled. Towed artillery is moved by a prime mover, while self-propelled artillery is permanently mounted on a vehicle for quick repositioning. This category includes mortar carrier vehicles, allowing dismounted use when necessary. The classification adapts to the dynamic nature of modern combat, emphasizing mobility and versatility.

 

Technological Advances in Modern Artillery

Precision-Guided Munitions:

A significant trend in modern artillery is the shift towards precision-guided munitions. This technology enhances accuracy, allowing artillery to strike targets, even at long ranges,  with minimal collateral damage.

Long-range fire

Artillery systems are also being developed with longer ranges. This allows artillery to engage targets that are beyond the reach of other weapons systems.

Mobility

Artillery systems are becoming more mobile, making them more difficult to target and more responsive to battlefield needs.

Network Integration

Artillery systems are being increasingly integrated with other weapons systems and sensors. This allows for better coordination and targeting.

Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML):

Artillery systems are embracing AI and ML for improved target prediction, operational efficiency, and real-time decision-making on the battlefield. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize artillery capabilities.

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing:

The use of advanced materials and manufacturing processes has resulted in lighter yet more powerful artillery systems. This trend contributes to enhanced mobility without compromising firepower.

Russia Ukraine Conflict

In a recent interview with The Economist, General Zaluzhny, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, highlighted the challenges faced by Ukrainian forces in their conflict with Russia, particularly in the realm of artillery. He emphasized the tactical advantage held by the Russian military due to their deployment of new technologies, which enable precise targeting of Ukrainian positions while impeding the effectiveness of Ukrainian artillery. General Zaluzhny stressed the urgent need for Ukraine to develop and deploy its own advanced technologies to regain control and shift the balance of power in the ongoing conflict.

Artillery plays a central role in the military strategies of both Russia and Ukraine, deeply rooted in Soviet doctrine where artillery units are tasked with destroying enemy forces. This historical legacy underscores the significance of artillery in shaping the battlefield, with infantry and armor units providing protection and support. Modern advancements, such as precision rounds and loitering munitions like the Russian Lancet drones, have further transformed artillery operations, posing challenges for Ukrainian forces. Despite these hurdles, Ukraine has begun adapting its tactics by utilizing technologies comparable to those employed by Russia, including loitering munitions and electronic warfare systems aimed at disrupting Russian drones and precision rounds. However, the evolving technological landscape suggests a continual need for innovation and adaptation as both sides seek to gain the upper hand in the conflict.

Over the past two years, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has underscored the critical role of modern field artillery systems in combat operations. Addressing the evolving demands of warfare, industry efforts have been directed towards enhancing the capabilities of field artillery systems to meet the challenges of current and future conflicts. At the forefront of these efforts are advancements in cannon tube technology, projectile accuracy, and the revitalization of legacy subsystems, as showcased at the 2023 Association of the United States Army’s annual conference.

One notable development has occurred at the Watervliet Arsenal in New York, a long-standing institution in the production of cannon tubes for the Army. With a history dating back to the late 1880s, the arsenal serves as the government’s central repository of metallurgy expertise, essential for propelling explosive projectiles over considerable distances. The need to extend firing ranges has become increasingly apparent in light of the conflict in Ukraine, driving innovations such as longer tube lengths and range-assisted projectiles.

Longer Barrels for Increased Range:

  • The traditional method of extending range is through longer cannon tubes. This allows for greater propellant burn and projectile acceleration.
  • The Watervliet Arsenal, a historic U.S. facility, currently manufactures 39-caliber tubes. However, the war in Ukraine has highlighted the effectiveness of 52-caliber tubes used in systems like the Nexter CAESAR and Rheinmetall PzH 2000.
  • BAE Systems showcased a prototype M109A7 self-propelled howitzer equipped with a Rheinmetall-made 52-caliber L52 tube. This offers potential for international M109 upgrades and potential upgunning of the U.S. M109A7 Paladin.

In response to these requirements, industry leaders have introduced new technologies to enhance artillery systems’ effectiveness on the battlefield. For instance, advancements in cannon tube length, characterized by longer rifling and chamber ignition volumes, have led to significant improvements in projectile ranges. Examples include the adoption of 52-caliber length 155 mm tubes on platforms like the Nexter Systems CAESAR and Rheinmetall/KMW PzH 2000, as well as the development of hybrid prototypes incorporating advanced barrel designs.

The 1920s Arsenal Act mandates production in U.S. government facilities. While the L52 is currently manufactured in Germany, Rheinmetall is interested in U.S. production as a second source. However, this requires congressional action.

Extreme Long-Range Projectiles:

Moreover, precision-guided munitions and propulsion systems have revolutionized artillery capabilities, enabling accurate targeting at extended ranges. Collaborative efforts between industry partners and military organizations have resulted in successful live-fire demonstrations of sub-caliber guided projectiles, showcasing the potential to double the range of standard 155 mm howitzers. Additionally, advancements in propellant technology, such as the Modular Artillery Charge System (MACS) and the DM92 propellant, have further optimized artillery performance, enhancing both range and accuracy.

