Caesar gun is a nightmare, say Russian gunners

Whatever may be said, Western armies have not experienced, since the Korean War, real high-intensity, long-term engagements. As such, the Gulf War of 1991, often put forward to justify arbitrations made by the West in terms of armies, equipment and doctrines, was too short, and too specific, to draw real conclusions from it. conclusions.

In this context, the war in Ukraine, since February 2022, is an opportunity, for these same Western armies, to confront their equipment, as well as, in a certain way, their doctrines, with reality. This was an opportunity to revisit certain certainties, particularly concerning the supposed relative effectiveness of Western equipment over more rustic Russian equipment.

This war also showed the decisive role of artillery in this type of conflict. In this area, the new European systems, equipped with a 52 caliber tube and more advanced sighting systems, have shown their great effectiveness, compared to Russian equipment, but also less efficient American or British equipment.

The Caesar Cannon truck mounted, of French design, particularly shines in this conflict. A time considered too light and insufficiently protected, compared to the Swedish Archer, or less mobile on difficult terrain, than the German Pzh2000, the latter has shown, on several occasions, the full effectiveness of its concept.

However, if the Ukrainians have sometimes sent contradictory messages about this system, a recent online interview, on Telegram, with Russian gunners, shows that it is, today, the most feared system, and the one that hurt them the most.

Sometimes contradictory messages concerning the Caesar cannon coming from Ukraine

Today, the Ukrainian armies field around fifty Caesars, including 19 in the 8×8 version supplied by Denmark, and 32 in the 6×6 version by France. These are due to receive, in 2024, 78 new Caesar 6×6, financed jointly by Paris, Copenhagen and Kyiv.

Cannon M-777 Ukraine
Ukrainian forces lost more than half of the M777 guns delivered by the United States, compared to less than 15% of their Caesar gun.

However, messages regarding the Caesar's combat effectiveness from Ukrainian armies have occasionally been contradictory. Few months ago, a Ukrainian artilleryman explained to French journalists, that the American M777 towed gun was more effective, because it could be more easily concealed, and in this way resist drone attacks, and because it was too complex to use and maintain.

The facts, however, did not prove him right, particularly when comparing the losses between the two systems. And these declarations had also led the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to publish a statement to contradict Colonel Yan Iatsychen, commander of the 56th motorized infantry brigade, and express his full satisfaction with CAESAR.

A few days ago, Alexander Zavitnevych, Chairman of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence of the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, had praised Caesar, in particular in the hands of the artillerymen of the 55th artillery brigade, then in charge of protecting the Zaporozhye theater.

However, he clarified that they were encountering difficulties regarding maintenance in operational condition (MCO), a difficulty on which KNDS-France and the Ukrainian authorities are actively working. At the same time, he indicated that the mobility of the French cannon was undermined during periods of heavy rain, in spring and autumn.

The testimony of a Russian artillery on the evolution of Ukrainian artillery

On these subjects, the interview with Russian artillerymen, conducted by fellow milbloggers, provides a complementary and very enlightening vision on the perception concerning the effectiveness of Ukrainian artillery, but also that of the French Caesar.

01ukraine weapon 01 lqgz videoSixteenByNine3000 v2 Artillery | Defense News | Free items
Very efficient, the German Pzh2000 is also much more expensive than a Caesar, making it impossible to achieve an effective critical mass on the line of engagement.

The first part of the interview deals with the evolution of the doctrine used by both Ukrainian and Russian artillery at the start of the conflict, and its evolution over time. Thus, it appears, as might be expected, that both applied Soviet doctrines at the start of the conflict, concentrating powerful artillery forces leading massive and very sustained fire at each use.

We understand, in this respect, that a Ukrainian officer had difficulty adopting the doctrine of employment of the Caesar, designed to be very mobile and used in small units, or even individually, and could favor the M777, much more consistent, in spirit, with the use made of artillery inherited from Soviet doctrine. “ Several hundred shots could be fired at the same target, to score one or two shots.“, specifies the Russian artillery on this subject.

Over time, counter-battery fire, on the one hand, and drone strikes and lack of ammunition, on the other, led the Ukrainians to evolve towards much more compact, more mobile units, firing much less of shells per strike, of a ratio “ one to one hundred“, according to Russian testimony, with all the subjectivity that this implies.

The Caesar is a nightmare for Russian gunners

The second part of the interview focuses on the capabilities most feared by Russian gunners. And the observation is clear, this is the French Caesar. This does not evolve, according to him, “ in the same century as the equipment in service within the Russian armies"

Canon Caesar Advivka
The Ukrainian Caesars would be mainly used for counter-battery, with great efficiency, according to Russian gunners.

« The range of these systems reaches 40 km with conventional shells, far surpassing the Soviet systems we have, which top out at 32 km with summed range shells.". " The configuration on wheels of these залупы » (I leave the choice of translation to you ;-)) « allows them to quickly leave a position, even once deployeds ”.

