Ukraine may receive more 155mm howitzers, this time from Italy,as Kyiv seeks to tip the artillery balance against Russia.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica on May 13, 2022 announced that Rome will provide many modern weapons, including the powerful 155mm FH70 howitzer, to Ukraine.
FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS, antitank weapons, machine guns and ammunition are also included in the package.
The Italian MoD has not confirmed the plan and routinely refuses to comment on matters it deems classified. Any potential arms transfer to Ukraine is a highly sensitive political and economic issue, as Italy depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas supply.
The FH-70 was developed in the late 1960s and 1970s by OTO Melara (now Leonardo), Rheinmetall and VSEL (now BAE Systems).
While it is therefore an older system than the M777 howitzers already donated by the US and Australia to Ukraine, an automatic primer loader and a semi-automatic projectile loader with the FH-70 still enables a trained crew to fire six rounds per minute.
As reported by Shephard, the most recent Italian defence equipment modernisation plan envisages a €14 million ($16.61 million) midlife upgrade (MLU) for Italian Army FH-70s from 2021 to 2023. The MLU will include a new auxiliary power unit and a digital Laser Inertial Navigation Artillery Pointing System.
The Italian Army is understood to have received 164 FH70s between 1978 and 1982. Shephard Defence Insight calculates that about 120 remain in service. The Italian Army has 163 FH70 155mm howitzers on staff, of which only 90 are active, the rest are in sealed form.
It is not clear how many FH70 155mm howitzers will be delivered to Ukraine by Italy.
The FH70 is a 155mm towed howitzer jointly developed by Britain, Italy and Germany in the 1970s. The FH-70 howitzer is produced in all three developed countries, in addition to Japan, which has also licensed and produced this towed artillery.
It is known that the program to develop the FH-70 howitzer began in 1962, when NATO had a need for a new type of field howitzer. The original design purpose of the FH-70 was to replace the M114 155 mm howitzer. However, like many other international weapons programs, this program had many disagreements that soon arose among the development members. After that, the US withdrew from the program in 1965. Then Italy took its place and joined the project in 1970.
FH-70 has a weight of 9.6 tons, a length of 9.8 m, a width of 2.2 m, a height of 2.5 m. Howitzer has elevation angle: -5° to +70°, rate of fire: 10 rounds/min. The artillery crew consists of 8 members. The FH-70 can fire all standard NATO 155mm rounds with a maximum range of 24.7 km or 30 km with extended range ammunition. The FH-70 howitzer is usually towed by military trucks cum ammunition trucks.
In addition, thanks to the semi-automatic loading mechanism, the howitzer can fire a round of 3 shots in 15-20 seconds. In normal mode, a trained crew can maintain a firing rate of 6 shots per minute. This is very good for a 155 mm howitzer.
Once receiving the FH-70 howitzer, the Ukrainian artillery’s ability is increasingly powerful, determined to fight strongly with the Russian army.