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Denel Reportedly in Talks to Sell Artillery to a Country in Asia

Denel Land Systems is reportedly negotiating to sell T5-52 self-propelled howitzers (SPH) to an Asian country (source: IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly). Denel did not disclose the country, quantity, or scope of the contract, but there is a case to be made that this country could be Pakistan, which had tested the T5-52 SPH in 2016.

Denel Land Systems T5-52

The Denel T5-52 is a 52-calibre, 155 mm SPH. It is mounted on an 8×8 wheeled truck, with the standard system being the Czech-origin Tatra T815 truck with a 265-kW diesel engine. According to Denel Land Systems, the T5-52 SPH has a top speed of 85 km/h and can travel up to a range of 600 km without the need to refuel.

The howitzer gun itself, which appears to be the Denel G6-52, can fire base bleed shells to a range of up to 42.5 km. However, if equipped with Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s (RDM) M2005 Velocity Enhanced Artillery Projectile (VLAP), the T5-52 could potentially fire up to a range of 54 km at sea-level.

With a crew of four personnel, the T5-52 can brought into action (or withdrawn) within 60 seconds. The T5-52 needs two of its personnel to manage and re-load the ammunition. In terms of payload, the T5-52 can carry 27 projectiles alongside 26 charges. In addition, the SPH has a command-and-control system with automatic laying and navigation system, muzzle velocity radar, gun management computer, and communications suite.

Is Pakistan the Potential Buyer?

There are multiple indicators that the undisclosed prospect is Pakistan.

The most recent of these signs was the fact that the Pakistan Army (PA) Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa, made an official visit to South Africa in January.

According to Defence Web, the Chief of the South African Army, Lt. General Lindile Yam, stated that Pakistan and South Africa are engaging in “exploratory discussions relating to artillery.” Likewise, Bajwa had reportedly told South African media that the two sides were negotiating about artillery.

Prior to this, the PA had tested the Denel T5-52 in 2016. During the 2016 edition of Pakistan’s biennially-held defence exhibition, the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS), Denel had even displayed a T5-52 SPH unit.

Interestingly, according to the source that IHS Jane’s cited, trials had ‘recently’ occurred in Pakistan. It is not clear if these trials are those from 2016 or more recent, but if the former, it could indicate momentum in the PA’s SPH plans.

Pakistan is Improving its Artillery

In recent years, the PA undertook a series of acquisitions aimed at improving its artillery capabilities.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the PA procured 120 second-hand M109L tracked SPH. The M109L is a 155 mm system. Based on open-source export-import (EXIM) registries, these M109Ls were delivered between 2016 and 2018. These 39-calibre SPHs will join the PA’s 115 M109A5 and 209 M109A2s.


IHS Jane’s had previously reported that the PA could be interested in the Turkish T-155 Firtina, a locally manufactured variant of the South Korean K9 Thunder (which India ordered in 2015). It is unclear if the PA still has plans for a new-built tracked SPH, but there is no doubt that that the surplus M109Ls from Italy not only came at low-cost, but were seamlessly added to the PA’s artillery roster thanks to pre-existing support infrastructure.

Interestingly, if the objective is to get a 52-calibre 155 mm tracked SPH, then the PA could draw on Leonardo’s offer to upgrade the M109Ls from 39-calibre to 52-calibre. Seeing that this upgrade would make the M109L compatible with Leonardo’s Ballistic Extended Range (BER) projectile, it should also, likewise, be able to fire the RDM V2005 (i.e., achieve a firing range of up to 54 km at sea-level). Pakistan need not to spend much to acquire the capability.

The second aspect to this is that of wheeled SPHs.

In February 2017, Serbia’s Yugoimport-SDPR reportedly told a local newspaper that the PA could potentially procure up to 500 wheeled SPHs, of which 400 could be manufactured in Pakistan via a transfer-of-technology (ToT) program. IHS Jane’s had also forecasted in 2016 that Pakistan could spend $844 m on SPHs by 2024; if this comes to pass, then it is clear that new wheeled SPHs would form a significant part of that equation.

