Losses of M109 self-propelled howitzers in Ukraine
One of the former Norwegian M109A3GN self-propelled guns in Ukraine, January 2023. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Last year, foreign states began supplying American-made M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers to the Kyiv regime. To date, more than 160 armored vehicles of various modifications have been transferred or promised, and new deliveries cannot be ruled out. Ukrainian formations began to use the equipment they received long ago and predictably suffered significant losses.
NATO countries began discussing the possibility of sending M109 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine just a few weeks after the start of the Russian Special Operation. There were no significant or lengthy disputes, and by the end of spring the first announcements of deliveries from several countries appeared. Subsequently, several more countries announced their intention to transfer the existing “Paladins” to the Kyiv regime.
Norway became the first supplier of American self-propelled guns to Ukraine. In early May, it announced the shipment of 20 M109A3GN self-propelled guns out of 56 available to its army. Just a few days after the announcement, the transportation of equipment began, and Ukrainian crews began to master the resulting vehicles. As was later reported, self-propelled guns entered the combat zone in mid-July.
In June, it became known about the upcoming delivery of M109A4BE self-propelled guns. Until the mid-2023s, such equipment was in service with Belgium, after which it was sold to foreign countries and commercial organizations. Last year, Great Britain bought two dozen self-propelled guns from OIP Land Systems for transfer to the Kyiv regime. Deliveries of equipment to Ukraine continued until the beginning of XNUMX.
Transportation of M109L self-propelled guns from Italy, October 2022. Photo Telegram / BMPD
In August, the Kiev regime received help from Latvia. It allocated six armored vehicles of the M109A5Ö modification, previously received from Austria. At the same time, the bulk of such equipment, approx. 40 units, Latvia did not give it away.
In October, deliveries of M109L self-propelled guns from Italy began. Previously, the Italian army decided to switch from the old American “Paladins” to modern German self-propelled guns PzH 2000. In connection with this, more than two hundred M109L were released from it, and they decided to give about half of this equipment to Kiev.
The latest supplier of the M109 self-propelled guns is the USA. In the first months of 2023, they delivered to Ukraine 18 self-propelled guns of one of the latest modifications, the M109A6.
As part of the officially announced deliveries, a total of 164 Paladin self-propelled guns have arrived or will arrive in Ukraine. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that not all information about deliveries was published, and the actual amount of equipment transferred is higher. In addition, new episodes of assistance are possible, which will increase the total number of self-propelled guns shipped.
Damaged self-propelled gun M109A4BE, DPR, January 2023. Photo Lostarmour.info
Targets for strikes
Foreign-made self-propelled howitzers pose a known threat to our troops and the population of new regions. As a result, the Russian army began to look for such equipment and knock it out by any available means - return artillery fire, army missiles aviation, loitering ammunition, etc.
The first reports of the combat use of Paladins came from the Ukrainian side last summer. However, these were only isolated episodes. Probably, at that time, the Kiev regime still had a sufficient amount of Soviet-style equipment and had the opportunity to save imported M109s.
However, as the previously existing self-propelled guns were knocked out, the Ukrainian formations had to send newly acquired Paladin vehicles into battle. Since last fall, M109s have regularly appeared in combat zones and come under attack from Russian weapons.
According to the LostArmour database, the first Paladins were destroyed in early November. Then the Russian army discovered and destroyed two M109A3GN vehicles that arrived from Norway in the Nikolaev region.
Italian M109L, June 2023. Photo Lostarmour.info
Since mid-January, Ukrainian M109s (without specifying specific modifications) have regularly appeared in reports from the Russian Ministry of Defense. Once every few days, the Ministry of Defense reports the defeat of one or two self-propelled guns in one direction or another. So, just from the beginning of September, nine enemy self-propelled guns were recorded in the combat account of our troops.
According to reports from the Ministry of Defense, from January to the present, 58 enemy M109 self-propelled guns of various versions have been destroyed. The LostArmor database contains 14 records with photographs and coordinates of damaged equipment. At the same time, 11 self-propelled guns from the unofficial database for some reason were not mentioned in the messages of the defense department on the specified dates of destruction or in the coming days. Three more destroyed armored vehicles are likely included in both lists.
Thus, to date, the Kiev regime has lost at least 69 Paladin self-propelled guns of all modifications - more than 40% of the total number of such equipment. At the same time, as photographs from LostArmour show, damaged vehicles are not always recoverable.
The safe and long-term operation of the M109 self-propelled guns in Ukrainian formations is hampered by several factors. It is curious that not all of them are connected with Russian weapons and strikes. There are also technical problems that can, at a minimum, affect the situation.
Wreckage of an American M109A6, July 2023. Photo: Lostarmour.info
According to available data, foreign “partners” transferred only old-made armored vehicles to Ukraine. Thus, the Norwegian M109A3GN were built back in the sixties according to one of the previous versions of the project. Subsequently, they were repeatedly repaired and modernized, up to the current state of “A3GN”. The Italian M109Ls are much newer, but they have also been in service for several decades. The newest in the Ukrainian fleet are the American M109A6 - they were assembled from 1994 to 1999.
It is unlikely that Ukraine received self-propelled guns after major repairs and full restoration. This means that the supplied equipment has exhausted a significant part of its service life and can only be used for a limited time. At the same time, active use will contribute to the rapid depletion of the remaining service life of both the tracked platform and the weapons on it.
It can be assumed that a certain number of M109s have already failed for technical reasons - due to exhaustion of service life or due to irregularities during operation. The last option is very likely: Ukrainian artillerymen already have experience in damaging foreign equipment with their own hands.
Some technical features of the Paladin, even with full service life and in perfect condition, can negatively affect survivability and stability. Thus, the hull and turret of this self-propelled gun have only bulletproof and anti-fragmentation armor. Artillery shells of any caliber, both with a direct hit and with a close explosion, anti-tank missiles, loitering ammunition, mines, etc. are guaranteed to penetrate such armor and can provoke an explosion of ammunition with the destruction of a combat vehicle.
A well-known attempt at additional protection for the M109 self-propelled gun. Photo Telegram / Dambiev
The firing range of the M109 depends on the modification of the self-propelled gun and the ammunition used. Thus, older versions of the vehicle can send an unguided projectile only 18-20 km. At the same time, the late M109A6 with M982 Excalibur ammunition is capable of attacking targets at a distance of 40 km. Thus, when using almost any shots, the Ukrainian self-propelled gun must approach the contact line - and fall into the destruction zone of Russian strike systems of various kinds.
Deploying the Paladin into position and preparing to leave takes a few minutes. The self-propelled gun does not have a high rate of fire. A trained crew can maintain a rate of 3-4 rounds/min for several minutes. The established tempo is only 1 shot/min. Due to the length of deployment and low rate of fire, the vehicle must remain in position longer, increasing the likelihood of a retaliatory strike.
The basic version of the M109 self-propelled gun was developed and entered service with the United States in the early sixties. Subsequently, the self-propelled gun was repeatedly modernized with an increase in certain characteristics. Despite all the innovations, it is now morally outdated. Moreover, the first attempts to create a new model to replace it took place in the early nineties.
Thus, in 2022-23. Ukraine received from foreign partners a large amount of morally and physically obsolete equipment with limited potential. Such self-propelled guns, which have known limitations, had to face a technically advanced enemy in the person of the Russian army. The results of this were predictable - to date, more than 40% of the received and/or promised armored vehicles have been destroyed, and the demilitarization of the Paladins will not end there.
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