US M777 towed howitzers are killing soldiers on the job, according to sources. After a salvo, apparently intense, the M777’s gun burst. As a result, Ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives. The Russian news agency TAAS writes about this, citing Ruslan Olefirenko. Olifirenko is a Ukrainian soldier who is currently a prisoner of war.
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“We had a lot of cases where after a salvo the M777 just blew apart. Because of that, there were a lot of cases where people died. Guys started refusing to work with that gun,” he said. Olifyrenko was part of the 53rd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He was not captured but voluntarily surrendered to the Russian army in the Avdeevka area.
The Ukrainian soldier also says he received training on how to operate the M777 in Germany. He says his training has only been five days. Four of those five days were pure theory and the last day was practice. He was then sent directly to the front line as a crew member of the American M777 towed howitzer.
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Olifirenko also says that the rupture of the M777’s cannon is not the only problem. During his work, he noted that there were cases where the cannon stopped reloading with shells, or the cannon overheated easily. Also, says Olifirenko, “some mechanisms stop working”.
In fact, this is a problem that BulgarianMilitary.com has repeatedly reported on. Experts say that the main problem with the rupture of the cannon is the intensive use of the howitzer system. They are designed for fewer shots, experts say, noting that there have been cases of hundreds of rounds fired per day from a single howitzer before the gun breaks.
Experts recall that some of the Western howitzers are designed to fire 100 shells per day. This shows that they did not expect a time to come when an M777 would have to fire several rounds a day.
At the beginning of November last year, BulgarianMilitary.com reported on an interesting case from the war in Ukraine. A Ukrainian M777 crew managed to change the cannon of their howitzer four times as a result of its intensive use. According to the source, this M777 has managed to fire 6,000 rounds since being in Ukraine.
The information then came from the German publication Bild. Björn Stritzel, who is a Bild correspondent, wrote at the time that the crew of the particular M777 howitzer was warned by the instructors that they were getting a howitzer with a muzzle that had been changed once in its life. By this time, the howitzer had fired 2,500 rounds. However, the Ukrainians loaded her with another 6,000 and thus changed the muzzle four times.
The crew of the M777 howitzer say that they only fired two types of rounds – the howitzer fired mostly M795 and older M549A1 HERA ammunition. They informed Bild’s correspondent that they had removed SINCGARS/DAGR/PIK on the howitzer and yet, it remained precise and accurate.
At least six models of Western howitzers, towed or self-propelled, have known problems. The Ukrainians notice that when shooting with the M777, sometimes the muzzle does not retract. This happens sometimes after intensive shooting with 30 rounds. I.e. howitzer bolt wedge fails and needs either repair or outright replacement.
Another American howitzer, the M109, often burned out the loading sealing rings. There are also problems with one Italian [FH70] and one German [PzH 2000] howitzer. The Italian FH70 often reduces the nitrogen pressure in the gun balance mechanism. While the German PzH 2000 has a problem with some electronic devices such as the control unit monitors for overheating. The Ukrainians have also identified another problem of the PzH 2000 – rapid failure of the obturator rings and the charging system.
The last two weapon systems on the list are the Polish Krab howitzer and the French Caesar. Krab often breaks the barrel of the bolt wedge safely when fired hard. The same thing happens with wedge bolts. While on the French howitzer Caesar, the guidance blocks spontaneously failed.
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