Switzerland Downselects Howitzers

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The Swiss procurement agency Armasuisse has downselected two final candidates for further testing and evaluation in the "Artillerie Wirkplattform und Wirkmittel 2026" (Artillery Effective Platform and Effective Means 2026) programme. This is aimed at replacing Switzerland's indirect fire support systems. The Swiss Armed Forces presently have 133 M109 KAWEST self-propelled howitzers (SPH) in their inventory, and according to Armasuisse, the M109 SPH is due to reach the end of its service life at the beginning of the 2030s, having beenprocured 50 years ago.

Armasuisse state in a press release that they had invited several manufacturers to submit their proposals based on Swiss requirements. After assessing the initial proposals twosystems were downselected for further evaluation:

  • ARCHER 8x8 self-propelled howitzer from BAE Systems Bofors AB, Sweden
  • RCH 155 AGM Howitzer from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG (KWM), Germany, with two possible carrier platforms (BOXER 8x8 or PIRANHA 8x8).

The Process

During the evaluation phase, the systems' technology, deployment potential and logistics are due to be tested and analysed in depth using functional prototypes. These tests are planned for 2023 and 2024, and will take place both in Switzerland and abroad, according to Armasuisse. The final decision on which system will be procured is due to take place by the time of the Swiss Armed Forces Dispatch 2026.

The 155 mm Archer artillery system used in Sweden is based on a Volvo 6x6 truck platform with a protected cab. The system uses a 155 mm/L52 automatically loaded, remotely-operated gun carries 21 ready rounds of ammunition and can attain ranges of 30-60 km, depending on the ammunition and propellant charge used.

A crew of at least three is required for operation. For self-protection, a Kongsberg PROTECTOR Remote Weapon Station (RWS) can be mounted on the vehicle cab. The sole user is the Swedish Army.

It has 48 exxamples in its inventory and has ordered another 24 for delivery from the end of 2022.

Key Decisions for the Howitzer

The RCH 155 (Remote Controlled Howitzer 155) likewise uses an automatically-loaded and remotely operated 155 mm/L52 gun, albeit carrying 30 ready rounds and 144 modular propellant charges. KMW has publicly demonstratedthe RCH 155 on the BOXER 8x8 platform during live firetesting in August 2021, which included a fire on the move demonstration. KMW has stated the gun's range to be 54 km, and an RWS is available for close-in self-protection. Targeting in direct fire mode can be conducted either with optional optronics or via the RWS. The system requires two crew for operation.

For the RCH 155 base platform, Armasuisse intends to investigate the PIRANHA IV 8x8 from GDELS and the BOXER 8x8 from ARTEC. The BOXER would require the establishment of a new logistics chain in the Swiss Armed Forces, while the PIRANHA IV would be able to draw from the existing chain.

GWH