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Ukraine Interested in Procurement of the Krab and Dana-M2 Self-propelled Howitzers [COMMENTARY]

Krab sph showcased by PGZ in Ukraine. Arms and Security 2017, Kiyv. Image: J. Sabak
Krab sph showcased by PGZ in Ukraine. Arms and Security 2017, Kiyv. Image: J. Sabak

“Potential procurement of foreign products, such as Krab [sph], is considered, with a prospect of launching domestic manufacturing of tracked self-propelled howitzers”, said the head of the Training Command of Ukraine’s Rocket Forces and Artillery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Adriy Malinovsky. He stressed that plans have been made to replace the 2S1 Gvozdika and 2S3 Akatsya howitzers with 155 mm tracked systems. The remaining artillery assets, including the towed howitzers, are expected to be replaced with wheeled self-propelled howitzer systems.

Interview where the aforesaid statement emerged was published by the Ukrainian “Armia Inform” outlet, on the occasion of the Ukrainian national artillery day that is celebrated on 4th November. General Adriy Malinovsky summed up the current situation and plans. The Ukrainian artillery component has gathered a significant amount of experience during the conflict in the eastern region of the country, confirming the relevant role that firepower, mobility and reconnaissance assets play on the modern battlefield.

According to the Head of Training of the Rocket Forces and Artillery at the Land Forces Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the process of adopting NATO standards, within the scope of training and operations, progresses at a rapid pace. The process is supported by experts and instructors hailing from Poland or the United States of America. Within the framework of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine (JMTG-U), they have been sharing their experience since 2015. The knowledge provided by officers from Poland, Lithuania, or Hungary is especially valuable here. These countries have already gone through the process of transitioning from Warsaw Pact norms to NATO standards, and they have a lot to share. Thanks to the above, it is planned that NATO-compliant documentation is developed for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2020. Approval and implementation are planned to happen in 2021.

The situation gets far more convoluted when it comes to the equipment that is being modernized right now and that is expected to be replaced with assets meeting the western standards. This also includes the Ukrainian systems. Ukrainian 155 mm Bogdana howitzer has been developed to address the problems above. Malinovsky suggests, however, it would take years to launch series manufacturing and commission the aforesaid system. To rapidly modernize the available arsenal, Ukraine plans to procure foreign-made equipment, with an option of launching manufacturing of those systems locally.

Currently, the artillery units operate 122 mm and 152 mm guns that need to be replaced with modern models. A decision has been made to gradually transition to the 155 mm caliber that is a NATO standard. This caliber is far more common and it is used as the primary one, by most of the developed nations. For that purpose, it is planned to gradually replace the artillery systems (2A36, 2A65, 2S19, 2S5) with 155 mm self-propelled howitzers on wheeled platforms and some types of the self-propelled howitzers (2S1, 2S3) would be replaced by 155 mm tracked howitzers. The potential procurement of foreign products, such as Krab (Poland), is considered, with a prospect of launching domestic manufacturing of tracked self-propelled howitzers. Currently, procurement and delivery of the 152 mm Dana-M2 systems are being considered, with these systems made in Czech Republic, in order to replace the towed assets.

Div. Gen. Adriy Malinovsky, head of the Training Command of the Rocket and Artillery Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces 

The mention of possible procurement of the Krab sphs in Poland has sparked some interest locally, however, the idea is not a new one. Back in 2017, PGZ, jointly with the Polish Ministry of Defence, sent a strong delegation to participate in the Kyiv Arms and Security expo. The delegated party included the Deputy Head of the MoD at the time - Bartosz Kownacki, and Błażej Wojnicz, the then President of the Management Board at the PGZ Group. The exhibition booth featured the Krab sph as well. Unfortunately, up until now, no export deals have been secured, when it comes to Krab. The Ukrainian media repeatedly mention that Kyiv is interested in the acquisition of Krab or a comparable system. The local industry is also said to be working on 155 mm artillery ammunition.

Malinovsky also made a quite surprising declaration claiming that Ukraine is going to procure the wheeled 152 mm Dana-M2 howitzers (152 mm is a Russian calibre). The system above was showcased during the expo in Kyiv back in 2018, by Excalibur Arms. The system would replace the towed artillery, being superior when it comes to mobility and firepower, thanks to the autoloader system.  The autoloader allows Dana M2 to reach rates of fire of up to 5 rounds per minute, with 36 rounds ready to use, stored in a loading magazine.

However, it seems to be an expensive gap-filler solution. The gun, contrary to the Slovak Zuzana platform, does not have a 155 mm variant. Maybe Ukraine would like to acquire second hand Danas that would be upgraded. This would also make it possible to execute rapid induction of that artillery asset. This would undoubtedly constitute a qualitative leap for the Ukrainian artillery component - still, it could use the old ammunition stock. Acquisition of brand-new Krab howitzers would entail much more serious investments and decisions, financial and political ones. One should hope that Poland will follow this matter closely. Similar solutions could be offered by Turkey that, for some time now, has been license manufacturing the T155 Firtina self-propelled howitzers, based on a Korean design.