The 100,000th simulated round has been fired from an AS90 Turret Trainer, helping to save around £230 million for the UK Ministry of Defence since it was first introduced. Procured and supported by DE&S, the trainer was first used by UK Armed Forces in 2005 and sharpens the skills of the commander, gunner and loader of the self-propelled 155mm Howitzer gun. Based at Larkhill Garrison in Wiltshire, crews can use it to practice their routine firing drills and turret operating procedures without the expense of live firing. Therefore, it offers the realism of firing with a highly reduced cost. Based on a real AS90 turret, the trainer uses an electro-mechanical system to fully replicate a complete firing cycle. This includes the weight and size of the artillery rounds and the noise and turret movement on firing. The AS-90 (“Artillery System for the 1990s”), known officially as Gun Equipment 155 mm L131, is an armoured self-propelled artillery used by the British Army.
Major General Darren Crook, DE&S Director Land Equipment, said:“The great value of the AS90 turret trainer is that it allows crews to develop and hone their skills before live firing; it delivers high-quality immersive training, does so efficiently, whilst also reducing the environmental impact of live firing.”
Ed Noorlander, VHT’s technical commercial director, said: “The system features Van Halteren’s Ammunition Recognition System (ARES), which is capable of detecting all types of currently available simulated ammunition types. ARES detects simulated fuze type and settings, projectiles, charge class and charge orientation, and it also determines recoil length depending on the charge class that is loaded.”
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Talbot-King, Chief Instructor Close Support Wing at the Royal School of Artillery, said: “The AS90 turret trainer continues to provide significant benefit through immersive training that can be tailored to the training needs of the individual, or detachment in a hugely cost-effective way. The firing of the 100,000th round is a significant milestone that underpins the value of the turret trainer in preparing Royal Artillery personnel to live fire both on exercise and on operations.”
The turret trainers were developed and manufactured by Van Halteren Technologies (VHT). The company has also delivered more than 100 systems for other guns such as the M101, M119, M198 and FH70. Since the trainer was introduced, thousands of UK soldiers have used it, building up their experience before they move on to live firing on the ranges. More recently it has also been used to train Ukrainian soldiers as part of the wider training package to equip them with the skills to fire AS90 guns gifted to them by the UK. As part of our wider support of Ukraine against Russia’s illegal invasion, 32 AS90 have been gifted, 20 of which were battle ready plus 12 to be used for spares and replenishment. To fill the gap in British Army artillery left by the donation, the UK government announced they were buying 14 Archer Artillery Systems in March 2023.