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French Caesar with a Ukrainian Accent: Artillery that Mercilessly Destroys the Infantry and Armored Vehicles of Russian Invaders

French Caesar with a Ukrainian Accent: Artillery that Mercilessly Destroys the Infantry and Armored Vehicles of Russian Invaders

Саня Козацький Саня Козацький
ACS Artillery Caesar ACS France Military assistance Ukraine War with Russia

Ukraine will receive dozens of new French CAESAR self-propelled howitzers within the framework of the Artillery Coalition. These howitzers will join similar self-propelled guns, which have been used by the Defense Forces to destroy Russian invaders since 2022.

Thus, these wheeled artillery systems are expected to become one of the most abundant types of foreign 155mm self-propelled guns in the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the coming years.

Militarnyi explains the history of CAESARs creation, combat use, and prospects to obtain them in Ukraine.

CAESAR

CAESAR (Camion Équipé d’un Système d’Artillerie) self-propelled howitzer, which sounds in French as “truck equipped with an artillery system,” is a wheeled 155mm self-propelled howitzer developed in France by arms manufacturer GIAT Industries, now known as Nexter. Self-propelled howitzer are designed to destroy manpower, artillery, fortifications and other enemy equipment.

The artillery system is equipped with an upgraded version of the TRF1 155mm gun with a 52-caliber barrel length, mounted at the rear of the wheeled chassis. The on-board ammunition capacity is 18 rounds. Rate of fire – 6 rounds per minute. CAESAR is capable of using the full range of NATO 155mm artillery projectiles, including Excalibur or Vulcano guided artillery shells.

The Renault Sherpa 5 with a wheel arrangement of 6×6 is used as the chassis of the self-propelled howitzer in the French army. It has an armored cabin that protects the crew of five soldiers from the shrapnel of shells and bullets of caliber 7.62mm and an air conditioning system. The weight of the ACS is about 18 tons, the length is 10 m, and the width is 2.55 m.

CAESAR ACS are equipped with navigation instruments, aiming devices, and communication systems. The artillery system uses the SIGMA 30 fire control system, which includes a NAVSTAR navigation system receiver, a projectile muzzle velocity measurement radar, and a built-in ballistic calculator. It is also equipped with a powered rammer.

Initially, the CAESAR was developed to replace the TRF1 towed howitzers in the French Army, and later, it was intended to supplant the AUF1 self-propelled guns. The first sample of the new self-propelled guns was shown in 1994. In 2000, they signed a contract to supply the French army with five pre-production units on the Mercedes-Benz Unimog U2450L (6×6) chassis. Self-propelled howitzers were used to introduce the military to the new artillery system and for experimental use within the troops.

In 2004, a contract was signed for the supply of 72 CAESAR self-propelled howitzers to the French ground forces, using the domestic Renault (Arquus) Sherpa 5 (6×6) chassis. Serial production of new self-propelled howitzers was established in 2007. At the request of the customer, the artillery system can be integrated with various chassis.

САУ Caesar. 2021 рік. Фото з відкритих джерел

Currently, a modification of CAESAR on the Tatra 815-7 (8×8) wheel chassis. Such version was ordered by Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Over 70 CAESAR ACSs based on the Mercedes-Unimog U2450L (SOFRAME-UNIMOG) chassis with a 6×6 wheel arrangement are in service with the Saudi Arabian National Guard. These ACSs are manufactured locally, under a French license.

Артилерійська установка CAESAR MKII. Фото: NEXTER

In February 2024, the French military ordered 109 CAESAR 155mm self-propelled howitzers in the new MkII version, which has been in development since December 2021. Customers of this modification of the French self-propelled howitzers include Belgium and Lithuania.

Артилерійська установка CAESAR MKII. Фото: NEXTER

The updated self-propelled howitzer retained the main features of the CAESAR, which is already in service on the Arquus Sherpa 5 (6×6) wheeled chassis. The main efforts are aimed at improving crew protection and increasing mobility. Thus, a new version of the ACS will include a new armored cabin with mine and ballistic protection developed by Nexter. In addition, Arquus (formerly Renault Trucks Defense) completely redesigned the undercarriage of the chassis.

