Armed Forces

War in Ukraine: Krab Howitzers Firing the Excalibur Rounds

Krab howitzer in Ukraine.
Photo. Ukrainian MoD

Krab howitzers handed off to the Armed Forces of Ukraine are broadly employing the Excalibur PGMs. This means that the system has the capability to precisely engage targets at distances exceeding 50 kilometres.

The off-the-record information on the use of a Krab-Excalibur combo has been circulated for quite some time now. The Americans announced that they have delivered 4 thousand 155 mm PGMs to Ukraine - in practical terms, this certainly refers to Excaliburs. Initially, these munitions were used by the US-made M777 towed howitzers (39-calibre long barrels).

This extended the range of the M777 from 30 to ca. 40 kilometres but primarily made it possible to precisely engage targets when the target coordinates are known. In real-life applications, this made it possible to neutralize main battle tanks, howitzers, radars, and command stations, with the first round fired.

It turns out the Polish Krab self-propelled gun-howitzers have also been tailored to fire the Excalibur rounds. Unofficial data on that matter has been circulated for quite some time now, only having been recently confirmed. The information on the use of the Excalibur rounds had been published by the Ukrainian "Current Time" TV station, and in the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty social media channels.

The journalists were present, as the Ukrainian Krab howitzer was conducting an engagement. After 2S19 Msta howitzers were detected, it was decided to engage them with the use of Excalibur munitions. The engagement was successful, with two direct hits, and another two hits 3 meters from the intended targets.

The use of the Excalibur munitions in a counter-fire scenario is not a surprise, as the PGMs grant the user an advantage of hitting the target with the first round fired. The Raytheon/Bofors Excalibur munitions use GPS/INS guidance units. A new Excalibur-IB variant has been developed as well. It is capable of engaging targets on the move, thanks to an addition of a semi-active laser guidance system.

Notably, when a gun with a 52-calibre long barrel is used, the Excalibur's range exceeds 50 kilometres. In practical terms, the above means that Krab is capable of engaging targets at such a distance when special-purpose munitions are used. The Polish howitzer, at the design stage already, many years before the conflict in Ukraine broke out, has been tailored to use a myriad of NATO-compliant PGMs. Ukraine received munitions as such in 2022, in large quantities, and over a short period. Krab makes use of its broad capabilities during the war, despite the fact that the Polish Armed Forces solely use conventional ammo. Let us add that the howitzer portrayed in the Ukrainian media reports has fired 3.5 thousand rounds with the use of a single barrel. The manual stipulates that the Krab's barrel is capable of withstanding up to 1.5 thousand shots.

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Krab systems use a myriad of ammunition types in Ukraine, ranging from the Excalibur PGMs to the legacy Italian M107 rounds. The successful use of the Krab systems with different munitions is a good credential for HSW and the cooperating entities - such as the WB Group - but also for the officers of the Artillery and Rocket Artillery Component of the Polish Armed Forces, responsible for the Krab R&D initiative during a period when the Polish MoD was implementing broad budgetary cuts. Not only is Krab a modern artillery piece. It can easily withstand frontline conditions, and it can fire a broad range of standardized munitions. All of the above makes it easier to use the Krab in wartime circumstances.