Development of the KH179 155 mm howitzer by the Kia Machine Tool Company (which is today known as the WIA Corporation) began in 1979 and was completed in 1982. It has been in service with the Republic of Korea Army since early 1983. The conversion programme is believed to have been completed some years ago. It is estimated that South Korea has about 1,700 155 mm towed artillery systems but it is not known as to how many of these are M114s upgraded to the KH179 standard.
The 155 mm KH179 howitzer is a conversion of the American M114A1 howitzer and carriage upgraded to mount a new 155 mm/39 calibre barrel. Certain other parts of the carriage have been altered to suit the new barrel and new fire-control equipment has been fitted. The KH179 is light enough to be airlifted by a Boeing CH-47C/D Chinook helicopter and can also be carried inside a Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The new 155 mm/39 calibre barrel is of monobloc construction with an interrupted screw breech mechanism. The rifling has a constant 1:20 twist and there are 48 grooves. High-strength alloy steel is used throughout the barrel construction and heat treatment and autofrettaging are employed to provide maximum barrel life. Separate recoil and recuperator systems are used in what is stated to be a variable length, hydropneumatic, independent design. On the carriage, the layer is on the left of the breech to operate the traverse handwheel on the left of the top carriage. Another member of the gun crew turns the elevating handwheel on the right of the breech. The layer is provided with a dial sight and telescope for aiming and another telescope for direct fire. All fire controls and some of the accessory equipment on the KH179 are equipped with radio-activated light sources. Pneumatic equilibrators are connected between the yoke of the recoil mechanism and the top carriage, to keep the handwheel loads within acceptable limits.
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The towed howitzer is obviously the older type, as it was initially drawn around and into place by horses at times when the `auto-mobile' was not even a project in anyone's mind. Even if now towed by modern vehicles, it might be regarded as old-fashioned, but on the other hand, does not have the logistic demands that its towed counterparts imply.
A number of so-called towed howitzers, however, incorporate an auxiliary power unit -- not only to feed electric systems or hydraulic actuators, but also in some cases to provide them with some degree of autonomy to drive them to their required firing position.
By adopting the 155 mm L 45 Cala 30/2, the Argentine armed forces have become the most advanced in South America. Not only has the Argentine Armed Forces Research and Technology Institute (Citefa) developed a 45 calibre howitzer but they have also developed Pala ERFB-BB projectiles with a maximum range of 39 000 metres; more conventional non-ERFB projectiles can reach 23 000 metres. This ordnance and carriage combination, together with a split trail carriage and auxiliary power unit as used by every other comparable contemporary design, enables burst firing of up to six rounds per minute, so the potential firepower is considerable. Following development dating from the mid 1990s, production is just getting into full stride to replace existing in-service L 33 X1415 Citefa A Models 77 and 88 with their lesser range capabilities.
The International Noricum GH N-45 is the latest manifestation of the original 155 mm 45 calibre GC-45 howitzers devised by the late Gerald Bull. Bull's Space Research Corporation (SRC) was responsible for introducing the 45-calibre howitzer barrel together with matching ERFB and ERFB-BB projectiles, the latter reaching a claimed 39 600 metres. Those early howitzers were the progenitors of nearly all 155 mm howitzer designs produced since then as they have been widely copied or licence produced. Although the GH N-45 visually resembles the early SRC GC-45 howitzers, numerous modifications have been introduced over the years as the original design passed through several corporate hands and legal proceedings, the major production runs taking place in Austria, mainly for Iran and Iraq. The current Noricum is an international marketing concern that has made recent sales to the Royal Thai Marines. GH N-45 versions are available with or without an auxiliary power unit and various extras are available, such as powered elevation controls and a stand-by ammunition rack for rapid loading. Tracks can be secured over the wheels of the powered version for traversing soft terrain.