« It only takes 60 seconds to deploy, and 40 seconds to escape. The aiming system is automatic, which gives it extraordinary precision“, he adds.

In fact, the Russian armies have made the destruction of the Caesars a real priority, not hesitating to use Lancet drones, and even short-range rockets and ballistic missiles (OTRK), to achieve this.

He added that the Caesar is today a rare system, used sparingly by the Ukrainian armies, for counter-battery fire, with great efficiency. “ These French howitzers took a huge number of lives of Russian gunners“, He concludes.

The Caesar concept, combining efficiency and mass, is essential in high intensity

Obviously, one testimony does not make a situation. It is therefore appropriate to be cautious about overinterpreting the consequences of this interview, especially since, for obvious reasons, it is deliberately obscure on many aspects.

Cannon Caesar Mali
With a combat mass of 17 tonnes, the Caesar is very light, and can easily be deployed in theaters of operations, including by plane.

However, it tends to accredit the concept which surrounded the design of the Caesar itself, in the 90s. As a reminder, it was not intended, initially, to replace artillery under tracked casemates, like the AuF1 GCT, on AMX-30 chassis. The Caesar aimed to replace the TR-F1 towed guns, which were more economical, more mobile, and more easily deployable.

However, it was not designed, as sometimes claimed in the past, for use in a lower intensity theater. It aimed, in fact, to replace with mobility, precision and reach, the survivability linked to armor, concerning self-propelled guns, while maintaining identical operational efficiency, including at high intensity.

The fact is, today, the Army will switch all of its heavy artillery to Caesar Mk2, including replacing its latest AuF1s with this system. And several armies, including in Europe, have made a similar choice. Indeed, beyond its technical and operational qualities, the Caesar offers a key advantage, particularly significant in Ukraine: it is economical, and relatively “easy” to produce.

Thus, for the price of a Swedish Archer 2, it is possible to acquire 2,5 to 3 Caesars, while for an RCH155, or a PZH2000, 3,5 to 4 Caesars take the line. Certainly, the Caesar Mk2 will not have the automation of the Archer 2, nor the ability to fire on the move of the RCH155, but with the same investment, it makes it possible to achieve an effective critical mass on the battlefield, that these other systems struggle to achieve.

RCH155 KMW
Retained by the Bundeswehr, the RCH155 from KNDS-Deutschland is not a competitor to the Caesar. It is in fact almost 4 times more expensive.

The advantage is all the more sensitive, in Ukraine, that the proportional documented losses of the Caesar are not greater than those of the Archer or Pzh2000, even though it is intensively used by Ukrainian forces, and, obviously, directly targeted by Russian forces.

We understand, in these conditions, that the Caesar tends to become the central new generation artillery system of the Ukrainian armies, being certainly the only one able to display such performances, while being produced at 72 units per year in 2024, 144 units in 2025, according to the manufacturer.

KNDS-France anticipates new orders to come for the Caesar and the arrival of competitors

We also understand that KNDS-France, formerly Nexter, is confident about the commercial future of its system, and the reason why the French announced an increase in monthly production to reach 12 units per month, by 2025. As a reminder, it was only three guns per month in 2022, even less before.

Indeed, beyond the Ukrainian and French orders, Belgian, Czech or even Estonian, the demonstration of the validity of the Caesar concept, more than of its capabilities themselves, which were already known, has the potential to generate, in the months and years to come, new orders, putting KNDS-France at the center of Western artillery.

KNDS-France Caesar
KNDS-France anticipates new export orders in the years to come for the Caesar, increasing annual production from 6 to 12 systems per month.

The fact remains that this success will also whet the appetites of other manufacturers. Until now, the major European manufacturers, although they had understood the interest of the wheel-gun configuration, had not adhered to the Caesar concept, giving birth to the Swedish Archer, the Slovak Zuzana 2, or the RCH155 German. Much heavier, and considerably more expensive, these systems are therefore not in the same category as the Caesar.

Now that the concept itself has been validated, the situation is different, and offers based on the same paradigms will soon emerge. This is already the case of the Chinese PCL-181, very close, in spirit and appearance, to the French Caesar, but also to the Israeli Atmos, probably the most serious competitor, today, of the KNDS-France.

Thus, as the success of the Israeli Mirage III led the Americans to design the F-16, the best-selling aircraft of its generation, the French industrialist will have to seize as many markets as possible, before until competitive offers really land. The increase in production rates shows that KNDS-France has perfectly grasped the temporality of the challenges that arise today.

Article from April 22 in full version until May 23

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3 Comments

  1. Hello Fabrice,

    On the world I read that Germany and England have a joint project to develop remotely controlled wheeled howitzers of 155 millimeter caliber which will be mounted on Boxer armored vehicles. On the one hand, will it compete with the Caesar? On the other hand, has France taken the measure of the German offensive since the arrival of Scholz to power which aims to make Germany the European ruling power without sharing with France? An offensive that we haven't seen since the Second World War, no pun intended.

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