While there is an increasing number of 155 mm/52-calibre self-propelled howitzer (SPH) platforms – such as the Yugoimport-SDPR Aleksandar and Aselsan Kamyona Monteli Obius (KMO) – to provide armies with inherently mobile but hard-hitting artillery capabilities, the market is also seeing the entry of lightweight howitzers to ease or enable the use of artillery in remote or inaccessible areas.
Of lightweight guns, the BAE Systems M777A 155 mm/39-calibre gun is arguably the most well-known as it enables armies to use 155 mm shells through a gun that has the weight and size footprint of smaller 105 mm weapons. However, new 105 mm howitzers have also exhibited clear advances in weight reduction, enabling a larger assortment of transport platforms to carry these guns.
Although transporting howitzers by air has been a major objective for armies (as shown with the M777A), new – and lighter-weight – 105 mm howitzers will also enable for highly mobile SPH. This will provide armies with another rapidly deployable assault asset, but with a small logistical footprint. The AM General Hawkeye/HMMWV is among the designs being proposed as a lightweight SPH solution.
In October 2016, AM General unveiled a lightweight SPH combining a Mandus Hawkeye Mobile Weapon System (MWS) to AM General’s M1151A2 High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV).
The Mandus Hawkeye, also designated as the M20, is a 105 mm/33-calibre gun weighing a total of 1,120 kg (1,156 kg with digital fire control system). This is roughly a quarter of the weight of the M777A (4,200 kg) and its analogous Chinese competitor the NORINCO AH4 (4,500 kg). The SPH requires a crew of four personnel to operate it, but in “extreme conditions” it can function with only two personnel.
The M20 has a firing range of 11.6 km using high-explosive M1 rounds and 19.5 km with M913 rocket-assisted projectiles (RAP). It can fire three rounds per minute sustained (and eight rounds per minute for three minutes at maximum). The M20 does not include a muzzle break (to dampen the recoil effects of firing), AM General says an “optional diffuser” weighing 36 kg is available upon customer request.
The AM General HUMMWV is a mainstay light-armoured 4×4 utility vehicle, one benefitting from immense scale and adoption, which provides a large pool of available spare parts. The M1151A2 can carry a payload of 1,500 to 2,300 kg depending on configuration and armour. One of the key features of the HUMMWV is that it can travel off-road and in multiple terrain types, providing a mobility advantage to the Hawkeye in terms of “shoot-and-scoot” usage (i.e. firing and then moving to another location) to avoid counter-fire.
Although mobility is a key advantage of the Hawkeye, there are apparent caveats, the most glaring being the number of rounds that a single vehicle can carry. Besides limitations in carriage space, the SPH would also need to be lightweight in order to sustain a brisk shoot-and-scoot deployment. However, a defensive force could maintain hidden ammunition stores that could serve as re-supply points for these SPHs. Upon resupplying, the SPHs could move on to new locations, thereby ensuring that the stores remain hidden from return enemy fire. Alternatively, a supply vehicle could accompany the SPH and – where appropriate – the SPH team could call upon helicopters to deliver supplies by air.
Certain offensive operations, such as counterinsurgency (COIN), could see the Hawkeye SPH deployed in ways to mitigate enemy rocket, artillery and mortar (RAM) fire. For example, if accompanied by a sensor unit akin to the Aselsan Serhat, a counter-mortar radar with a detection range of 10 km, the Hawkeye could stop and fire at RAM sources. Upon completing the attack, it could resume moving in the combat area with the sensor unit, searching for other RAM threats.
Besides the M20, analogous 105 mm howitzers are also under development in Turkey and South Africa. At the 2017 International Defence Industry Fair in May in Istanbul, Aselsan announced that it completed two Boran Air Transportable Light Towed Howitzer (ATLTH) prototypes. The Boran ATLTH is a 105 mm/30-calibre gun weighing 1,710 kg. It can fire HE projectiles to a range of up to 17 km. In South Africa, Denel Land Systems is hoping to secure partners to finish developing the G7, a 3,800 kg gun that – while heavier than the M20 and Boran – Denel claims has the range and terminal velocity of a 155 mm gun (the 155 mm Denel T5-52 can fire standard HE rounds to a range of up to 42.5 km).
Complete specifications of the Hawkeye MWS/M20 can be found on AM General’s official website.
Specifications of the Hawkeye MWS/M20 (via AM General)
This looks interesting. There is a low intensity war going on at the LOC, which is the only active front between nuclear powers. Our soldiers and civilians are being killed daily so it is an urgent matter. We cannot have our troops disadvantaged, and there are also major political implications from enemies on the east and their puppets on the west claiming ‘victory’ after habitual shelling. I am talking specifically about the LOC and not the army’s wider requirements for SPH. After the neighbours M-777 buy we need a counter as soon as possible, such as AH-4, or lighter guns like in this article. Should be mobile by vehicle or helicopter, and rapidly deployable on the terrain of the LOC. Also need more and upgraded Firefinders, stealthy quiet UAV etc. Our often stated ‘befitting response’ should be an overwhelming response, matching if not exceeding what the enemy is doing. We can build local numerical superiority with sound deployments and sensible logistics. The army are aware hence the Alcotán-100 buy. Arguably this is more important than countering Cold Start, as it is happening now.
The Pakistan Army did order several SLC-2 AESA counter-fire radars for picking up artillery and rocket fire of up to 35 km and 50 km, respectively (with the A-100s). They can (and probably will) build out that force and perhaps augment them later with multi-function weapon locating and low-level air surveillance radars (the Saab Giraffe 4A has 180 km air surveillance and 100 km weapon locating ranges).
Pakistan Army should definitely get this one because it can move from one place to another after hitting enemy targets & I guess it can be uplifted as well. I hope this is perfect for us
Nice that you have an article on such a system. I’ve always thought of this ( https://youtu.be/P1Fn3SIqqp8 ) as a great possible addition for Pak Army. Already existing guns can be cost-effectively modified.
Nice! This is a heavier truck though and I think the roads in AJK to forward areas are possibly not that wide to allow passage of 2 such wide vehicles. Maybe a Humvee based system is more mobile. Like the armoured sides though, to protect crew from counter battery fire, if shoot and scoot is not immediately possible on the LOC. I agree a networked system to accurately land a burst of shells within minutes on any enemy artillery position firing on us along the entire LOC is needed as a deterrent to escalation. Also prevents crowing which is good for the nations’ and armed services morale. I wonder what happened to the indigenous howitzer story. Why don’t we get the Sharif brothers to make them in Ittifaq foundry. A lot more money to be made than sugar mills ?. Let’s make representations to the younger brother to open a defence division. All armed forces acrimony will disappear ?.
The local Kalyani Group in India is making something very similar called the Garuda 1.4 ton, 105/37 soft recoil gun. the guns are very similar to the above and are evolved from the Indian 105 mm Older Field Guns. around 1200 such guns of 105 mm and 155 mm (there is a Kalyani-Elbit product for that) might be acquired eventually.
Denel’s G7 105 mm LEO actually is around 2,500 kg in it’s final form. The issue now is securing funding to open up a production line.
i hope philippine army buy some of this…