On Wednesday the second Rheinmetall-made PzH2000 self-propelled howitzer has arrived in Hungary. Although the PzH2000 is considered to be one of the most advanced artillery systems currently available, certain voices are emerging in the international blogosphere pointing at the allegedly low endurance of the weapons-system in battle conditions.
Hungarian Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky has informed on his social media site that the second PzH2000 self-propelled artillery piece has arrived in our country, which will help Hungary to continue rebuilding its armored and artillery forces. “If you would like to see the latest addition to the renewed artillery force of the Hungarian Defence Forces up close, you can do so on Saturday in (Budapest’s) Városliget”, added the minister.
The Hungarian armed forces are currently without any modern artillery systems, except for the woefully outdated Soviet era D-20 152mm guns. During previous governments the armed forces were stripped of their relatively modern and effective 2S1 Gvozdika 122 mm and 2S3 Akaciya 155 mm howitzers in 1993, and in 2004 respectively. These models are still seeing active service on the Ukrainian battlefield today.
As the importance of artillery has been made unequivocally clear in peer-to-peer clashes in Ukraine, the urgency of rebuilding Hungary’s capabilities from scratch has risen significantly. The arrival of Rheinmetall’s PzH2000s and the planned acquisition of a further 24 HX3 truck based self-loading howitzers from Rheinmetall are a welcome sight to all responsible for the defense of the country. However, in recent days some critical voice have emerged from internet forums that have caused a media frenzy about the alleged shortcomings of the German PzH2000s.
Germany have recently supplied Ukraine with 15 PzH2000s, the Netherlands with 5 (out of 8 promised). Bloggers claiming to be members of the Ukrainian armed forces using these systems have raised concerns about the durability of the howitzers and their ability to withstand battle conditions. Some have complained about barrel wear and accuracy issues only after a month’s intensive use. The complaints have been picked up by the media and even reported by German FDP MP Marcus Faber.
Hungary is receiving the first batch of much needed artillery pieces ordered in 2018.Continue reading
Some have drawn far reaching conclusions from these reports, especially from the German MP’s statement that only five out of the ten howitzers are still functional on the battlefield. The Ukrainian forces themselves have confirmed that the weapon is “only” good for firing a hundred rounds per day, which is in fact a top performance even among modern artillery pieces. Above that number, especially in rapid firing situations, the barrel can suffer serious damage and can quickly loose its accuracy or shorten its life-expectancy.
News have surfaced about troops on the battlefield using cordite and ammunition meant for the Cesar French wheeled howitzers in the PzH2000s, but these cannot be confirmed, and there is no expert opinion available on how this would effect the performance of the Rheinmetall (and KMW) manufactured weapons. Some have asked the question as why only the PzH2000 suffers such a dramatic attrition rate in battlefield conditions, while its American, Czech, Polish or Fench-made counterparts are performing without issues. In fact Ukrainian sources are reporting issues with most of their Western-supplied artillery systems due to overuse and a lack of servicing capacities.
As far as the PzH2000 is concerned, the problems reported can probably be ascribed to improper use, or the lack of necessary servicing. The Rheinmetall and KMW howitzers’ closest servicing center can be found in Hungary, but due to the Hungarian government’s policy of not allowing weapons heading to Ukraine through their territory this option is not viable. Furthermore, the German government’s ban on any German service personnel entering Ukraine, even in a maintenance role, will only complicate the issue with the PzH2000s battle readiness.