A second group of Ukrainian soldiers have successfully come to the end of their training on the formidable AS90 155mm self-propelled gun, and to mark the completion of the intense three week course, they conducted a live firing exercise at a location in the south of England. The personnel were given customised training by instructors from the Royal School of Artillery (RSA) in a programme that is part of the UK’s long-term commitment to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Those on the course are already serving with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and are now trained in all aspects of operating and maintaining the AS90 system, but the training has not been without its challenges. In order to get the gun crews trained and ready to return to the Ukraine as quickly as possible, a course had to be designed to equip them with only the most vital of skills.
Lieutenant Colonel Botterill says: “I knew they were going to be thirsty for knowledge but goodness me, from the moment they got off the bus we had to slow them down. We had to stop them from asking questions in order to find out their names!”
For Regimental Instructor Sergeant Burnfield from 19 Regiment Royal Artillery, this was the second course of Ukrainian soldiers that she has trained:“My role has been to take the trainees from the basics like knowing the component parts and stripping the breech, all the way through to manoeuvre and tactics and finally to the live firing.”
Lieutenant Colonel Ed Botterill, Chief Instructor at the RSA explains: “These soldiers are not recruits, however the range of military experience varies from just a few months to decades, and we have had to tailor the training accordingly. We have delivered a much compressed training package in which we have taught them how to use, fire and maintain the AS90. Our trainers have been crazy keen to get on it and work hard. They have done an incredibly good job in delivering this training, I would like to thank them for all their hard work as I know the trainees have benefited from it.”
The live firing package is designed to familiarise the trainee gun crews with the sound, feel, and smell of the gun and confirm that they can fire it safely and to the best of their ability. AS90 training for British soldiers takes considerably longer. Challenges aside, the instructors have been bowled over by the Ukrainian’s eagerness to learn. The UK was the first country to donate by granting in kind a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks with armoured recovery and repair vehicles, as well as a number AS90 guns at “high readiness” and more at “varying states of readiness.” The AS90 is an agile, highly accurate, modern artillery system which provides armoured protection to its crew whilst enabling them to strike targets at long ranges.