UK selects Sweden’s Archer for interim artillery requirement, will ‘explore’ further purchases

UK selects Sweden’s Archer for interim artillery requirement, will ‘explore’ further purchases
Archer image 1-min

The UK and Sweden have agreed to the transfer of 14 Archer 155mm self-propelled artillery systems for the British Army. (UK MoD)

BELFAST — The United Kingdom has selected the BAE Systems Bofors Archer 155mm self-propelled artillery system as an interim solution to replace the UK’s AS90 howitzers gifted to Ukraine.

A batch of 14 Archer systems will be transferred from Sweden to the British Army “this month” with the equipment to be fully operational by April 2024, according to a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) news release circulated to press today.

London supplied 32 AS90 howitzers to Ukraine, meaning there remains a shortfall of 18 units, for now.

“It’s 14 [Archer systems] for now and we’ll explore the possibility of subsequent purchases with Sweden,” said an MoD spokesperson in a statement to Breaking Defense.

Outlining the upgrade in capabilities between Archer and the AS90, the UK stressed that the more advanced equipment offers double the firing range, greater operational mobility, greater availability and reduced deployment time. Based on integration of a fully automated, self-propelled 155mm howitzer gun and extended range ammunition, Archer can specifically fire on targets out to 50 kilometers, the UK said.

“Loading and firing of Archer is handled from inside the armoured cabin, with the unit able to be deployed into action in just 20 seconds and is ready to move after firing in the same amount of time,” added the UK MoD. “It can also fire eight rounds a minute and four rounds in a simultaneous impact-mode, meaning several shells are fired in succession with different trajectories so they hit the same target at the same time.”

Archer is operated by a three or four person crew and boasts a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour), notably faster than the 33 miles per hour capability of the AS90.

London said the artillery acquisition was agreed with Stockholm in the space of two months, apparently beginning shortly after the AS90s made their way to Kyiv and ahead of a longer-term Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) set to enter service “later this decade,” but which has not yet been contracted to an industry competitor.

The MFP program had reached concept phase by January 2023 with the MoD having conducted “significant operational analysis and market engagement to identify and assess viable investment options,” according to Alex Chalk, UK minister for defense procurement.