TechEstonia boasts defense with CAESAR howitzers from France

Estonia boasts defense with CAESAR howitzers from France

CAESAR somewhere in Ukraine
CAESAR somewhere in Ukraine
Images source: © East News | SAMEER AL-DOUMY

6:19 AM EDT, June 21, 2024

Estonia has decided to acquire 12 CAESAR howitzers, complementing the K9 Thunder howitzers already in use. We explain why Estonia purchased this less-armored design from France.

Estonia ordered 12 CAESAR howitzers, half of which will be delivered by 2024 and the rest by mid-2025. The reason for purchasing the lightly armored CAESAR is not dissatisfaction with the K9 Thunder tracked howitzers but the need to form a highly mobile artillery unit capable of rapid movement across the country.

Wheeled platforms can only meet such assumptions if they accept a specific reduction in the level of protection and the ability to move in rugged terrain. The CAESAR is essentially an artillery gun mounted on a truck.

CAESAR - budget artillery on wheels from France

CAESAR is an acronym for CAmion Équipé d'un Système d'ARtillerie, which in French translates to an artillery system mounted on a truck. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, many countries, including France, began to look for ways to save on defense budgets.

One way to optimize costs was the French idea from the 1990s, born during the search for a successor to the F3 Howitzer intended for easy air transport due to French activities in Africa. It involved mounting a 155 mm artillery system with a long barrel (52 calibers) on a standard military truck, such as the Renault Sherpa or Mercedes-Benz Unimog.

This vision resulted in a cost-effective howitzer weighing 20 tons, ideally suited for use in intervention missions. This ensured that KNDS corporation had a long list of customer orders worldwide. However, these advantages also make this howitzer less suited for full-scale conflicts such as the war in Ukraine.

The lack of an armored crew cabin is particularly problematic, which can be remedied with an additional armor package. This issue was only resolved in the CAESAR Mk II version ordered by Lithuania. Even more concerning is the semi-automatic loading system, where part of the five-person crew must be outside during firing.

However, a specific safety buffer in the case of the war in Ukraine is the very long effective range significantly exceeding the capabilities of Russian tube artillery. With the use of relatively cheap base bleed rounds, the firing range is 25 miles, and with sub-calibre Vulcano GLR rounds, this increases to a maximum of 50 miles.

In addition, like any modern system, the CAESAR can fire in MRSI mode and occupy or leave a firing position in less than a minute. Another plus for Estonia is its unification with neighboring Lithuania.

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