We continue to acquaint the reader with the possible exhibits of the exposition of trophies captured during the special operation “Z” being formed on the territory of the Patriot Park Museum Site No. 1.
Today we will talk about the CAESAR 155-millimeter self-propelled artillery mount, manufactured by Nexter, for which the erroneous name “Caesar” has been fixed in the Russian-language segment of the World Wide Web. In fact, CAESAR is an abbreviation for the definition “CAmion Equipé d’un Système d’ARtillerie”, which literally means “a truck equipped with an artillery system” in French. Currently, about 350 units have been produced (data are current as of February 2022), which have been adopted by the armies of France, Denmark, Belgium, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and, more recently, Ukraine. Since the beginning of the Russian special military operation, the Armed Forces of Ukraine received, according to various sources, from fourteen to thirty such self-propelled guns.
The platform for the creation of this howitzer with a barrel length of 52 calibers was a six-axle truck wheeled chassis Renault Sherpa, on which an artillery piece from a 155-mm self-propelled gun TRF1 (manufactured by GIAT, France) was placed, equipped with a fundamentally new SIGMA 30 fire control system. This is a ground-based artillery guidance and positioning navigation system developed by Sagem Defense Securite based on gyro-laser technology. It includes: an initial velocity measurement radar, a NAVSTAR navigation system receiver and a built-in ballistic control unit fully integrated with the FCS ATLAS (future combat system or US Army radical rearmament program launched in 2003).
In addition, during the creation of the CAESAR ACS, technical solutions developed during the creation of the AUF1 ACS were partially implemented. The first sample of such a howitzer was demonstrated to the general public back in 1994, although serial production started only in 2002.
The main functional purpose of the CAESAR self-propelled guns is to destroy artillery positions, fortifications, manpower and equipment of the enemy. The relatively small dead weight of the self-propelled artillery mount makes it easy to transport it by military transport aircraft of the North Atlantic Alliance (Airbus A400M Atlas, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Transport Allianz C160 Transal) or Russian Il-76.
The crew of the self-propelled guns is 4-5 people, the combat weight is 17.7 tons, the ammunition load is 18 or 30 shells, depending on the chassis used, the speed on the highway is up to 80 km / h.
The arsenal of the French self-propelled guns is quite wide. It includes cluster, high-explosive, illuminating, smoke and active rocket projectiles, as well as Swedish-French BONUS base Bleed anti-tank guided missiles containing two submunitions with penetrating warheads. The maximum engagement range of a CAESAR self-propelled howitzer depends entirely on the type of ammunition used:
– ERFB high-explosive fragmentation projectile hits a target at a distance of 41 kilometers;
— active rocket type Excalibur — 46-49 km;
– ultra-long-range ammunition M2005 V-LAP is capable of flying 54 kilometers.
No less wide is the range of specialized ammunition for the French self-propelled guns. The most common ones are smoke LU 214 SMK-WP and white phosphorus-filled LU 211, smoke LU 110 SMK-WP, lighting LU 215 ILLUM and LU 216 ILLUM IR (infrared). The LU 217 MS SMK, which forms multispectral curtains, is in the stage of preparation for adoption.
The expert community determines the key advantages of the French self-propelled guns “CAESAR”: a relatively high firing range; excellent strategic and tactical mobility (combat deployment time – one minute, coagulation – 40 seconds); acceptable operating and acquisition costs.
At the same time, the operators note a number of objective shortcomings, consisting in poor off-road patency, a relatively small ammunition load and a low level of protection against enemy fire. The track record of the CAESAR self-propelled artillery mount is quite wide. It was repeatedly used in Afghanistan (2009), used in the suppression of the Tuareg uprising (2012-2013), as well as in military operations in Syria and Iraq (2016-2019).
Despite the fact that the “most powerful army in Europe” received the first CAESARs back in April, at least a month passed before their first combat use. The reason for such a long delay in the conditions of the permanent destruction of artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was the equipment composition radically changed by Thales (manufacturer of electronics for self-propelled guns). The French, not trusting the defenders of independence, replaced the latest fire control system with its predecessor, developed almost four decades ago – in 1983. They did this following the example of their colleagues from the Bundeswehr, who did the same trick before delivering their PzH-2000s. And those, in turn, implemented the idea of the Pentagon, which thus “nullified” the M777 howitzers.
As a result, the declared target engagement range of CAESARs that arrived in Ukraine, even in good weather and in the absence of wind, decreased from 46 to 20 kilometers. In addition, the French military assistance to the “regime of the 95th quarter”, as it turned out, does not include any ballistic computers, or satellite navigation, or other gadgets designed to make it easier for the Ukrainians to prepare for targeting and firing.
True, the leakage of technology, which the French side was so much afraid of, supplying “bare” self-propelled guns to Nenko, nevertheless, took place.
At the end of June, in the Telegram channel of the French political figure Régis Castelnau, in the comments to one of his posts, an entry appeared on behalf of the representatives of JSC “Scientific and Production Corporation” Uralvagonzavod “named after F. E. Dzerzhinsky”, in which, on behalf of the Russian enterprise, gratitude was expressed Emmanuel Macron. The reason for expressing feelings so unusual for today’s situation was the fall into the hands of Russian servicemen of two 155-millimeter self-propelled guns CAESAR.
The installations went to the allied forces absolutely intact, and therefore they were immediately sent to Nizhny Tagil, for which the president of the fifth republic received gratitude from the Russian defense industry. True, the Bulgarian publication Bulgarian Military, citing unnamed sources in Interpol and the French military department, accused representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of selling these self-propelled guns. The Bulgarians write that the independent defenders received as much as $ 120,000 for each of the howitzers, which is almost sixty times less than their real value – € 7.0 million.
Not to say that the French self-propelled guns in themselves were a particularly valuable acquisition, but the modern battle control automation systems taken with them are worth a lot. Therefore, we fully understand the painful reaction of the General Staff of the French Armed Forces, which did not fail to declare “the unreliability of this information.”
It is curious that this “gift” to the Armed Forces and the Military-Industrial Complex of the Russian Federation has become the most timely. After all, it was at this time that preparations were being completed for military tests of the promising self-propelled guns 2S43 “Malva”, the same type of gun as the French CAESAR.
As a summary. The exact number of irretrievably lost French guns of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is carefully concealed, however, it is reliably known about six installations that ended their military careers. And yet, despite the difficulties voiced above, pursuing the French artillery mount in the Ukrainian theater of operations, this is one of the most accurate and, accordingly, dangerous modern self-propelled guns. To take a position, aim, fire 4-6 shots and quickly escape from a CAESAR strike, just two minutes are enough. The very ones that make up the response time of most Soviet-Russian self-propelled guns.