“This weapon is not ordinary”
Panzerhaubitze 2000 – state-of-the-art gun
By Holger Preiss
The federal government wants to support the Ukrainian troops in the fight against the Russian attackers with seven Panzerhaubitzen 2000. The armament system is considered one of the most modern in the Bundeswehr. But what can it do and is it difficult to learn how to use it?
The Bundeswehr website describes the Panzerhaubitze 2000 as “a state-of-the-art artillery piece”. And indeed, this artillery weapon was developed in the mid-1990s. If you wanted to compare it to a Russian weapon system, its counterpart would probably be the 2S19. Also a self-propelled howitzer with a 152 mm gun, which was first shown at the Zhukovsky Aerospace Exhibition near Moscow in August 1992. Russian T-72 or T-80 tanks are the driving base here.
Germany has now decided to deliver seven of its Panzerhaubitzen 2000s to Ukraine, which come directly from the repair shop and should therefore not be missing in the immediate future from the Bundeswehr. At least that’s what Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in Sliac, Slovakia. The seven are to complete an already announced delivery of five self-propelled howitzers from the Netherlands.
Crash course for Ukrainian soldiers
The training of 20 Ukrainian soldiers on the Panzerhaubitze 2000 is to take place in Idar-Oberstein and be completed after just 43 days. Not so long ago, Kai Rohrschneider, lieutenant general of the Bundeswehr army, pointed out that training on these guns is not trivial, since it is also about how the self-propelled howitzer could be integrated into a reconnaissance and targeting system. One of the reasons why Ukrainian trainees already have prior knowledge.
In the first quarter of 2021, the Bundeswehr had trained Hungarian soldiers in the 131 artillery battalion on the Panzerhaubitze 2000. However, the period was much longer here. Three months were estimated before an officer completed the leader’s course and four more soldiers were sent to the platoon commander’s course, which then ended after another three months. In this regard, the 43 days allotted to the training of Ukrainian soldiers is a real crash course.
What distinguishes the Panzerhaubitze 2000?
The Panzerhaubitze 2000 is manufactured by the German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall. It is the standard gun of the Bundeswehr, with its 155 millimeter gun, which moves with an armored tracked vehicle, is extremely maneuverable and can also be used in difficult terrain.
As already mentioned, the Panzerhaubitze 2000 is one of the most modern artillery pieces in the world. Its strength lies above all in its precision and the great combat distance that can be covered with the 155 mm long-barreled gun. Firing distances of up to 30 kilometers can be achieved with standard ammunition. With improved range ammunition, it’s even 40 kilometers. Six grenades can be fired so as to hit the target at the same time. It is also possible to fire ammunition with so-called timed fuzes, i.e. projectiles that only explode on impact or above the target.
Self-protection by smoke grenade system
The Panzerhaubitze 2000 shell magazine is located in the hull of the armored tracked vehicle and is arranged around the shell carrier, which is part of the automated ammunition delivery system. The magazine holds 60 rounds. The self-protection systems of the Panzerhaubitze 2000 include a smoke grenade launcher which includes eight 76mm launchers. A group of four is located to the right and left of the 155 mm gun. As a secondary armament, a machine gun is also mounted at the ammunition gunner’s station.
With the help of a so-called VO measuring device, i.e. a speedometer, the muzzle firing speed of a projectile is determined. This can vary for various internal ballistic reasons. It influences the hitting accuracy, is determined for each ball and used to calculate the correction values. In addition, firing accuracy is achieved by other systems that calculate corresponding firing orders based on data from a meteorological team – temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and wind speed – and temperature gunpowder and cannon.
In order to determine the position in space, the vehicle has, in addition to the VO measuring device, a heading position device and a displacement encoder. While the heading-position device works as a complement to the GPS during the march, in order to be able to fire accurately even when the vehicle is in an inclined position, the displacement encoder measures the distance traveled by the Panzerhaubitze 2000.
Drive with 1000 hp
The Panzerhaubitze 2000 engine block is located in the front left of the hull. It consists of the MT881Ka-500 diesel engine with a rated power of 1000 hp and a hydromechanical manual, reverse and steering mechanism with four forward and four reverse gears. Autonomy is 420 kilometers on the road. Here the Panzerhaubitze 2000 can also reach a top speed of 60. Off-road it is always 45 km/h. This speed is roughly equivalent to the mobility of a main battle tank.
It is important for your own protection that the Panzerhaubitze 2000 can quickly change location after firing its shells so as not to get caught in a possible counter-battery fire. Thanks to the tank-like substructure, the self-propelled howitzer is also able to pass through water to a depth of 1.1 meters without preparation. With the diving hydraulics activated, it should even be 1.5 meters.