Norinco WA 021
The Chinese Norinco WA 021 is another howitzer owing its existence to the late Gerald Bull, as it was developed under his control during the late 1980s. It therefore closely resembles the Noricum GH N-45 in many respects, including the ability for the carriage to accommodate the ordnance from the latter. The WA 021 does not normally have an auxiliary power unit, although one can be installed if required. As far as is known production of the WA 021 has been limited, although it has been marketed internationally and is stated to be in service with the People's Liberation Army. Norinco also manufactures ERFB projectiles, again a legacy from Gerald Bull. A variant intended specifically for coastal defence has been produced but does not appear to have been adopted.
155 GH 52 APU
The Finnish Patria Vammas 155 GH 52 APU initially appeared during the early 1990s, with first deliveries taking place to the Finnish Army in 1998. Patria Vammas also developed an ERFB projectile variant for this and other locally produced howitzers, such as the 155 mm M-83 on which the 155 GH 52 APU is based. It is possible to modify M-83 howitzers to mount the new 52-calibre barrel as the M-83 already has provision to mount either 39 or 45 calibre ordnance. An example of the international proliferation of artillery designs can be seen by the 1999 agreement that Patria Vammas signed with Egypt for the latter to manufacture the 155 GH 52 APU locally. When the first Egyptian examples enter service they will outrange all other artillery in the region as, firing suitable ERFB-BB projectiles, they have a maximum range of 41 300 metres.
Although it dates from the 1960s, the FH-70 deserves mention as an early example of international co-operation in artillery design and development. Germany (Rheinmetall), Italy (OTO Melara, now Otobreda) and the United Kingdom (what was then Royal Ordnance) combined to develop components of what was, at the time, regarded as an advanced system based around a 39-calibre barrel and a novel combination of projectiles and propellant charges; the chamber volume became an international standard, enlarged only for longer barrels. The resultant maximum range of 24 700 metres was, at the time, considered a substantial increase in what was then possible, and could be improved by enhanced-range projectiles, but the introduction of longer barrels on other designs soon relegated the FH-70 to being outranged by many potentially hostile nations. However, the FH-70 remains in service around the world and is still being licence-produced in Japan for local use. Other users have included Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Morocco and the Netherlands, all in addition to the artillery arms of the original producer nations. A 52-calibre variant was produced by Rheinmetall but it remained a prototype.
The Israeli Soltam Tig 2000 is not a single howitzer but a howitzer family, all based on the same carriage. Tig stands for Towed Independent Gun, and is based on the earlier Models 839 and 845, the 39 and 45 denoting the barrel length -- the addition of a P to the designation denoted the introduction of an auxiliary power unit. Gradual updating of these two otherwise identical models has resulted in the Tig 2000, a unique design in that the same split-trail carriage can be field-fitted with 39-, 45- or 52-calibre barrels, as required. Firing ERFB-BB, the maximum possible range can then be either 28 000, 30 000 or 41 000 metres. Given the chance, most gunners would probably select the 52-calibre option, although no orders have yet appeared. Earlier Soltam 155 mm howitzer models, typically the Model 845, have been delivered to Cameroon, Slovenia and Botswana. In action the Tig 2000 requires a crew of only four, even if the auxiliary power unit is not installed.
The KH179 has been selected as a typical example of converting the strong but ancient US M114A1 155 mm howitzer to accept a 39-calibre barrel, leaving the original split trail carriage strengthened, although largely intact, while extending the range considerably over the original. The KH179 conversions were made by the Kia Machine Tool Company of South Korea during the 1980s and it remains one of the few M114 update programmes that was completed in any significant numbers. Similar updating conversions were offered, usually in kit form, by RDM of the Netherlands (mentioned in next entry), France (Giat M114F), Italy (OTO Melara), Israel (Soltam), Austria (Voest Alpine) and the United Kingdom (BAE Systems, RO Defence). With the new barrel the KH179 can fire a Nato standard projectile to 22 000 metres, or 30 000 with Rap, compared to the original M114's 14 600 metres. One oddity of the KH179 programme (now completed within South Korea) is that the Iranian Hadid 155 mm Howitzer HM41 bears an uncanny resemblance to the KH179. The former Yugoslav 155 mm M65, still in service with some Balkan states, is a M114 clone. Further conversions to 155 mm were proposed by Soltam of Israel for Eastern Bloc 130 mm M-46 guns but that project appears to have found no takers.
