M109A4 BE Self-propelled Howitzer
M109A4 BE Self-propelled howitzer

UK to Provide Ukraine with Ex-Belgian M109A4 BE Self-propelled Howitzers

The United Kingdom Government has purchased and refurbished more than 20 M109A4 BE self-propelled howitzers and will send them to Ukraine. Ukrainian media outlet Ukrinform reported that UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace made a corresponding statement after the meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels. The UK has purchased and refurbished more than 20 long range guns – M109s – from a Belgian arms company which it is sending to Ukraine, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said. The heavy weapons fire 155mm rounds. Russia outnumbers Ukraine in artillery fire by 20 to 1 in some areas. However, allies are starting to give Ukraine the long-range artillery and rocket systems that will enable Ukrainian forces to win.

The Belgian M109A2/A3 were upgraded in 2008 to M109A4 BE standard through the “MLU M109 program” (Mid-life Update). Most important upgrades were: Semi-automatic loader (SAL) with Breech Activating Device (BAD) and Temperature Measurment System (TMS), Installation of 1,2 Kw diesel generator (APU), New stowage racks, Improved hydraulic system (MHS) for traversing mechanism, Improved NBC/RAM kits with airfilter, Generator 180 amp and Improved Ballistic Turret (IBC). In August 2016, Indonesia purchased 38 second-hand M109A4 BE 155mm self-propelled howitzers from Belgium and a few number of artillery command post using the same armoured tracked chassis.

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M109A4 BE Self-propelled Howitzer
Indonesian Army M109A4 BE tracked self-propelled howitzer. (Photo by FTS Belgium)

The M109 is an American 155 mm turreted self-propelled howitzer to replace the M44. The M109 family is the most common Western indirect-fire support weapon of maneuver brigades of armored and mechanized infantry divisions. The M109 has a crew of four: the section chief/commander, the driver, the gunner, and the ammunition handler/loader. In August 1983, the Belgian Minister of Defence signed a contract with BMY for the purchase of 127 M109A2 self-propelled howitzers. The older M109s were upgraded to M109A3 standard by the Arsenal du Matériel Mécanique et de l’Armement, at Rocourt, near Liège. The M109 is no longer in service in the Belgian army.

In 2008, the Belgian army withdrew from active service 64 M109A4 BE 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers which were used in several artillery battalions. In 2015, at least some of them were sold to a private company of Tisselt, Flanders Technical Supply (FTS) founded by two associates, specialized in the purchase and sale of military surpluses all over the world, for the amount of 1.75 million euros including spare parts, which means a VERY low price for these completely refurbished and upgraded M109s. Recently, the Ukrainian authorities contacted the Belgian Defense because they were interested in these howitzers (possibly informed of their presence by undisclosed contacts).

Second-hand M109A4 BE Self-propelled howitzer
Second-hand M109A4 BE Self-propelled howitzer. (Photo by FTS Belgium)

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