The British Army’s AS90 turret training system has reached a significant landmark having recently reached 100,000 simulated firings since its introduction into the UK Armed Forces in 2005, reportedly saving around £230m ($293m) according to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Procured and support by UK Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), the AS90 turret training system is used to develop operational practices and skillsets of the commander, gunner, and loader of the 155mm self-propelled howitzer, which has been in British Army service since 1992.
Based at Larkhill Garrison in Wiltshire, crews can use the trainer to practise routine firing drills and turret operating procedures without the expense of live firing, providing a significantly reduced training cost.
Based on a real AS90 turret, the trainer uses an electro-mechanical system to replicate a complete firing cycle. This includes the weight and size of the artillery rounds and the noise and turret movement on firing.
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According to the MoD, the AS90 turret training system has also been used to train Ukrainian soldiers as part of the wider package to equip them with the skills to fire AS90 guns gifted to them by the UK.
As part of DE&S’ wider support of Ukraine against Russia’s 2022 large-scale invasion, 32 AS90 platforms have been provided to Ukrainian forces, 20 of which were battle ready plus 12 to be used for spares and replenishment.
The turret trainers were developed and manufactured by Van Halteren Technologies (VHT). The company has also delivered more than 100 systems for other guns such as the M101, M119, M198 and FH70.
UK AS90: out with the old
The provision by the UK of 32 AS90 155 self-propelled howitzers represented a significant proportion of the country’s existing fleet of around 80 platforms. Although increasingly outgunned by more modern counterparts, the AS90 is still considered to be a viable fire support platform on the battlefield.
In addition, a further 64 artillery guns have been granted to Ukraine, comprised of 28 M109 155mm self-propelled guns, and 36 L119 105mm guns and ammunition.
The gifting of the 32 AS90s to Ukraine served to expedite the UK’s initial plans to replace its long-range fire support capability through the Mobile Fires Platform by 2030. An interim solution was announced in March this year with the acquisition of 14 Archer 155mm artillery systems from Sweden and is expected to be fully operational by April 2024.
The wheeled Archer 6×6 is equipped with an automated, self-propelled 155mm main gun designed for rapid deployment, with a firing range of 50km using extended range ammunition – doubling the AS90’s 25km range.
In 2022 the UK also initiated attempts to double the size of its M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) fleet, which stands at around 40 vehicles, with efforts also including the apparent consideration of platforms in museums or acting as gate guards. The UK had early on the Ukraine war donated a total of six M270 MLRS to Kyiv, across two delivery batches.
The British Army will also spend £250m to upgrade the M270 fleet to keep the system in service until 2050. Upgrades will see 44 launchers get a new armoured cab and upgraded automotive and launch mechanism components.