Howitzers have a long and storied history of reliably providing indirect fire on battlefields around the world. These massive guns fire 105-millimeter shells at enemy targets at more than seven miles away, or rocket-propelled shells at targets further than 12 miles. Although howitzers are traditionally employed far away from the fighting, hence the massive distances its shells can cover, there has remained one significant threat to American artillery teams manning their howitzers: enemy artillery firing back.
Despite the relative mobility of American artillery, it seems unlikely that American howitzers will be able to match up with the likes of new Russian equipment like the Koalitsiya-SV; a self-propelled howitzer with an effective range of a whopping 43 miles, firing a much larger 152-millimeter shell. While America has its own tracked, self-propelled howitzers (which boast ranges of just about half of Russia’s new toy), even those platforms are aging, and are widely considered to be a bit slow and difficult to maneuver.
This apparent gap in capabilities has left some within the U.S. looking for ways to increase the effective range of our howitzers, but defense contractor Mandus Group has a different idea: make them faster, lighter, and easier to quickly maneuver.
The biggest threat a piece of artillery faces is having enemy artillery triangulate its location using sound and radar, and then firing back. Because Russian artillery may be able to do so from ranges significantly outside the American reach, this poses a real problem on the hypothetical battlefield, that is, unless American howitzers can master the art of what Mandus calls, “shoot and scoot.”
Their new piece of equipment is designed to rapidly fire for three-minute intervals, at which point, the soldiers manning the howitzer will need to pack up and move out to a new firing position, making it nearly impossible for enemy artillery fixtures to triangulate their location. How do you make such a massive gun more mobile? According to Mandus, you slap on a smaller truck: in this case, either a Humvee or even a Ford F-250 pickup truck.
The problem with such an idea is recoil. Howitzer’s produce a massive amount of recoil, historically making it necessary to mount them on extremely stable (and heavy) platforms. In order to combat this issue, Mandus created the Hawkeye howitzer platform, complete with a hydraulic recoil-dampening system that is said to reduce the platform’s recoil by 70 percent. Thanks to this significant reduction, the Hawkeye system weighs in at only 2,550 pounds, prompting the company to claim the title of lightest self-propelled howitzer in the world.
The Hawkeye system can fire eight 105 millimeter shells per minute for three minutes straight before needing to stop cycling and allow the barrel to cool. This means a group of 6 Humvees could rain down 144 explosive shells on enemy positions in three minutes, before rapidly moving to another location while barrels cool to avoid being struck by counter artillery, and beginning the process again.
The Hawkeye artillery system has reportedly earned the interest of both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and is currently being exhibited at Modern Day Marine trade show at Quantico, Virginia. Next week, the Army is expected to put it through its paces in Fort Sill, to see if the Hawkeye is as effective as its developer claims.
You can watch the Hawkeye in action below:
Images courtesy of Mandus Group