M139 and M114/39
The M139 developed by RDM Technology of the Netherlands is another 39-calibre upgrade of the US M114 howitzer, but this time the complete M139 can be supplied direct from a production line. A kit, also from RDM Technology, to convert existing M114 howitzers to the 39 calibre standard results in the M114/39. The RDM proposal has been produced in some numbers. Upgraded howitzer kits were supplied to Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway -- Canada was at one time a potential customer but the requirement was dropped. One of the main selling points regarding the M139 and M114/39 is that they can utilise ERFB and ERFB-BB projectiles and their appropriate propelling charges, extending the maximum possible range to 32400 metres. Both the M139 and M114/39 are now on an `as required' production basis.
The FH2000 developed and produced by Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) was the first 155 mm towed 52-calibre howitzer to enter service anywhere, as the first deliveries were made to the Singapore Artillery in mid-1995. The FH2000 is an enhancement of the earlier 39-calibre 155 mm FH-88, from which it differs mainly in the barrel and some carriage modifications. There has also been a determination to reduce the number of components to be manufactured -- for instance the FH2000 breech mechanism has 50 per cent fewer parts than that of the FH-88. A flick rammer and an auxiliary power unit are standard equipment, while a sophisticated state-of-the-art electronics-based fire control system is capable of extreme barrel laying precision. ERFB and ERFB-BB projectiles, including HE, bomblet dispensing and others, together with their charges, are also manufactured in Singapore giving the FH2000 a maximum range of 40 000 metres.
The South African Lyttleton Engineering Works (LIW -- part of Denel) 155 mm G5 is another long-barrelled towed howitzer displaying the Gerald Bull touch, for he was deeply involved in its initial development from the original SRC GC-45, and also in its ERFB ammunition. Prepared for production at a time when economic sanctions were in place against South Africa, the G5 emerged as a much stronger and heavier version of the GC-45, entering service with the South African Army during 1985. A 45-calibre howitzer, the G5 remains the subject of considerable development effort, the latest variant being the Mk 3 with numerous design detail changes. Most existing G5 models have been updated to this standard. A 52-calibre variant was test fired as early as 1992 although no production has yet resulted, the South African artillery arm apparently being well satisfied to date with the 72 they already have. Further G5 production has been for Iraq, Iran, Qatar, Malaysia and, according to some reports, Uganda. A version for coastal defence has been proposed. With the introduction of the rocket-assisted Velocity-enhanced Long-range Artillery Projectile (Vlap) by Somchem, the maximum potential range of the G5 is now over 50 000 metres, and it is known that ram-jet assisted projectiles are under development in South Africa to extend potential ranges even further.
155/52 APU SBT-1
Santa Barbara of Spain developed the 155/52 APU SBT-1 howitzer from the earlier SB 155/39 which was never placed in production. As its designation implies, this howitzer has a 52-calibre barrel plus the usual auxiliary power unit (APU), split trail carriage and so on. In effect it may be considered an enhanced version of the original SRC GC-45, although Santa Barbara has made numerous improvements over that early model. During late 1999, the Spanish Army accepted a batch of six for extended troop trials and the 155/52 APU SBT-1 is now being actively marketed internationally, including as a mobile coastal defence weapon.
