Czech defense industry can produce the 155mm artillery ammunition - and should also supply it for new CAESAR howitzers

Czech defense industry can produce the 155mm artillery ammunition - and should also supply it for new CAESAR howitzers
08 / 10 / 2020, 10:00

One of the key issues in the potential acquisition of the French CAEASR self-propelled howitzer for the Czech artillery will be the production of ammunition. Because the companies of the Czech defense industry have experience with the production of artillery ammunition despite a certain break at the turn of the century and there is a long tradition, the logical attitude of the Czech side is the requirement to certify domestic ammunition for the French guns. On the other hand, it will be more advantageous for French manufacturers to produce ammunition in the Czech Republic in cooperation with them: independent Czech production of certified ammunition could jeopardize the position of French ammunition producers on the world market at a lower selling price. G2G acquisitions are not as simple as they seem at first glance.

The basic type of ammunition of modern main artillery are the ERFB (Extended Range Full Bore) or the EFRB-BB (Base Bleed) shells, which the 155mm CAESAR can fire to a distance of approximately 42 km. Specifically for CAESAR, the anti-tank grenade BONUS (BOfors NUtating) was developed, first deployed on December 6, 2018, when the French artillerymen of the Wagram Task Force destroyed a convoy of Islamic State vehicles in Iraq (four fired grenades knocked out eight armored vehicles).

In 2019, the M982 Excalibur guided grenade from the American company Raytheon, manufactured in cooperation with BAE Systems, was also certified for CAESARs. It is a shell equipped with folding glide fins and GPS navigation, capable of reaching a distance of up to 57 km. At a stated price of 112,800 US dollars per piece. And at Eurosatory 2018, NEXTER introduced even more advanced guided munitions called KATANA, which, after successfully completed development and certification, should cover a distance of 60 km with an accuracy of 2 m.

The Czech defense industry has the capacity to supply our artillerymen with basic types of ammunition of the required caliber. Explosia a.s. is able to produce projectile cartridges, MSM Group, which covers the Slovak part of the CSG holding, produces ERFB and ERFB-BB shells of 155 mm caliber, tested in the ZUZANA, NORA B-52, G5 / G6, M109, M198, FH-70, KRAB , KH-179 systems and many more. And smart ammunition is also produced by the Fábrica de Municiones de Granada, which has recently been acquired by the MSM group.

See also: Delivery of CAESAR howitzers: how shall we calculate what will the real share of Czech industry be?

As in the issue of service and maintenance of combat equipment, the production of ammunition in domestic and easily accessible sites is essential for the stability and security of combat capability of (not only) artillery systems. And similarly to the question of calculating the 40% share of the Czech defense industry in the acquisition of French howitzers, where it is not entirely clear from which this share will actually be calculated, a significant and preferably 100% Czech share in ammunition supplies is a logical Czech requirement. In order for Czech (or Slovak) ammunition to be fired from the CAESARs, it must be certified by the manufacturer. And a manufacturer who, logically, is interested in as much of his own share of the contract as possible, may rightly fear that this step will create fierce competition in the market, which will have the potential to jeopardize his own profit margins in the future. So negotiations are certainly not easy in this regard either.

And, as in the case of the Czech defense industry's share in the supply and thus the life cycle, we can only hope that our Ministry of Defense approached this G2G acquisition with forethought and clearly defined requirements while being aware of the possibilities of the Czech defense industry. For convincing reasons, it opted for the French CAESAR system. However, the context of the whole contract and the conditions for the domestic defense industry must be maximally advantageous, because the relatively best purchase price of the French system could become less advantageous due to the associated costs, and other potential suppliers (for example, Slovak EVA or ZUZANA 2 systems) could return to the game. Comparing only the value of the initial supply itself would not pay off in the case of lower-than-expected involvement of Czech companies, and ammunition supplies will be a very important item in this regard.

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