Armed Forces

Slovakia Moving Its 155 mm Wheeled Howitzer Systems via Poland

Image Credit: Polish Armed Forces General Staff via Twitter
Image Credit: Polish Armed Forces General Staff via Twitter

Slovak Armed Forces are moving their latest 155 mm Zuzana 2 systems through Poland - to reinforce the NATO Battalion Battle Group in Latvia. It is a rare opportunity to witness 155 mm artillery systems in Poland, based on a wheeled platform.

The fact that Zuzana 2 systems are moving through Poland was announced by the General Staff of the Polish Army and the Slovak Ministry of Defence. It is assumed that these assets would join the Canada-led NATO Battalion Battle Group deployed to Latvia. Before that, however, the howitzers would participate in an exercise in Orzysz, joining Polish artillerymen and elements of the US-led Battalion Group.

The Slovak Ministry of Defence added that this marks the first foreign deployment of Zuzana 2 howitzers. 25 systems as such were procured, at a price tag of a bit over 170 million euro [gross] back in 2018. The first deliveries took place in the summer of2021. Interestingly, these systems replace relatively modern 155 mm Zuzana systems - commissioned between 1998 and 2000. The Zuzana howitzers had been periodically deployed to Latvia by Slovakia as well.

Both Zuzana, as well as Zuzana 2, have their designs deeply rooted in the 152 mm wz. 77 Dana system - that is also operated by the Polish Armed Forces. The latest Zuzana 2 howitzer is MRSI-capable. MRSI is a capability, where rounds shot using several varied trajectories hit the target simultaneously. The system also features a digital fire control suite and a 52-calibre long barrel. This allows the howitzers to hit targets at a distance of ca. 41 kilometres when base-bleed ammunition is being used. For the sake of comparison, one should note that the legacy Zuzana features a 45-calibre long barrel. Both systems use the Tatra 815 vehicle as a base platform.

Notably, periodic and rotational reinforcement of the NATO battalion battle groups, involving support elements, such as artillery or air defence, is nothing new. Similar steps are being taken by the Germans, with PzH 2000 systems reinforcing the NATO elements in Lithuania. It is also a standard practice to have the wheeled platforms move on their own, using the existing roads network. This makes it possible to train deployments in an event in which railways are unavailable in a crisis, due to heavy use of rail transport. The Slovaks' current mission remains interesting, as they are using a new generation wheeled artillery system that complies with NATO standards and has been developed by the domestic industry.

The Czech Republic also decided to procure 52 Nexter Caesar wheeled howitzers, to replace the legacy Danas. Poland meanwhile procured the tracked HSW Krab system first. 72 are in service now. The first battery is also to be received by the 21st Highland Brigade soon. Meanwhile, the wheeled Kryl system would be redesigned, using different assumptions. Higher than initially designed levels of automation are expected. One should also add that other countries in the region - Croatia, Lithuania, Hungary - also procured brand-new, or second-hand PzH 2000 systems, in quantities ranging from several to 24 examples.