The CAESAR howitzers were one of the central artillery systems supplied to Ukraine at the beginning of the war. Ukraine received two versions of the CAESAR, the self-propelled and trailed.

The CAESAR, or the CAmion Équipé d’un Système d’ARtillerie, is a 155mm, 52-calibre howitzer installed on either a 6×6 or 8×8 truck chassis. It has NATO-standard 39/52 caliber shells with an autonomous weapon network “incorporating an intertia navigation system and ballistic computer.”

The CAESAR sent to Ukraine has been installed on a Mercedes-Benz Unimog U2450L six-wheel that the French army acquired back in 2003. It got modifications to fit a 6×6 Renault Sherpa 5 chassis, but both versions can still transport 18 shells and five to six soldiers handling the gun. In case of emergency, the CAESAR can add three more soldiers in tow.

Here are the CAESAR’s general specifications:

  • Mass – 17.7 t (6×6), 28.7-30.2 t (8×8)
    Length – 10 m (6×6), 12.3 m (8×8)
    Width – 2.55 m (6×6), 2.8 m (8×8)
    Height – 3.7 m (6×6), 3.1 m (8×8)
    Crew – 5-6 people
    Caliber- 155 mm
    Barrel length – 52 calibers
    Firing range – 42 km (conventional shells), 50 km (rocket-assisted)
    Operational range – 600 km
    Maximum speed – 100 km/h (road), 50 km/h (off-road)

Because of its firepower, it can attack targets more than 25 miles away. French President Emmanual Macron told Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky that they are dedicated to increasing the intensity of Ukraine’s arms supply. Six more are coming, according to France’s foreign minister. 

“At the national level, France is fully committed even though we communicate less than others what we are doing,” Catherine Colonna said. “We made the decision to not communicate all of our military contribution.”

The delivery of the CAESAR was deemed confidential, but they were near the frontline location in eastern Ukraine. The soldiers of the 55th brigade artillery unit were assigned for the maneuvering and navigation of the CAESAR.

The first round of CAESAR strikes in February targeted a Russian troop 24 miles from its location. Hidden in camouflage, the Ukrainian brigade depended on its accuracy for its successful targeting. However, during the first months of the war, Russia still took the lead simply because they had more army troops in the field. This was one reason why Kyiv insisted on urgent donations because even with powerhouses like the CAESAR, they were still outgunned.

However, things started to shift when France doubled down on their donation over the course of three months. They are also sending more CAESARs this July to ensure Ukraine’s artillery is not depleted.

CAESAR Howitzer
CAESAR, French army licence registration ‘6093 0006’ (Source: AlfvanBeem/Wikimedia)

The CAESAR Helps Ukraine Take the Lead

By April, Ukrainian forces were more accustomed to integrating the CAESAR into their strategies. They were firing an average of five rounds in just 55 seconds at a distance of 13 miles. The shots have destroyed guns, two BMD airborne infantry combat vehicles, two Russian tanks, and additional trucks.

An anonymous commander of one of the CAESARs said the artillery helped their forces to become more agile. In modern warfare, the faster you can shift and adapt, the more accurate execution can be for offense and defense.

Open days at the Sabatier headquarters in Lyon on June 15 and 16, 2013. (Source: Xavier Caré/Wikimedia)

“This system is primarily very manoeuvrable and mobile. In modern warfare, this is a crucial factor. Our old systems are stationary, so to speak. This is truck-mounted artillery to put in the field.”

He added that the CAESAR also allowed Ukrainian troops to “gain a lot of time so that the enemy cannot attack us and fire back.”

Since the CAESAR’s trucks were also produced recently, they house a powerful 410-hp diesel engine.

The commander said the initial training was challenging, but they knew they needed to train fast “and remember everything quickly.”

As of writing, SOFREP still has no confirmation on where these howitzers are being deployed, and the commander also refused to divulge confidential details to protect their troops.

In a separate report, Russian-backed separatists claim Kyiv’s using the CAESAR to fire on Donetsk and nearby civilian towns, but the commander who spoke with France24 denies the allegation.

“Security of civilians is one of our priorities so we do not fire on residential areas.”

Though the HIMARs undoubtedly have an irreplaceable impact, the CAESARs still create opportunities for Ukraine to balance the battlefield and stay ahead.