Self-propelled artillery systems such as the AS-90 could have a “real impact” on Ukraine’s defense against Russia when combined with main battle tanks and armored vehicles, a former U.S. Army Europe commander told Newsweek.
The AS-90 is a 155mm self-propelled gun with a 39-caliber gun barrel. In tests, two AS-90s are “able to deliver a total payload of 261 kg onto a single target in less than ten seconds,” according to the British Army.
The AS-90 has a burst rate of three rounds in under ten seconds, compared with a sustained rate of two rounds in one minute. With an effective range of 15.3 miles and an overall vehicle range of just under 261 miles, the nine-meter-long AS-90 holds five personnel traveling at a maximum speed of nearly 33 mph.
On Monday, United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced “the most significant package of combat power to date” to the House of Commons. Confirming that a squadron of the U.K.’s main battle tanks, the Challenger 2, would be delivered to Ukraine, Wallace said that Downing Street would also send a shipment of AS-90s self-propelled artillery.
The U.K. is sending a battery, or group, of eight guns at “high readiness,” Wallace added, “and two further batteries at varying states of readiness.”
The Challenger 2 tanks and AS-90s and their ammunition will “come from our stocks,” the defense minister clarified.
Despite the focus on providing main battle tanks, most notably the Leopard 2s, “the self-propelled artillery is just as important as tanks, or infantry fighting vehicles,” Lieutenant General (Retd) Ben Hodges, the former commander of U.S. Army Europe told Newsweek.
“These these are all designed to complement each other,” working as combined arms rather than independently, Hodges said.
The armored, self-propelled AS-90 is able to move as well as fire, while offering its crew protection from Russian counter-fire, making it “an important part of the team.”
The military assistance offered by the U.K., including these AS-90s, could be put together to form an armored Ukrainian brigade, offering up the foundations for an armored division, Hodges suggested.
“So when you think about capabilities, it’s not 30 AS-90s—it’s self-propelled artillery that’s part of a larger combined arms team,” Hodges said. “This team working together can have a real impact and those AS-90s will be a big part of that.”
However, the Ukrainians will need training on how to use the AS-90s. “They don’t just come in a box and it all works together,” Hodges said.
The Ukrainian forces will likely be practicing using the newly-donated equipment, including the AS90s, over the next three months, he predicted.