Артилерійська установка CAESAR MKII. Фото: NEXTER

CAESAR MkII is equipped with a new 460 hp diesel engine, a new automatic transmission, and a new chassis. CAESAR will also receive a fire control system with the most modern version of the software, as well as a new Thales CONTACT radio. A mine protection system- — the Thales BARAGE explosive devices radio signal suppression system—can also be installed.

CAESAR in Ukraine

The transfer of CAESAR self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine within the framework of military assistance from France became known on April 22, 2022. Then President Emmanuel Macron stated in his interview that he was supplying Ukraine with a variety of weapons “from Milan (Milan ATGM – ed.) to CAESARs” and was going to do this in the future. Ukrainian gunners were trained on CAESARs.

And in May, it became known that the French CAESAR 155mm wheeled self-propelled artillery systems were already in Ukraine and were being used against the Russian invaders.

The Ukrainian military also shared photos of crews and transferred CAESARs themselves, which had already been used on the front line.

Later, in the summer, Ukrainian gunners showed journalists how the control system of the CAESAR self-propelled howitzers worked, firing at targets behind the lines of Russian troops in the Donbas.

The military stressed that one of the main advantages of the self-propelled howitzers was a digital fire control system, which allowed them to fire almost immediately after taking up a fire position.

Gunners could input the coordinates of the target while advancing to the position, and the system itself handled the rest of the process.

Gunner Hleb said that inputting coordinates was the crew’s sole task. “I can do this even while advancing to the position, and the system itself will calculate all the necessary data to hit the target,” he explained.

Пульт керування САУ CAESAR українських військових. Літо 2022. Україна. Кадр з відео «Радіо Свобода»

The military also noted that the appropriate round was selected after all the calculations were completed. The CAESAR self-propelled artillery system can perform a combat mission in 3-5 minutes. At this time, the deploying at the fire position and the opening of fire are included.

This allows Ukrainian gunners to work on the principle of “maneuver-fire-maneuver,” which involves constantly changing position. Drones are used to adjust the fire. Gunners of the CAESAR self-propelled howitzer maintain permanent communication with aerial reconnaissance.

Ukraine received several batches of CAESAR from France in 2022-2023. Nineteen self-propelled howitzers, based on the Tatra 815-7 8×8 chassis, Ukraine received from Denmark. All these artillery systems proved their high efficiency on the battlefield with the Russian invaders.

CAESAR on the Tatra 815-7 8×8 chassis has an armored cabin and a total weight of 32 tons, equipped with a Tatra V8 diesel engine with a capacity of 410 hp. The crew was reduced to three people. The on-board ammunition capacity of the ACS is 30 rounds.

The transfer of these artillery systems was accompanied by the training of future Ukrainian crews.

Increase in production

The French defense company Nexter increased the pace of production of CAESAR self-propelled howitzers. The manufacturing cycle was halved from 30 to 15 months.

In January 2024, French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu assured that the increased production rate would give the opportunity to release almost 80 artillery systems in 2024. This will be possible due to a reduction in the production cycle of one ACS from 30 to 15 months. In addition, the manufacturer Nexter managed to create the necessary inventory and hire additional workers.

In addition, the Franco-German defense company KNDS, which includes Nexter, predicted an increase in demand for CAESAR self-propelled howitzers. The manufacturer announced the reorganization of its production lines. Due to this, the output should grow from the current six howitzers to eight per month in 2024.

New artillery systems are needed both to continue deliveries for the Ukrainian Defense Forces and foreign customers, and for the French troops to replace those artillery systems that were transferred to Ukraine as defense assistance.

Artillery Coalition

French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu, along with his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umierov, launched an international artillery coalition for Ukraine on January 18, 2024.

The initiative aims to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with artillery weapons in the short and long term. Weapons are needed to strengthen counteraction against Russian aggression. The coalition will also help Ukraine ensure the effective functioning of the already provided samples of artillery weapons. The first meeting, which was held in Paris, was attended by representatives of 22 countries.

Within the framework of the project, it is planned to purchase 78 CAESAR ACS for Ukraine, which should be manufactured in 2024. It is assumed that each of the countries participating in the coalition will contribute to the financing of the project. So, France will use €50 million from its Ukraine Energy Support Fund to order 12 out of 78 howitzers. The production of six more ACS was financed by Ukraine.

ACS Artillery Caesar ACS France Military assistance Ukraine War with Russia