The United States will provide the Ukrainian army for the first time with 18 M109 Paladin 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers.

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict dragged into its 11th month, the United States and its European allies continued to work tirelessly to provide military aid to Ukraine. Just a few weeks after Russia launched its military campaign in Ukraine, the United States began transferring some assets by sea and significantly expanded the route in the spring to supply Ukraine with self-propelled artillery and other heavy weapons and a large amount of ammunition.

In the latest military aid package for Ukraine announced on January 6, 2023, the United States will provide the Ukrainian army for the first time with 18 M109 Paladin 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers. In addition, there will be 36 105 mm towed howitzers, and thousands of ammunition to supply both systems. Previously Latvia, Norway, and the United Kingdom supplied Ukraine with 155mm M109 systems. Artillery will still be an important weapon in the fight against the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainian battlefield is witnessing the performance of many advanced self-propelled artillery from the West. Despite being an old artillery platform, first entering service in the United States in 1963, the M109 is still in production today, with updated versions. It has been proven in conflicts around the world, and with hundreds of guns available, the M-109 remains a strong contender on the Ukrainian battlefield.

The artillery version sent to Ukraine will be the M109A6 Paladin. The development of the M109A6 started in 1985. The first production of M109A6 systems was completed in April 1992 and entered into service with the U.S. Army in 1999. Overall product improvement in the areas of survivability, Maintainability, and armament. This includes increased armor, a redesigned internal arrangement for safer ammunition and equipment storage, engine and suspension upgrades, and product improvement of the M284 Cannon and M182A1 Mount.

The greatest difference is the integration of an inertial navigation system, sensors detecting the weapons’ lay, automation, and an encrypted digital communication system, which utilizes computer controlled frequency hopping to avoid enemy electronic warfare and allow the howitzer to send grid location and altitude to the battery Fire Direction Center (FDC). Ammunition storage increased from 36 to 39 155 mm rounds.

Paladins can stop moving and fire within 30 seconds with an accuracy equivalent to the previous models. Tactically, this improves the system’s survivability by allowing the battery to operate dispersed by pairs across the countryside and allowing the howitzer to quickly displace between salvos, or if attacked by indirect fire, aircraft, or ground forces.

The design of the M109A6 is similar to the previous version of the M109 with the driver seated at the front left side of the hull with the power pack on its right and the turret at the rear. The artillery vehicle has a crew of 4, consisting of the commander, gunner, ammunition loader, and driver. The vehicle is powered by a DDEC 8V71T two-cycle diesel engine developing 440 hp at 2,300 rpm manufactured by Detroit Diesel Corporation coupled to an Allison ATD-XTG-411-4 transmission with four forward and two reverse gears. It can run at a maximum road speed of 64 km/h with a maximum cruising range of 344 km.

The Paladin’s main armament is a 155 mm M284 cannon fitted with an M185 gun mount which has many improvements including a reinforced muzzle brake, and advanced bore evacuator. It has a maximum firing range of 24 km with standard artillery ammunition and 30 km with using assisted rounds. It can also fire Excalibur GPS-guided artillery ammunition with a maximum firing range of 40 km.

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