Italy sent 25+ 155mm M109L self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine

An citizen cell phone video has gone viral. It shows a train loaded with M109L self-propelled howitzers. The train was spotted in the Czech town of Trinec. One of the authors who shared the video says the train is on its way to Poland, with the presumed final destination being Ukraine.

The howitzers come from the inventory of the Italian army. Their exact number remains unknown, as the video begins at a point that appears to have missed capturing the first freight cars. Therefore, self-propelled howitzers that can be counted from the beginning to the end of the video are 25 units.

Italy is one of the European countries that help Ukraine by donating military equipment. As for the M109L, this is not the first delivery of this artillery from Italy. Rome has so far donated dozens of howitzers of this model.

New hybrid navigation system into Spanish 155mm howitzers
Photo credit: Wikimedia

However, a part of them were not in technical and operational condition. Italy needed to repair them before they were sent to the front line. The renovation was carried out with funding from Washington. It is possible that the videotaped delivery of 25+ self-propelled howitzers was also initially out of order, then refitted to standard operational readiness.

Italian M109L

Italy is said to have already sent 30 of these howitzers to Ukraine since the war, which began after Russia invaded Ukrainian territory on February 24, 2022. According to various sources, Rome will repair and send at least 60 more units of this model to Ukraine. How much is the exact amount, however, and how much more will be sent, remains a matter of conjecture, as Italy is one of the countries that very rarely advertises aid with military equipment to Ukraine.

The supplier country of the M109L self-propelled howitzer matters. The original origin of this artillery is the US, but the Italian version is more powerful than the base US version. For example, the Italian Army operates the M109L with the extended barrel of the 39-caliber gun. For reference, 23 caliber is the barrel of the base M109.

Italy sent 25+ 155mm M109L self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine
Photo credit: Twitter

The elongated barrel of the Italian howitzers means that the Ukrainian armed forces will have an increased strike range. For example, from 24 km the range increases to 30 km. This, of course, also depends on the type of artillery projectiles used. Also, the Italian howitzer is more accurate in firing again due to the elongated barrel.

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Photo: US Army / Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley

M109 has been upgraded many times during its existence. It has received many updates on the armor management system and chassis armor reinforcement. The howitzer has improved mobility as well. These updates over the decades were also made to the M109L version. This is actually the version that is produced in Italy by the local company Leonardo Defense Systems.

Some issues

M109 has been in Ukraine since the beginning of summer last year. This howitzer also began to show defects at a certain work intensity. For example, in August of last year, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the M109 often burns the charging sealing rings.

Six Western-supplied howitzers in Ukraine show malfunctions
Telegram screenshot

We recall that the M109 and M109L can be loaded with ammunition in two ways: an automatic loading system, or a semi-automatic loading system. Burnout of the rings when loading, according to sources, occurs with both methods of loading the howitzer.

Good words

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Photo: World War Defence

In general, the reviews of the M109L from the front line are good. They come from the Ukrainian crews of this artillery. They say that this howitzer is easier to operate than the Soviet equivalents. For example, the M109 is operated with a steering wheel, while Russian howitzers are most often operated with levers.

Also, the Ukrainians are happy with the projectiles used in the M109. Not only because of their volume and accuracy but also because of their shell structure – they are hermetically sealed, which prevents flooding and damage to the charge in the warhead.


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