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20 M109L 155mm self-propelled guns donated by Italy reached Ukraine.

| 2023

Italy is one of the EU countries that regularly provide military assistance to Ukraine. In this framework, it handed over about 20 M109L self-propelled howitzers. It appears that a train loaded with them reached its destination on Saturday, April 15. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera recalls that several M109L self-propelled guns were already transferred to Ukraine back in October 2022.
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Train loaded with 20 M109L self-propelled howitzers donated by Italy to Ukraine (Picture source: Twitter account of A-129 Mangusta)

Information about sending a batch of self-propelled guns to Ukraine was confirmed by Italian Minister Luca Chiriani on the air of the RAi news24 TV channel. He added that their shipment was approved by the previous government of Mario Draghi. Let us recall that in January of this year, the Italian government decided to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine, and in February the Cabinet of Ministers approved the sixth package of military assistance to Kyiv, the contents of which are still classified.

The M109L is a development of the American M109 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzer made in Italy by Otobreda Division, Alenia Difesa. The first batch of 32 155 mm M109Ls was completed in 1986 and final deliveries were made in 1992. The M109L 155 is no longer in service with the Italian army but an undisclosed number of these artillery howitzers are stored. The M109L was upgraded with a 39-caliber long-barrel version to replace the original 23-caliber barrel of the American M109. The new cannon is able to fire FH-70 projectiles to a maximum range of 24,000 m. The M109L can also fire assisted ammunition at a maximum range of 30 km.

As recalled by Army Guide, Italy had purchased 221 M109s from the US without armament which was manufactured and installed in Italy by Otobreda (at that time known as OTO Melara) and issued to the Italian Army. In addition to taking delivery of the 221 M109s without armament, the Italian Army also took delivery of 62 complete 155 mm M109A1B systems.

In 1970-71 Otobreda produced a long-barrel version of the 155 mm M109 capable of firing FH-70 projectiles to a maximum range of 24,000 m. The trials were successful and a decision was taken in 1986 to upgrade a total of 280 M109 self-propelled howitzers to the M109L standard. The first batch of 32 M109Ls was completed in 1986 and final deliveries took place in 1992.

The hull of the original M109 was modified to the M109A3 standard to make it compatible with the new elevating mass and the aiming system of the M109A3G. The main change on the M109L is the replacement of the existing 23-caliber barrel with a 39-caliber barrel. Externally, this is configured to the M109 mounting, but internally it is ballistically similar to the FH-70 configuration and can thus fire existing M107 ammunition or FH-70 ammunition. Firing L15 HE projectiles the M109L has a maximum range of 24,000 or 30,000 m with assisted ammunition. The new 155mm 39 caliber barrel is fitted with a revised muzzle brake, with the maximum recoil increase on the M109L being only 100mm. The existing breech and breech ring of the original M109 were retained. The elevating mass, as modified, is interchangeable with that of the basic M109.

Defense News April 2023

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