The Swedish Bofors FH-77B is perhaps best known for the wrong reasons, as it was the gun involved in the so-called Bofors Scandal in India. India purchased 410 of these howitzers, designed to accept Nato standard ammunition in place of the locally accepted ammunition requirements of the Swedish armed forces' FH-77A. The FH-77B has been around since the late 1980s and has been purchased by Nigeria and the Swedish Army as well as India. It is a sturdy 39-calibre barrel howitzer with the distinction from others in that it is fired with its wheels still on the ground and there is an ammunition crane on the carriage to assist loading. Although the FH-77B can accept ERFB pattern projectiles it does not seem that any user has adopted them, so the maximum range firing standard projectiles is 24 000 metres.
The Turkish Mkek concern has unveiled a 52-calibre 155 mm towed howitzer with a remarkable resemblance to the FH2000 produced in Singapore. It is known that Mkek received assistance from Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) during the development of their new howitzer but few details are available, not even an official designation or any hard specifications. It has been hinted that the maximum range firing ERFB-BB is about 40 000 metres so it seems very likely that the Turkish howitzer is a close relative of the Singapore FH2000. A self-propelled model, the SP2000, is under development.
The states that make up the Russian Federation and Associated States (RFAS) retain many ageing towed 152 mm gun-howitzers (actual calibre 152.4 mm), some dating back to the Great Patriotic War, but in recent years some new designs have been introduced to supplement them. Typical is the 2A36 Giatsint (Hyacinth) introduced during the 1970s but still in production at the Motovilikha Plants Corporation at Perm. The 2A36 is a bulky brute with a 49-calibre barrel firing ammunition special to its type and providing a maximum range of 28 500 metres (standard) or 40 000 metres with Rap. The 2A36 carries over a former Soviet design practice of a shield, not for the crew but for the gun mechanisms. It has a split trail carriage on which the four wheels are lifted when the gun is on its firing platform in the firing position. The 2A36 has been distributed to most RFAS-associated states and Finland.
The 152 mm 2A65 howitzer, also known as the MSTA-B, is another product of the Motovilikha Plants Corporation at Perm. Data referring to barrel length regarding this howitzer is not available but it appears to be about 39 calibres. Unlike the 2A36, the 2A65 continues to fire standard 152 mm projectiles dating back many years in design origin terms but some new rounds have been developed specifically for this piece, including a BB attachment that can be screwed onto suitable projectile bases. It can also fire the Krasnopol laser-guided projectile. The 2A65 also retains a shield to protect the gun mechanisms. The 2A65 does not appear to have been adopted outside the RFAS although it has been extensively marketed.
The XM777 lightweight 155 mm howitzer (LW155) is a joint US Marine Corps/US Army programme aimed at replacing the M198 155 mm towed howitzer currently used by both services. The new system is 25 percent smaller and 43 per cent lighter than its predecessor and will fire all current and future US and Nato 155 mm projectiles and charges. Gun emplacement requires three minutes (versus twelve minutes for the M198) and displacement can be accomplished in only two minutes. The 39-calibre tube has a maximum firing range of 24 700 metres using standard ammunition and 30 000 with assisted projectiles. In addition, the future XM982 GPS-guided projectile will extend the maximum range to 37 000 metres. The system has a maximum firing rate of five rounds per minute and a sustained rate of two rounds per minute. According to Frank Hoerster, US programme representative for BAE Systems, the XM777 programme is currently in the middle of Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) testing. Two EMD guns have been delivered to date with two more slated for delivery by the time these lines are read. This will be followed by the delivery of four more EMD guns in early December in preparation for operational testing to begin in January '02. "Our contract was modified last December to add two more EMD guns," Hoerster explains. "And those two guns are being made by our American production base that we have competitively selected." Final assembly and test of the US-made XM777 is will be done by United Defense. The first of those two US-manufactured EMD guns will be delivered in March 2002 for testing and validation. Noting that the government acquired the original `shoot-off gun' after the contract award and subsequently put at least 10000 full charge equivalent rounds on that particular gun, he adds that "The howitzer design, despite what certain people are alleging in certain quarters, is pretty mature and reliable. Any technical issues have been fairly minor and fairly easy to correct" said Hoerster. Type classification (change of designation to M777) is currently scheduled for September 2002.