In terms of production, it is unclear if Pakistan will opt to manufacture a wheeled SPH on a turn-key basis or as part of a co-production partnership with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). However, in theory at least, many of the major components – such as the barrel – could be manufactured locally (e.g., at Heavy Industries Taxila) and co-produced between Pakistan’s various defence enterprises and foreign partners (e.g., electronics).

With a wheeled SPH, Pakistan can leverage its existing – and increasing – road network to rapidly mobilize and push heavy-hitting capabilities. However, the Tatra 815 – assuming the PA is seeking the T5-52 – can also operate off-road and complement the PA’s tracked SPHs in underdeveloped conditions. If anything, it should at least be able to back Pakistan’s 122 mm and 300 mm multiple-launch rocket-systems (MLRS).

In terms of MLRS, Pakistan had planned to develop an extended-range 122 mm rocket, but it is unclear if this would be a guided system analogous to the Turkish TRG-122 and others. In January, the PA also announced that it inducted an “indigenously developed” MLRS by the name of A-100 (ISPR). In other words, it appears that Pakistan is producing the Chinese A-100 300 mm rocket, which has a range of 100 km, domestically under license.

The one area that has not seen significant attention as of yet is that of towed howitzers. In the mid-2000s, Pakistan had apparently settled on the Turkish Panter, but in later years, it scaled back those plans. In 2017, Pakistan trialed the Hanwha Corporation KH179 from South Korea, a 39-calibre 155 mm system.

It is unclear where those efforts are at, but if there are plans to procure a towed 155 mm howitzer, then it would be prudent to build upon the wheeled SPH purchase. For example, if the PA is seeking the T5-52, then it could save on its logistics and maintenance costs by procuring the G5-52. Moreover, it could potentially manufacture the G5-52 at home as well and, in turn, distribute the overhead cost of ToT across more units.

Regarding towed howitzers, Pakistan has yet to show interest in a lightweight gun. However, it can draw a diverse range of options, not least the NORINCO AH4. The AH4 is analogous to the BAE Systems M777 (also procured by the Indian Army), weighing 4,500 kg (to the M777A’s 4,200 kg) as a 39 calibre 155 mm gun.

One alternative could be to look at the Denel G7 Lightweight Experimental Ordnance (LEO). Though a 105 mm (but 52-calibre) gun, the G7’s terminal performance is said to match that of a 155 mm system such as the M777A or AH4. However, it weighs 3,800 kg, making it light enough for the Mi-171 to carry from its external sling.

Why the Surge in Artillery Procurement?

In one respect, these artillery programs were in the pipeline since at least 2016. However, Pakistan’s recent, and to an extent, still ongoing tension with India may have added urgency to the issue. By firing stand-off weapons (SOW) across the border, India had demonstrated intent to escalate the accepted attack parameters in such situations. And for its part, Pakistan did the same when it used beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAM).

For Pakistan, the net-outcome of the situation is that it will need to hit farther, more accurately, and respond much quicker. New artillery, especially with VLAP shells with ranges in-excess of 40 km and, in some cases, with guidance capabilities for precision-attack, would play a part in that role. It would be surprising if, despite procuring artillery, if Pakistan omits adding a VLAP shell. Besides the Denel V2005 and Leonardo BER, it can also look at Yugoimport-SDPR in Serbia for VLAP projectile options. In other words, there are multiple – and accessible – suppliers for the system.

However, as stated in a previous Quwa Premium article, conventional deterrence need not stop at guided munitions with a range of 100 km or less. Pakistan could potentially look at a new generation of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) too, i.e., analogous to the Russian Iskander. An SRBM of this nature could accompany the PA’s MLRS forces and draw on stand-off range detection assets to strike intruding land threats as soon as they cross the border. It can also enable the Army to strike hardened targets and high-value targets within 300 km (i.e., without the PAF).

Though far from ascertainable, seeing that Pakistan and Ukraine had recently “discussed the terms and conditions for the start of joint Ukrainian-Pakistani production of high-precision missiles of various classes,” the idea of Pakistan leveraging Ukraine’s work on the Hrim/Grom 2 SRBM is plausible.

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