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Artillery System 90 (AS-90): Royal 155mm Asset in Ukraine

Artillery System 90 (AS-90): Royal 155mm Asset in Ukraine

Роман Приходько Роман Приходько
Artillery Europe Great Britain Ukraine War with Russia World

The transfer of AS-90 artillery systems (L131 – British designation) by the United Kingdom to Ukraine provided the Ukrainian Armed Forces with not only a quantitative but also a qualitative advantage. This is attributed to the modern targeting system and extensive ammunition nomenclature of the system.

The AS-90, developed in the 1980s, incorporated the best solutions available at that time, and demonstrated its capabilities in numerous military conflicts wordwide.

History of development

The UK developed a self-propelled version of the 155mm gun to update its fleet of self-propelled artillery. The UK also strived to replace the FH-70 155mm towed howitzers as part of artillery units. A program to develop a new self-propelled artillery system started in 1982. Then developers started conceptually developing a modern artillery chassis, leveraging the advancements from the GBT 155 artillery system.

Other companies also submitted their proposals for participation in the general tender to this program. After rapid selection and testing, Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering was chosen for further work. The final winner selection, as well as the assignment of the AS-90 (Artillery System for the 1990s) index, occurred in March 1985. A year later, in June 1986, during a defense exhibition of the British Army, a prototype artillery system was demonstrated to the media and the public.

Overall, the new AS-90 artillery system underwent comprehensive tests to confirm both its characteristics and the appropriate level of reliability. In total, the artillery system covered approximately 3,000 km without encountering a single malfunction, and also fired over 1,500 shots without any misfires or problems.

Army testing was completed in June 1987 and covered all aspects of the military use of the new system. After the completion of the tests, the new self-propelled artillery unit received an army L131A1 index. Then the preparatory work for serial production began.

In total, according to the plans of the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom, it was planned to manufacture 179 artillery systems, and also to establish additional production of spare parts. The artillery system was officially adopted by the British Army in May 1992, and the first production batch for the Army was shipped in late 1992. The first operational unit was equipped with these systems in 1993.

These artillery systems were produced between 1992 and 1995, with a total of 179 systems planned for manufacture completed over the course of three years.

Use in Army and wars

After the AS-90 self-propelled gun was adopted, it underwent additional tests to prove its reliability. A battery of eight AS90 artillery systems was involved in the new tests organized by the British Army. Specialists of the British Army made a general march covering a distance of 6,000 km and fired more than 10,112 shots. Upon test completion, the artillery system received an 80% rating in accordance with the British reliability measurement system.

In total, five field artillery regiments received new artillery systems and replaced the Abbot 105mm artillery systems and American M109 155mm systems in service with the British Army. The first unit to receive AS-90 was the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (1RHA) in October 1993. The four others were the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (3RHA), the 4th Artillery Regiment (4RA), the 40th Artillery Regiment (40RA,) and the 26th Artillery Regiment (26RA).

Main armament

The AS-90 self-propelled artillery system is equipped with a L31A1 155mm gun with a 39-caliber barrel length manufactured by BAE Systems Global Combat Systems. The gun has a double-baffle muzzle brake, a fume extractor, and an integral 12-round primer magazine. The artillery system is capable of firing a salvo of three rounds in less than 10 seconds, and in intensive firing, it has a constant rate of fire of two shots per minute or six shots in three minutes.

Standard igniter tubes for firing are the German DM191A1 or American M282. The total ammunition for the gun is 48 projectiles and propellant charges, which are placed in the turret. The gun is capable of firing all standard NATO shells, including the American M107, German DM121, and British L15A1/2.

A gun is loaded due to the ramming device. The installation of an additional module allows for quick reloading after each shot. Additionally, it is possible to charge the gun manually in case it malfunctions.

Due to the use of a gun with a 39-caliber barrel length, the maximum firing range of standard high-explosive projectiles does not exceed 25 km. When using rocket-assisted projectiles, the maximum range starts at 30 km and more, depending on the specific type of projectile.

The use of extended-range projectiles with the AS-90 artillery system became possible in 2009 after the integration of the M982 Excalibur projectile into the weapons system.

Driving performance and additional equipment

The artillery system is equipped with the American Cummins VTA-903T-660 engine and the German LSG 2000 transmission.

Cummins VTA-903T-660 is an eight-cylinder diesel engine with a displacement of 14.8 liters and a capacity of 660 horsepower at 2800 rpm. Engines of this type are also mounted on American M2/M3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, as well as the M270 multiple rocket launcher.

The LSG 2000 transmission, manufactured by the German company Renk, is fully automatic and has four forward and two reverse gears.

Additionally, a diesel auxiliary power unit is installed in the front part of the artillery system, allowing for the operation of on-board systems and the turret rotation.

The AS-90 also has an air conditioning system that provides air purification in case of enemy use of nuclear or chemical weapons.

Artillery system AS-90 as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The transfer of AS-90 ACS to Ukraine was announced in April 2022, when then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that his country would supply Ukraine with more artillery weapons as the war with Russia entered a new phase.

Together with artillery systems, he announced the transfer of 45,000 artillery rounds.

In total, Ukraine received 32 such artillery systems, of which 20 were repaired in the United Kingdom with full performance, and 12 were transferred to remove spare parts and install them on operational vehicles.

Since AS-90 are actively used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, today, based on information published on the Oryxspioenkop website, four of these systems were destroyed, and three were damaged with the possibility of further restoration.

Compared to the Soviet Gvozdika and Akatsiya SPHs, the British AS-90 has a total advantage in both firing accuracy and range. Because it uses L15A1/2 conventional high-explosive shells, which fly farther than even the American M107 shells because they’re more aerodynamic, the AS-90 has a big advantage.

It is now known that at least one of the Ukrainian units using the AS-90 artillery systems is the 3rd Assault Brigade, since the gunners from this brigade were trained in the UK on these ACS recently. These systems were also spotted in use by the 116th Mechanized Brigade.

Artillery Europe Great Britain Ukraine War with Russia World