Ground Warfare

Aris SRL and Leonardo Awarded Italian Army Contract to Modernise Its FH70 155mm Towed Howitzer

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Aris SRL and Leonardo Awarded Italian Army Contract to Modernise Its FH70 155mm Towed Howitzer

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Aris SRL and Leonardo Awarded Italian Army Contract to Modernise Its FH70 155mm Towed Howitzer
Aris SRL and Leonardo Awarded Italian Army Contract to Modernise Its FH70 155mm Towed Howitzer

The Italian Army has awarded two contracts, totaling over €21.8 million ($23.8 million), to Aris SRL and Leonardo UK. The focus of these contracts is the upgrade of the FH70 155mm towed howitzer and associated systems currently in service. Leonardo UK secured €15.7 million contract, while Aris SRL received €6.1 million. The decision to modernize the FH70 artillery system comes at a crucial time when European nations are reassessing the role of artillery in the wake of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian military’s effective use of tow howitzer in the 155mm caliber has not only showcased the potency of this weapon but has also led to significant ammunition stock depletions among European and Western supporters of Kyiv. The widespread contribution of howitzer systems by European countries to aid Ukraine underscores the urgency for modernization efforts to stay ahead in the evolving battlespace.

The FH-70, a 155mm towed howitzer developed through an international consortium in the 1960s, has been a stalwart in various military arsenals. Its upgrade aligns with ambitious objectives set during its inception, including high towing speed, extended range with conventional and rocket-assisted ammunition, rapid firing capabilities, and compatibility with NATO 155mm ammunition. The FH-70’s unique feature, an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) enabling it to be driven short distances like a vehicle, adds a distinctive dimension to its tactical flexibility. The FH-70’s key features, such as the 2-wheel carriage, hydropneumatic struts, and detachable APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), contribute to its lightweight construction and ease of deployment. Its sighting system, equipped with a quadrant elevation scale, leveling bubbles, and advanced aiming devices, ensures accuracy in both direct and indirect firing modes. An alternate APU was developed by ARIS S.P.a. in Italy.

Italian Army FH70 155mm towed howitzer
Italian Army FH70 155mm towed howitzer. (Photo by Esercito Italiano)

The FH-70 is light enough to be sling-loaded under a heavy-lift helicopter such as the CH-47 Chinook, CH-53 Sea Stallion, or Super Frelon. Operated by a standard crew of 8, the FH-70 can function with a reduced crew of 4, albeit at a slower pace. The loading system is semi-automatic, and consists of a loading tray and an automatic tube loader, which operate at any elevation or traversal. The breech is initially opened by hand, but ammunition, propellant charges, and primers are normally loaded automatically.When the breechblock is in full recoil after firing, the breech is automatically opened by a cam, and the spent propellant casing is ejected as the next round is lifted to the breech for manual ramming. The entire loading sequence spans just 5 seconds. These allow for a continuous rate of fire of 2 rounds/minute, rapid fire over a short duration at up to 6 rounds/minute, or a burst fire of 3 rounds in 13 seconds. A fully-automatic system with a flick rammer was also offered for the FH-70, which allowed for firing 3 rounds in only 8 seconds.

The FH-70 has defied the odds and become a success, with 1.007 examples produced from 1977 to 1989. A total of 397 were acquired by the UK (67), West Germany (150), and Italy (162), with Norway and the Netherlands each eventually acquiring 15. Malaysia became the first non-NATO customer, acquiring 15 ex-UK weapons, with Oman acquiring another 15 as well, while Morocco acquired 30, and in later years Estonia purchased 32. The largest export customer of the FH-70 is Saudi Arabia, with 72 examples, while an unpublished number of FH-70s were also acquired by Lebanon. the largest user of the FH-70 is Japan, with some 460, and that aside from an initial import of 20 FH-70s, the remainder were all built locally under license by Japan Steel Works. In 2022 and 2023 some FH-70s were delivered to Ukraine in order to defend against the Russian invasion. These howitzers were delivered by Italy and Estonia (10 units).

Aris SRL and Leonardo Awarded Italian Army Contract to Modernise Its FH70 155mm Towed Howitzer
Italian Army FH70 155mm towed howitzer. (Photo by Esercito Italiano)

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