The Spanish ground forces are undergoing a transformation within the framework program Force 35. By 2035, the Spanish military will introduce, among other things, new self-propelled howitzers (wheeled and/or tracked), new rocket launchers with a range of at least 70 kilometers (apparently HIMARS), new towed howitzer tractors, and precision-guided artillery and missile ammunition.
Spain will retain the L-118A1 105 mm light towed howitzers (length 37 calibres). The army will purchase VAMTAC SK95 4×4 light all-terrain trucks to tow the L-118A1, transport crew and ammunition. Howitzers of the same family are now used by the Ukrainian army. The Ukrainians praise these howitzers for their easy transportability (Humvees can be used as tractors), speed of fire, and ease of taking up / leaving the firing position. Another advantage is the huge stocks of 105 mm ammunition in Western countries.
By 2035, the Spanish 155 mm self-propelled artillery will undergo a transformation. There are multiple ways. The most radical is the scrapping of 96 M109A5 howitzers and the purchase of the same number of wheeled howitzers. But the M109A5Es are undergoing a light upgrade (see below), so keeping at least a certain number of M109A5Es is in play. The rest can remain in warehouses for the needs of the war conflict or go to Ukraine.
The Spanish ground forces will undergo a fundamental transformation by 2035.
As part of the Fuerza 35 program, the Spanish Army is building a newly conceived brigade (Brigada 35) built around the new Dragón wheeled platform. At least 700 Dragón tanks are expected to be purchased, including self-propelled mortar versions and a direct fire support vehicle with a 105 or 120 mm cannon.
Above all, the Spanish army requires wheeled howitzers for the 35 brigades. The main candidate is the French Caesar, which the Spanish army confirmed on social networks – a Spanish delegation from the “Guadarrama” brigade visited the French 40th Artillery Regiment. Based in the north of France, this regiment provides artillery and anti-aircraft support to the 2nd Armored Brigade. In addition to howitzers, the regiment uses 120mm mortars and Mistral short-range anti-aircraft systems.
Whether Spain will purchase the Caesars and what fate will befall the M109A5E is unknown. In the case of the purchase of 96 Caesar howitzers, it would be the largest single order of these weapon systems. However, such plans are currently hampered by the slow production rate of French howitzers (see below).
Meanwhile, the Spanish M109A5Es get new M284A2 barrels (same as the M109A6 howitzers). Thanks to new mains with a new cartridge chamber, stronger powder cartridges can be used and, for example, Expal HE ER02A1 ammunition can be fired at a distance of up to 30 kilometers. Spain will also order Excalibur satellite-guided grenades for the upgraded M109A5E. To use them, however, the magazine and grenade feeder in the M109A5E must be modified.
Dragón wheeled combat vehicles will become the backbone of the Spanish ground forces.
The French Caesar howitzers have been very successful in exports in recent months and years. France sent 18 Caesar howitzers to Ukraine and, as part of compensation, ordered the same number of new production from Nexter. The delivery date is until the summer of 2024. Now the French army has 58 Caesars.
By 2031, France wants to have 109 Caesar self-propelled howitzers in its arsenal. The game involves the purchase of 109 of the recently introduced new CAESAR 6X6 Mark II models (see opening photo), or the purchase of only 33 Mark II versions. A few years ago, there was speculation about the possibility of introducing Caesar howitzers on an 8×8 chassis, but nothing has been confirmed. For the sake of completeness – in France, due to the war events in Ukraine, there is talk of the need to introduce at least 215 Caesar howitzers into service.
The Caesar howitzer is operated by Morocco, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Recently, Caesars have been ordered by Denmark and the Czech Republic. Lithuania and Belgium recently ordered Caesars in the latest Mark II version. Lithuania (18 pieces) and Belgium (nine pieces, plus the acquisition of another 19) will receive their howitzers around 2027. There is also talk of deliveries to Colombia and Iraq.
The only question is the rate of production of Caesar howitzers. According to the French website Opex 360, Nexter’s factory in Bourges can produce only ten Caesar howitzers per year. The French Ministry of Defense has already called on Nexter to speed up production, which is not an easy and certainly not a quick task. Anyway, if Spain buys 96 Caesars, they won’t get them all until after 2030.
Caesars in Ukraine
The Mark II version retains the current configuration. The main improvements were in mobility and armor protection. The new chassis and armored cabin were developed by the French company Arquus. The Mark II version will get a more powerful engine with a power of 343 kW (instead of the current 160 kW).
The new armored cabin will meet ballistic and anti-mine protection according to the STANAG 4695 Level 2 standard. of French GTIA Scorpion task groups (regiments). (Groupement Tactique InterArmes Scorpion). The installation of BARRAGE electronic warfare means is also expected.
In addition, Caesar howitzers recently underwent extremely long-range ammunition tests Vulcano 155 GLR (Guided Long Range). When firing from a 155 mm long 52 gauge barrel, the Vulcano 155 GLR has a range of up to 70 kilometers. Ammunition is guided using inertial and satellite navigation. The mean circular deviation in the target (CEP) is five meters. The ammunition can also be equipped with a laser sensor and the igniter can be set to explode at a predetermined height, on impact or with a delay.
The peculiarity is that it is a sub-caliber ammunition – the projectile is placed in a 155 mm caliber guide sabot. The smaller diameter of the projectile also means that the destructive effect on the target is less than that of classic 155 mm shells or 120 mm mortar ammunition.