Croatia’s surprising preference for CAESAR SPH over PzH 2000

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Croatia is joining a French-led initiative for the joint purchase of Caesar self-propelled guns. This agreement, while non-binding, was signed during Eurosatory 2024, an event held from June 17 to 21 in Paris. 

Photo credit: Nexter

The project is being steered by the French Armaments Secretariat [DGA] and aims to address the requirements of France and other participating nations. Interestingly, Croatia’s involvement is unexpected because the previous Ministry of Defence leadership intended to acquire additional PzH 2000 self-propelled guns. Over the last decade, Croatia has purchased 15 used PzH 2000 units from Germany, putting 12 of them into service. 

The Caesar is a 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled gun capable of firing six rounds per minute with a range spanning from 4.5 to 40 kilometers. Entering service with the French Army in 2008, it has seen action in Afghanistan, Mali, and Iraq. Additionally, Ukraine has employed Caesar missiles in its ongoing conflict with Russia, and it’s believed Saudi Arabia has used them in Yemen.

Photo credit: YouTube

The CAESAR [CAmion Équipé d’un Système d’ARtillerie] self-propelled howitzer is a French artillery system designed and manufactured by Nexter Systems. It is known for its mobility, versatility, and precision, making it a valuable asset for modern artillery units. 

The CAESAR howitzer can be mounted on different types of chassis, primarily wheeled platforms. The most common configurations include a 6×6 truck chassis, such as the Renault Sherpa 5 or the Unimog U2450L, and an 8×8 truck chassis for enhanced mobility and payload capacity. 

The CAESAR system is equipped with advanced fire control systems, including an inertial navigation system [INS], a global positioning system [GPS], and a ballistic computer. These systems enable rapid deployment, accurate targeting, and efficient fire missions.

Photo credit: Nexter

The main armament of the CAESAR is a 155mm/L52 howitzer. This gun is capable of delivering high-explosive shells with precision and power, making it effective against a wide range of targets, from fortified positions to enemy artillery. 

The CAESAR howitzer uses a variety of 155mm ammunition types, including high-explosive [HE], smoke, illumination, and precision-guided munitions [PGMs]. This versatility allows it to perform multiple roles on the battlefield, from direct fire support to counter-battery missions. 

The operational range of the CAESAR howitzer varies depending on the type of ammunition used. Standard high-explosive shells can reach targets up to 40 kilometers away, while rocket-assisted projectiles [RAP] can extend the range to approximately 50 kilometers. Precision-guided munitions can further enhance accuracy and effectiveness over these distances.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Undoubtedly, if Croatia decides to acquire the French self-propelled howitzers, it will improve the combat capability of the army. As already mentioned, the Croatian army has purchased second-hand German self-propelled howitzers PzH 2000. The PzH 2000 is known for its high rate of fire, long-range capabilities, and advanced targeting systems, making it a significant asset in modern artillery warfare. 

But the army is also armed with other self-propelled howitzers. Another self-propelled howitzer in service with the Croatian Army is the M-84A4, which is a Yugoslav-made variant of the Soviet 2S1 Gvozdika. This system is mounted on a tracked chassis and is equipped with a 122mm howitzer, providing a balance of mobility and firepower suitable for various combat scenarios. 

The Croatian Army also employs the M109A3, an American-made self-propelled howitzer that has been a staple in many NATO countries. The M109A3 features a 155mm howitzer and offers a combination of firepower, protection, and mobility, making it a versatile artillery piece for the Croatian armed forces.

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