Argentina: VCA Palmaria 155mm self-propelled howitzers renovated

After two years of hard work, the evaluation and delivery of the second series of Artillery Combat Vehicles (VCA) 155mm Palmaria took place in the town of Sarmiento, province of Chubut. This work was carried out jointly by the personnel of the Battalion of Arsenals 602, of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Investigations and of the ST Group company, who completed the revision and repair of the electro-hydraulic circuit, the replacement of control system components and the repair of the auxiliary engine.

Argentinian Palmaria 155mm self propelled howitzers renovated
Palmaria 155mm self-propelled howitzers have been restored and upgraded (Picture source: Argentinian MoD)

The evaluation began with a series of tests in the Battalion of Arsenals 602, to verify the proper functioning of the turret. The shooting tests were carried out with each piece, making controlled shots with initial speed measurement radar and high-speed camera, at distances greater than 7,000 meters, with normal shooting angle and wide angle, verifying values and dispersion according to the established in the shooting tables. Finally, and within the framework of the final exercises of the 9th Mechanized Brigade, firing tests were performed by battery A of the Armored Artillery Group 9.

The 155mm Artillery Combat Vehicle Palmaria was created as part of the Tanque Argentino Mediano family (TAM) in the 1980s, using the chassis of the project, with some modifications fitted with a Palmaria cannon from the Italian manufacturer Oto Melara (now Leonardo). In 2014, the Arsenals Directorate, the Arsenals Battalion 602 and the ST Automatismo Industrial Company undertook a process of feasibility analysis for the recovery of the turret initial capacities. The work included the replacement of electronic components of the control system by programmable logic controllers, the revision and repair of the hydraulic circuit and the auxiliary engine, the addition of touch screens – in redundancy with the original devices – for the commander and the gunner, and other functionalities that provide information and alarms. The initial evaluation was carried out between October and December 2014, with different tests and trials in the Battalion of Arsenals 602.

In 2015, additional tests and a firing checks were carried out at the San Luis Military Garrison, which validated the serial production and laid the foundations for a modernization project by the General Directorate of Research and Development.

During 2016, four VCAs were repaired and evaluated, applying a procedure similar to the prototype vehicle: tests in the Arsenals Battalion 602, evaluation and habilitation of the team-crew binomial, firing test with each self-propelled howitzer and the technical evaluation by the operational section of the whole battery. After overcoming the demands of this evaluation, consisting of successive marches, occupation of positions and shooting, with a duration of four hours, the guns were provided to the Armored Artillery Group 11.

The second series of restoration/upgrading operations took place between 2017 and 2018. The VCAs belonging to the Armored Artillery Group 9 were evaluated and verified. It is noteworthy that this process of turret restoration was complemented with the training of both gunners and mechanics, and reconfiguration of the logistics circuit of spare parts and accessories for scheduled maintenance.

Simultaneously, the third stage modernization process started in 2016 was completed on the VCA prototype, in which new sensors were incorporated that provide additional information on the vehicle's condition and give greater precision to the movements of the weapon and reconfigured the control program, which allows the integration of an inertial unit for the autonomous aiming of the artillery piece and the Automated Shooting System (SATAC).
This work allowed to recover capacities that were considered lost, reaching immediate favorable results and generating great motivation in the user units. Its main strength lies in the low cost in relation to international offers and a national and shared civil-military development. Thus, recognizing the potential of the weapon, the VCA 155 mm Palmaria as restored and upgraded justifies the effort made by the Force to recover its capabilities.

Thus, recognizing the potential of the restored and upgraded weapon, the VCA 155 mm Palmaria has a present technical and operational level that justifies the effort made by the Force to recover its capabilities.

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