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​If Ukraine Needs 2,000 Artillery Guns, It's Time to Bring Up the Issue of M198 Transfer

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American military next to an M198 howitzer / Photo credit: LCPL Dustin W. Senger, USMC
American military next to an M198 howitzer / Photo credit: LCPL Dustin W. Senger, USMC

Even if Ukrainian industry is capable of modernizing Soviet weapons to keep up with quality, increasing the numbers in terms of quantity is important, too

Ukrainian Army's General Staff estimated today's need for artillery forces in about 2,000 guns, provided that they break and fail during intensive usage and require upgrading. In this situation, the Defense Forces of Ukraine cannot allow such luxury as completely replacing Soviet-era systems, as it takes money and time to buy new artillery, while the guns are needed to fire "right now" in order to push away the russian invasion forces.

All the more reason is because Ukraine actually has what it takes to modernize Soviet guns so that they are "on the same level as the systems provided by our partners", said the GenStaff's representative Serhii Baranov during a briefing at the Military Media Center. The work in this direction is going on constantly, it is done by research-and-construction projects within the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

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Ukrainian artillerymen from the 59th Artillery Brigade fire on russian occupiers from a Msta-B howitzer, March 2023
Ukrainian artillerymen from the 59th Artillery Brigade fire on russian occupiers from a Msta-B howitzer, March 2023 / Photo credit: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Indeed, there are various ways of how Ukraine can level-up its artillery park after the war with russia or even during it. The most promising one is to reforge the captured Msta-S SPGs into platforms for carrying 155mm guns. Especially since the russians made this self-propelled system so the standard 152mm gun can be detached for the 155mm one instead.

But then, we hit a paradox. On the one hand, it looks inefficient and out of place to talk about expanding the Ukrainian artillery park when we take into account the Ukraine's artillery spends only about 3,600 rounds of all calibers a day while it already potentially can fire off at least 11,800 rounds with the guns available.

On the other hand, if we already mentioned the large quantity of guns that need repair and upgrade, we should remember one option for increasing the number of guns in service. And it's a fairly simple one.

Ukrainian artillerymen fire on the russians from a D-30 howitzer / Photo credit: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
Ukrainian artillerymen fire on the russians from a D-30 howitzer / Photo credit: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

In January 2023, the American Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a commentary insisting that theWhite House and the Pentagon have to start supplying Ukraine with M198 howitzers of 155mm caliber.

The point voiced by the analysts was as follows: even if the number of artillery pieces provided to Ukraine by western partners and captured as trophies looks big on paper, it is still too little to effectively oppose the russian army. Especially if we look back at the NATO standards from Cold War times.

US M198 howitzers in servie with the Iraqi Armed Forces
US M198 howitzers in service with the Iraqi Armed Forces / Open source illustrative photo

The capacity for the transfer of M777, M109 and L118 howitzers have practically run out. However, there are still 300 to 600 M198 howitzers kept in storage in the usa, the last ones were put into reserve only in 2006. The starting point could be at least repairing 100 guns which would require up to one year and $60 million. The CSIS urged to start the process "right now" so that the delivery of repaired howitzers would be just in time for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

After the CSIS' article was published there has been no progress on the transfer of m198 to ukraine seen in the public domain. That's why maybe it's time to bring the topic up on the surface again, since the objective of reaching artillery parity against the russian invasion forces is still relevant.

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