A second batch of Ukrainian soldiers completed military training in the UK, gaining hands on experience and guided tuition with AS90 155mm self-propelled gun, it was announced on 2 April.

The three-week course culminated in a live firing exercise held in the southern region of England. 

This training session for artillery follows the cohort of Ukrainian personnel who completed training with the Challenger 2 main battle tank that was announced 27 March.

Artillery training

Ukrainian personnel have received specialised training from instructors at the Royal School of Artillery (RSA) as part of the UK’s ongoing commitment to aid Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s 2022 invasion. 

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The Ukrainian Armed Forces underwent comprehensive training in the operation and maintenance of the AS90 system. Despite the soldiers’ prior service experience, the act of training presented several challenges, including building a specifically designed training course. The gun crews were equipped with the skills for a prompt return to Ukraine – a training regime much briefer than normally employed with the AS90.

The purpose of the live firing package was to provide gun crews with experience of the gun’s sound, feel, and smell, as well as to ensure that they can operate it safely and to the best of their abilities. 

According to Lieutenant Colonel Ed Botterill, chief instructor at the RSA, the soldiers undergoing training were beyond the experience level of recruits, with veterans of service between a few months and several decades, however the range of levels of military experience necessitated customised training. 

A condensed training programme was provided, focusing on the maintenance, firing, and upkeep of the AS90. Despite the challenges, the instructors have been impressed by the Ukrainian’s enthusiasm for learning, according to an official release. 

Regimental Instructor Sergeant Burnfield of the 19 Regiment Royal Artillery has recently completed her second course of training for Ukrainian soldiers. Her responsibilities included guiding the trainees through the fundamentals of identifying component parts and disassembling the breech, as well as teaching them manoeuvres, tactics, and live firing techniques.

Overcoming the challenges posed by language barriers was crucial in forging a strong partnership with linguists. The interpreter played a pivotal role in delivering the training. “I’ve been really lucky,” said Burnfield, “I have had a fantastic interpreter and the interpreter is the key to delivering this training. She could get across my technical knowledge and also a sense of my personality.”

Meanwhile, Botterill also acknowledged the efforts put in by the Ukrainian trainees: “They too have worked hard. They have soaked up everything we have taught them but today it comes to an end. They will be gone from us and within a couple of weeks they will be firing the AS90 in anger and putting into practice all they have learnt.”

The AS90 self-propelled howitzer 

The UK pledged to provide military support to Ukraine in its ongoing offensive, as announced by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 16 January 2023. The aid comes in the form of 30 AS90 Braveheart 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzers

The British defence contractor BAE Systems produces the Braveheart, which has a turret affixed to the rear of a tracked chassis. The firearm has a recoil and suspension system and includes a range of features including a double-baffle muzzle brake, fume extractor, and split sliding block breech. 

The turret traverse spans a complete 360 degrees, while the weapon’s elevation ranges from negative five to positive seventy degrees. The elevation and traverse drives are electrically powered and have a speed of 10 degrees per second. In the event of an electrical failure, users can access full manual controls. 

The AS90 has a formidable 155mm 39 calibre barrel that has the capability to launch a variety of NATO’s standard artillery projectiles, including the HE M107 and extended range variants. It has an automatic filling mechanism that allows it to discharge three rounds in a salvo in less than ten seconds, six rounds per minute for three minutes, and two rounds per minute continuously. 

The AS90 has the capability to fire at a maximum range of 24,700m with standard ammunition, while the range extends up to 30,000m with the assistance of projectiles. 

The AS90 Braveheart 155mm self-propelled howitzer has an all-welded steel armour construction for both its hull and turret, with a maximum thickness of 17 mm. This design feature offers the crew protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. 

The AS90 Braveheart 155mm self-propelled howitzer is equipped with a Cummins VTA-903T-660 V-8 diesel engine that can generate 660bhp at 2,800rpm, with a maximum road speed of 55km/h and a cruising range of up to 370km. 

The AS90 Braveheart 155mm self-propelled howitzer comes equipped with essential features such as night vision, an NBC protection system, air conditioning, and a fire detection suppression system. Equipped with advanced ring laser gyro technology, the AS90 boasts full navigation and auto-lay capabilities utilising the MAP’s standard DRU, allowing for complete autonomy of the weapon. 

The firearm can be automatically positioned both in terms of bearing and elevation. This allows for the turret systems to operate without the need for the main diesel engine to be continuously running.