Dozens of M109 self-propelled howitzers have been repaired and delivered to Ukraine, according to a report by Italian daily La Repubblica. At least 30 units are already on the front line. The delivered howitzers were repaired at the expense of the United States.
Some sources also report that Italy plans to supply about 60 such self-propelled artillery weapons. Currently, Ukraine has more than a hundred M109s of various modifications.
Italy has been the most secretive of NATO allies in divulging the types and amounts of weapons sent to Ukraine, as there is a small but vocal contingent in the country – led by the 5 Star Movement – against sending arms to Kyiv. However, the government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni remains a staunch supporter of Ukraine and has thus far managed to stave off any opposition to sending military aid.
The M109 is one of the most common 155mm self-propelled howitzers in the world. It was developed in the early 1960s by the US and has since been upgraded many times.
Due to its effectiveness and reliability, the M109 is in service in more than 40 countries around the world. Despite the many years since its development, not even the US Army has plans to decommission the howitzer.
The M109 has been modernized several times, including new firing systems, armor upgrades, improved mobility, and compliance with modern requirements.
“This is a very high-quality weapon. And its delivery was the result of cooperation of several countries,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.
The M109 saw its combat debut during the Vietnam War. Since then, the howitzer has been actively used in almost all military conflicts involving the US Army. The M109A6 Paladin is one of the latest and most advanced modifications of the M109 self-propelled artillery weapons, which continues to be a mainstay in the arsenals of NATO countries. It has also been supplied to other countries and used in many regional conflicts.
What is the M109L self-propelled howitzer?
The M109L is a modernized version of American self-propelled howitzer M109. It is produced in Italy under license by the Italian company Leonardo Defense Systems.
The Italian modification has a lengthened 39-caliber gun barrel, while the regular M109 has a 23-caliber gun. The longer gun barrel allows more accurate fire and increases the range, which is from 24 to 30 kilometers, depending on the ammunition.
The range of ordinary shells is 24 kilometers, while the maximum range of 30 kilometers can be reached only by active and reactive shells also used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). Taking into account the increased recoil of the gun, the Italians have also modified the anti-recoil system.
One of the main advantages of the M109L is its firepower and reliability. The range of 24-30 kilometers allows the M109L to effectively support troops with fire on the front line. The use of high-explosive fragmentation projectiles enables destroying the enemy’s temporary positions and fortifications.
In addition, the howitzer is capable of combating heavy targets such as tanks, artillery and ammunition depots. The rate of fire reaches four rounds per minute, while loading can be carried out using an automatic hydraulic system or a semi-automatic loading system.
The M109L has an advanced fire control system that ensures high accuracy and firing efficiency. Thanks to its high mobility, the M109L self-propelled gun can quickly deploy to a firing position, shoot and leave, reducing the risk of enemy counterattacks. The time required for the moving vehicle to come to a halt and fire is one minute, whereas it takes only 30 seconds to leave the position after firing.
The tower of this self-propelled howitzer is also equipped with an additional 12.7mm M2 Browning machine gun.
AFU gunners, who already use the M109, have praised the howitzer’s accuracy and spacious crew cabin. The M109L artillery weapons differ from their Soviet counterparts in that they have a larger caliber and more powerful ammunition.
Ukrainians note that the key difference between these self-propelled guns and the Soviet models is in the ease of use for the crew. Even the early modifications of the M109 had a number of advantages over the Soviet analogues of the 2С3 Acacia type. The American howitzer has a steering wheel instead of levers, an automatic transmission instead of a mechanical gearbox.
Experienced gunners also praise the quality of 155mm shells. Each of them is hermetically sealed, so they never get damp. Identification of shells in terms of weight and size is also an advantage as this facilitates shooting accuracy. For example, the Soviet 152mm shells sometimes have different weight, which causes variations in accuracy.
During hostilities the Ukrainian M109 howitzer withstood three Tochka-U missile attacks and suffered only minor damage. By contrast, the explosion of a projectile fired from the M109 a few meters from Russia’s BMP-1 or BMP-2 leads to serious damage or the complete destruction of the armored vehicle.
As such, the M109L howitzers delivered to Ukraine will allow for increased firepower, particularly as the expected counteroffensive gets underway.
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