The war in Ukraine might seem like a war of drones in many respects.
However, old-school artillery keeps blasting away from both sides – and the casualty counts keep rising.
While the weapons might seem old and antiquated, they might just be the most important weapon in this conflict.
Ukraine Wins Cannon War Near Kherson
Though just 23 seconds long, it captured the kill shot of the Russian 2A36 Giatsint-B 152mm field gun on the bank of the Dnipro River. Such big gun slug matches between Moscow’s and Kyiv’s forces have become commonplace in recent months, and the Ukrainians had the advantage in this recent heavy-weight bout.
What We Know
In the Russian corner was a 2A36 Giatsint-B (Hyacinth), a towed 152mmfield gun. It first entered service in 1975 and was designed to suppress and destroy enemy manpower and equipment – while also being suitable for counter-battery fire. It can be employed in nearly all weather conditions and has seen combat around the world, including in the Lebanese Civil War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Gulf War. Around 2,000 were produced between 1975 and 1989.
The Russian field gun, which is manned by a crew of eight, has an effective firing range of 30.5 km (19 miles). It is fitted with a load-assisting system and a rate of fire of six rounds per minute. It might have been fighting just a bit out of its class in this engagement, however. Even with a full crew, its size and weight make it difficult to transport or quickly reposition.
The social media post didn’t directly identify the type of weapon employed by the Ukrainians, but it was almost certainly a British-produced M777 towed 155mm artillery howitzer. Since entering service in 1987, it has also been used in conflicts throughout the world. Though it has just an effective range of 21km (13 miles) with the M107 155mm high explosive projectile, the gun is also compatible with the M982 Excalibur.
The Ukrainian 406th Artillery Brigade employed such a round – likely assisted by the drone that recorded the video – to strike the Russian position with such deadly accuracy. The GPS and inertial-guided munition, which has a range of 40 km (25 miles), is able of being used in close support situations within 75 to 150 meters of friendly troops.
One Excalibur shell can hit a target that might otherwise require 10 to 50 unguided artillery rounds. As noted by BAE Systems, one of the defense contractors that developed the Excalibur, “tell the round where to go – and it goes there.”
This fact hasn’t been lost on those on the receiving end.
In January, pro-Russian separatists of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)” called the M982 Excalibur the most dangerous part of U.S. military aid, and called for all efforts to be made to destroy the ordnance.
“This is probably the most dangerous part of the delivery. These munitions are equipped with a seeker and can adjust their flight path upon approaching the target. They are GPS-and inertial-guided,” a DPR People’s Militia spokesperson told Russian state media. “There can be only one countermeasure – effective counter-battery activities, with strikes at warehouses where those munitions are stored and at vehicles transporting them to launchers. They must be prevented from ever being delivered to firing positions.”
#Ukraine: A Russian 2A36 Giatsint-B 152mm field gun was destroyed by a M982 Excalibur precision artillery strike of the Ukrainian 406th Artillery Brigade on the left bank of the Dnipro River, #Kherson Oblast. pic.twitter.com/R78gWXtjzy
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) April 5, 2023
Clearly, those efforts failed and now the M982 Excalibur is being used to cut down Russian positions with pinpoint accuracy. Named for a mythical sword, the Excalibur is truly cutting edge – and it is able to transform the M777 into a giant sniper rifle that can strike miles away.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.