For the first time in history, Slovakia is set to deploy an artillery unit along with its artillery systems abroad. Specifically, this concerns artillerymen of the Self-propelled Artillery Battalion Michalovce, who will be operating the Zuzana Self-propelled Gun Howitzer (SpGH), the Aligator Forward Observation Artillery Vehicle (AFOV), and other special purpose and support equipment on the deployment. As part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the Baltic States, they will be tasked to deliver indirect fire support to the NATO eFP BG Latvia. A total of 130 SVK military personnel will be deployed on Ādaži Training Area as part of the SVK task force dubbed “General Korda”, integrating with another eight NATO member countries: Canada, Czechia, Slovenia, Spain, Poland, Italy, Montenegro and Albania.
ZUZANA – 155 mm Self-propelled Gun Howitzer is a Slovak artillery system with a 45-caliber gun and automatic loader for loading of both projectile and charge. It is an evolution of the 152mm SpGH DANA self-propelled howitzer. The system features long range, high accuracy and rate of fire, prompt preparation for firing and high level of mobility ensured by a modified TATRA 8×8 chassis. Design of the gun enables to use any NATO standard 155mm ammunition available on the market. The Fire Control System enables for a Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) mode. One of the unique features of ZUZANA is that the gun is mounted externally in between two totally separated compartments of the turret.
Speaking about the SVK deployment to Latvia, Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď said: “In the coming days an artillery unit will take over from our Mechanised Company in the Baltics and what is of importance is that our artillery systems will be deployed for the first time. For our service personnel, this is a unique opportunity to reaffirm the qualities of the Slovak Armed Forces and contribute to enhancing cooperation, collective defence and the solidarity of Allies. I keep my fingers crossed for them and I wish them every success in accomplishing a great many missions.” He went on to make it clear that NATO’s eFP across the Baltic States is not an offensive operation, but it is training and defensive in nature.
NATO’s eFP in the Baltics came into existence in response to the changes in the security environment, new security threats and the developments in Ukraine. It primarily aims to strengthen NATO’s presence in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. Slovakia and its Armed Forces have been part of this operation since 2018. Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) is a NATO-allied forward deployed defense and deterrence military posture in Central Europe through Poland and Northern Europe through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its War in Donbass, NATO’s member states agreed at the 2016 Warsaw summit to forward deploy four multinational battalion battle groups to those NATO member states perceived to be most at risk of a possible Russian attack or invasion.