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UK-Donated AS90 Howitzers Outperform Old Soviet-Made Artillery in Accuracy and Range in Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers have reported that the British AS90 155mm self-propelled howitzers offer a considerable advantage in terms of firing accuracy and range when compared to Soviet-era artillery systems in service with the Ukrainian army such as the 2S1 Gvozdika and 2S3 Akatsiya. This superiority is attributed to the AS90's use of L15A1/2 conventional high-explosive shells, which are more aerodynamic and thus capable of flying farther than even the American M107 shells.
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Ukrainian soldiers fire with AS90 155mm self-propelled tracked howitzers during training in the United Kingdom. (Picture source UK MoD)

The transfer of the AS90 155mm self-propelled tracked howitzers to Ukraine was initially declared in April 2022 by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He announced that the UK would bolster Ukraine's artillery capabilities as the conflict with Russia escalated, including the provision of 45,000 artillery rounds alongside the artillery systems.

Ukraine has received a total of 32 AS90 artillery systems. Of these, 20 underwent repairs in the United Kingdom to ensure full operational capability, while the remaining 12 were supplied for the extraction and installation of spare parts on active vehicles.

Notably, at least one Ukrainian unit, the 3rd Assault Brigade, is actively utilizing the AS90 artillery systems, following training in the UK. The 116th Mechanized Brigade has also been reported to use these howitzers effectively on the ground.

Despite their operational success, the AS90 155mm self-propelled howitzers have not been immune to battlefield losses. According to open-source information, four of these artillery systems have been destroyed, and three have sustained damage but are potentially repairable.

The deployment and effectiveness of the AS90 howitzers underscore the international dimension of Ukraine's ongoing defense efforts against Russian aggression. The performance of these artillery systems highlights the crucial role of advanced artillery in modern warfare, especially in a conflict characterized by both conventional and asymmetric tactics.

The AS90 ("Artillery System for the 1990s") is a British 155mm self-propelled tracked howitzer that was developed to meet the British Army's requirements for a highly mobile and powerful artillery system. Entering service in the early 1990s, the AS90 was designed to replace older towed and less mobile artillery pieces with a modern platform capable of delivering significant firepower and with enhanced survivability on the battlefield. The howitzer is equipped with a 155mm 39-caliber gun, capable of firing standard NATO ammunition, including high-explosive, smoke, and illuminating rounds. The AS90's gun can achieve a maximum firing range of approximately 24.7 kilometers with standard charges and up to 30 kilometers using base bleed rounds, which extend the range by reducing the drag on the shell.

Technical advancements include an automated loading system, which allows the AS90 howitzer to achieve a burst firing rate of three rounds in less than 10 seconds, a normal rate of fire of two rounds per minute for sustained periods, and a maximum rate of fire of six rounds per minute for short durations. The howitzer is powered by a Cummins VTA-903T diesel engine, providing a top road speed of around 53 km/h and a cross-country speed of approximately 30 km/h, ensuring good strategic and tactical mobility. The AS90 is also equipped with advanced fire control and navigation systems, enabling it to quickly process firing data and accurately engage targets, even in adverse weather conditions or at night. Its armor protection is designed to withstand small arms fire and shell splinters, enhancing crew survivability in combat situations. Since its introduction into the British Army, the AS90 has been a core component of the UK's artillery capabilities, demonstrating its effectiveness in various operational theaters.

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