  • Beyond longer barrels, advancements in projectile technology are pushing the boundaries of range and accuracy.
  • BAE Systems and the U.S. Army successfully test-fired the XM1155-SC sub-caliber guided projectile to an unprecedented distance for a guided round from an M109 Paladin. This project explores doubling the range of standard 155 mm howitzers and achieving precise hits on moving targets.
  • Boeing and Nammo are developing a ramjet-powered projectile designed for even longer ranges.

Propellants and Legacy Systems:

  • The Modular Artillery Charge System (MACS) is the current standard propellant for U.S. artillery. However, some argue for a switch to propellants like the DM92 used in the German PzH 2000, which might offer better performance with the L52 tube.
  • The war in Ukraine has led to a resurgence of legacy systems. A recent contract awarded to Nammo Perry Inc. and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems focuses on restarting production of the M119A2 “red bag” propelling charge used in older howitzers. This is crucial for supporting Ukraine and replenishing U.S. stockpiles.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has not only highlighted the importance of modernizing field artillery systems but also spurred industry innovations to meet emerging challenges. By leveraging technological advancements and collaborative partnerships, the defense industry continues to enhance the lethality and effectiveness of artillery systems, ensuring they remain a vital component of military operations in the evolving threat landscape.

Market Dynamics: Challenges and Opportunities

Nations worldwide are undertaking ambitious modernization initiatives to replace aging artillery systems and bolster their military capabilities. According to a comprehensive report by GlobalData titled “Global Artillery Systems Market 2023-2033,” this surge in modernization efforts is poised to drive cumulative spending on artillery systems to an impressive $153 billion between 2023 and 2033, ultimately resulting in a market value of $16.6 billion by 2033.

A pivotal aspect of this transformation is the role played by self-propelled artillery, identified as the segment witnessing the largest spending during the forecast period. The advantages of self-propelled artillery over towed systems, particularly in terms of mobility and survivability with shoot-and-scoot features, underscore its significance in this global shift. Notably, the United States is anticipated to lead in spending within the self-propelled artillery segment, with a projected cumulative spending of $9.7 billion over the next decade.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict and subsequent weapon transfer sanctions have prompted many nations to focus on indigenous development. India, for instance, is introducing domestic artillery systems like the Dhanush towed artillery and ATAGS platforms to replace aging FH77 units. Furthermore, Indian companies are contributing to bolstering artillery capabilities through the supply of Pinaka Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.

Key Market Drivers:

Geopolitical tensions, the need for enhanced defense capabilities, and the ongoing development of next-generation artillery systems are driving significant investments in the global artillery market.

Challenges:

High costs associated with research, development, and implementation pose challenges to the widespread adoption of advanced artillery technologies.

Examples of Modern Artillery Systems

Some examples of modern artillery systems include:

  • M109A7 Paladin: The M109A7 Paladin is a self-propelled howitzer developed by the United States Army. It is equipped with a 155mm howitzer and a computerized fire control system that allows it to fire accurately at long ranges.
  • CAESAR Mark II: The CAESAR Mark II is a self-propelled howitzer developed by the French company Nexter. It is equipped with a 155mm howitzer and a fully automated fire control system that allows it to fire up to six rounds per minute.
  • K9 Thunder: The K9 Thunder is a self-propelled howitzer developed by the South Korean company Hanwha Defense. It is equipped with a 155mm howitzer and a sophisticated fire control system that allows it to fire accurately at targets up to 40 kilometers away.

Artillery in the 21st Century: Future Trends

Integration of Digital Technologies:

The future of artillery systems will likely involve deeper integration of digital technologies, enabling real-time data analysis, autonomous operations, and enhanced connectivity.

Smart Munitions: Revolutionizing Artillery Capabilities

A significant development in the artillery landscape is the growing interest in smart munitions, promising a revolution in artillery systems’ capabilities. Smart munitions enable artillery systems to undertake diverse firing missions that were once beyond conventional artillery capabilities. For instance, US-based SRC is pioneering electronic warfare systems deliverable via 155mm artillery shells, enabling interception and jamming of signals deep within enemy territory. This growing global interest in developing various types of smart munitions is echoed by countries like Germany, the UK, and France, indicating an anticipated surge in demand for launcher platforms in the near future, encompassing towed artillery, self-propelled artillery, and naval artillery.

Directed Energy Weapons and Electromagnetic Railguns:

Anticipated advancements in directed energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns may introduce new possibilities for artillery applications, offering increased range and precision.

Conclusion: Shaping the Future Battlefield

In conclusion, the modernization of artillery systems reflects a relentless pursuit of innovation in military technology. As we progress into the 21st century, the convergence of technologies such as AI, precision-guided munitions, and advanced materials will redefine the landscape of artillery warfare. Nations will continue to invest in upgrading their artillery capabilities to maintain a strategic edge in defense and security, making artillery a key player in shaping the future battlefield.

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.army-technology.com/news/modernisation-programmes-to-drive-global-artillery-market-to-16-6bn/?cf-view

https://www.forbes.com/sites/vikrammittal/2023/11/19/new-technologies-could-help-resolve-ukraines-artillery-challenges/?sh=7c265b6538d6

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2024/1/24/armys-cannon-propellant-updates-reflect-lessons-learned-in-ukraine

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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