Royal School of Artillery soldiers fire UK’s powerful new Archer howitzers for first time

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The Archer fires a 155mm round during a training exercise. Photographer: Sgt Robert Weideman, RLC - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024 - Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

The Archer is designed to ‘shoot and scoot’ meaning British soldiers will be able to open fire on a target then quickly move to a new location before being hit by counter-battery fire or enemy ground attack aircraft.

Soldiers from the British Army’s Royal School of Artillery are learning what it takes to operate the new Archer Mobile Howitzers.

Last year the first 14 Archer artillery systems will purchased by the British Army and will be fully operational by April, forming an interim replacement for the 32 AS90 artillery systems the UK gifted to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

On the snowy, frozen military training area of Boden, Swedish Lapland, the British Army gunners have been putting their theory into practice, firing the modern artillery platform for the first time.

In keeping with tracked self-propelled artillery systems like the AS90, the Archer is designed to “shoot and scoot” meaning British soldiers will be able to open fire on a target then quickly move to a new location before being hit by counter-battery fire or enemy ground attack aircraft.

Following the granting-in-kind of 32 AS90 self-propelled guns to Ukraine, Archer was procured from the Swedish Government as an interim solution for the gap created in the Army’s 155mm Close Support capability. The purchase included logistic support containers, an initial ammunition suite, support, and training package.

Two Archer Mobile Howitzers fire 155mm rounds during a training exercise. Photographer: Sgt Robert Weideman, RLC – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

The Swedish Artillery School provided a 14-week T3 ‘train the trainer’ course, training will start on the next generation of wheeled artillery systems this spring and will be fired in the UK next summer.

The Army says the Archer can engage a target and then disengage in less than 20 seconds, minimising its chances of being located by the enemy and increasing its survivability. The weapons system has a crew of up to four, is fully automated and has a firing range in excess of 50km. Loading, laying and firing is handled from inside an armoured cabin, offering good protection as the crew are kept separate from the ammunition.

The 155mm gun has a rate of fire of 12 rounds every three minutes when used intensively, and can be supplemented by a remote-controlled grenade launcher or heavy machine gun for close-in defence. Its 6×6 drive train can propel the vehicle up to 70km/h and it has a maximum range of 650km.

Former Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said:

“While continuing to double-down on our unwavering support for Ukraine, it’s imperative we simultaneously replenish our capabilities at home.

“Archer artillery systems are powerful, protective and can be rapidly deployed. This agreement with a close European ally will sustain the British Army’s requirements until the longer-term Mobile Fires Platform comes into service – a programme we are working hard to accelerate.”

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