Artillery of the new generation: the French "Caesar" against the plans of the Kremlin
Since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine, planners in the Kremlin have relied heavily on airstrikes and cruise missiles. When after half a year this strategy failed, primarily due to the decisive response of the Ukrainian air defense system, the Kremlin decided to send much more artillery to the front lines.
But these Russian units encountered strong resistance from Kiev, which in the meantime received several types of drones, as well as its own missile systems.
From the beginning of the aggression, it was important for Ukraine to have a modern long-range system that could be moved quickly and easily. The existing BM-30 Smerch, M-270 Vilha and BM-27 Uragan systems could only partially repel Russian attacks, as they have been in use for more than three decades and their shortcomings are well known to Moscow.
The solution came at the end of last year, when France, as one of Kiev's Western allies, delivered 18 modern Caesar systems. The CAESAR (French: Camion Equipe du Systeme d'Artillerie) is a modern 155mm self-propelled howitzer and can also fire standard NATO "39/52" missiles. The system is installed on Sherpa 5 trucks, which are manufactured by Renault's subsidiary RTD (Renault Truck Defense). This modular multi-purpose truck is based on a 4×4 or 6×6 chassis, with all-wheel drive. Export versions of the Caesar are mounted on another vehicle – the German Unimog U2450, from the Daimler company. Versions for the Belgian, Czech and Lithuanian forces will be mounted on Czech Tatra 815-7 vehicles.
Demand accelerated production
The development of the Caesar system itself began in 2008, when the French military leadership wanted to improve the already existing "technology demonstrator" developed by the company Lor and further modified by the company GIAT. The concept envisioned a completely new artillery weapon, with the ability to fire different types of projectiles with different warheads. Until then, most of the heavy artillery (eng. howitzer artillery system) could fire pre-defined (standard) projectiles, the effectiveness of which was decreasing, primarily due to the development of new types of reactive armor. The first prototype was presented back in 1994, but then the development was stopped – until 2008.
Meanwhile, GIAT became a new company – Nexter Systems (AIG, Army Industrial Group), which is among the leading European companies in the field of development and production of military systems. From 2008 to 2010, the first Caesars were tested by French forces. Although the production of only 10 copies per year was planned at the time, the great demand on the world market further "accelerated", so now about eight copies are produced per month.
CAESAR has a crew of five and thanks to its digital guidance and targeting system, can only operate with three. In operational condition, the Caesar is designed to fit into standard NATO dimensions for transport on Airbus A-400M Atlas aircraft or the US Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The operational range with "direct guidance" of the fired missile is 42 kilometers, but over 60 kilometers if the new ERFB missiles are used.
The Caesar system uses the so-called inertial navigation system, French company Sagem. "Sigma 30" is also used on several similar self-propelled howitzers - the Swedish Archer, the German PzH-2000, the Serbian Nora B-52 and the new Indian Pinaka MBRL system. The modified Sagem Sigma 30 system is also used by the Polish PT-91 tanks. The latest version of the Sigma 30 also has PADS (Positioning Azimuth Determination System) capabilities.
Caesar also has an automatic loading and fire control system, the Atlas FCS, which is computer controlled and only takes about 60 seconds between missile launches. In 2022, the Nexter company received a new tender from the French General Directorate of Armaments for the development of the Caesar NG (New Generation). This version is already being tested, and is based on a new improved 6×6 platform, has better armor, a new 460 hp engine with automatic transmission, new software for the ATLAS system and a specially designed mine-resistant chassis. By the end of next year, the production of 110 Caesar NG systems will begin, as well as the improvement of the existing 76 active systems. Also under consideration is the production of a few examples of the Caesar Mark II 8×8, a fully armored version with a larger capacity of 36 missiles.
I came, I saw, I conquered…
Caesar is already a "practically tested and proven" system. French forces used the first eight prototypes as early as 2009 in Afghanistan, and later the first five production examples were delivered to the 3rd Marine Artillery Regiment (68ERAM) in Taghab and Nijrab. They were later transferred to Mali, Africa, where they were used by the 2013th African Artillery Regiment in Operation Serval from 2014 to XNUMX.
Several Caesars were used to attack positions in Syria, from the Iraqi border in 2018 and 2019, as well as during the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIL forces.
In the middle of this year, Ukrainian media showed footage from the northeast of the country, where just two Caesar systems managed to destroy over 30 Russian tanks, several command vehicles and a large ammunition depot, as well as a communication system. France has promised Kiev a total of 30 Caesar systems, of which 11 are currently "on the production line".
Besides France and Ukraine, the CAESAR system is one of the most desirable artillery systems in the world and is used by the armies of Morocco, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Great Britain is also interested in Caesar, which is looking for a replacement for the old AS-90 systems. Although the Norwegian Armed Forces were interested in as many as 30 Caesars, they ultimately chose the South Korean K-9 Thunder.
Taken from Al Jazeera