AS90 Braveheart is a 155mm self-propelled howitzer which entered service with the British Army in 1992. It was manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems (RO Defence and formerly the Armaments Division of Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd) at Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria. 179 have been built for the British Army.
The AS90 was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. In July 2004, the UK Ministry of Defence announced plans to reduce the number of AS90 artillery batteries by six. Three batteries were drawn down and one AS90 regiment of three batteries was re-configured to a light gun regiment, to support a new light brigade.
The changes were brought into effect in 2007. An enhanced version of the Howitzer, the Desert AS90, has been built to provide high capability in arduous desert conditions.
The Desert AS90 underwent successful trials in the Arizona Desert in 1994 and in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 1996. This version, with the 52-calibre barrel, is called the AS90 Braveheart.
BAE Systems signed a license manufacturing agreement with HSW (Huta Stalowa Wola) of Poland for the production of the AS90 Braveheart. Two AS90 turrets were fitted to vehicles built by OBRUM of Poland.
The crew consists of the driver plus four or three operators in the cupola, a commander, a gun layer and an ammunition loader.
The AS90 equips the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Artillery with three field regiments. The howitzer is expected to be operational until 2032.
AS90 Braveheart upgrade programme details
BAE Systems was awarded a contract to upgrade 96 of the British Army AS90s with a 155mm / 52-calibre extended-range ordnance / modular charge system (ERO/MCS). The upgraded AS90s
were expected to enter service in 2003, but the programme was halted while a system study was being conducted.
The Royal Ordnance division of BAE Systems manufactures the 52-calibre barrel, which gives an increased range of 40km. Somchem division of Denel was responsible for the modular charge system. AS90 has also test fired the new Denel Assegai family of 155mm ammunition which has completed development, and includes a velocity-enhanced long-range artillery projectile (VLAP).
In November 2007, the UK MoD awarded a contract to Gesellschaft fur Intelligente Wirksysteme GmbH (GIWS) of Germany for the ballistic sensor fused munition (BSFM) to equip the AS90. BSFM is a precision attack weapon with a range of 22.5km. Each BSFM contains two SFMs, which deploy on parachutes with infrared and /or radar sensors to seek armoured targets.
A British Army AS90 system took part in firing trials using the Raytheon M982 Excalibur Ia-2 GPS / inertial navigation-guided extended-range 155mm projectile. Trials at the US Army Yuma proving ground were completed in November 2006. M982 Excalibur Ia-2 was successfully fielded in 2007. In April 2011, Raytheon was awarded a $173m contract for the production of M982 Excalibur Ia-2 projectile rounds.
Braveheart self-propelled howitzer armament
The AS90 is fitted with a 155mm, 39 or 52-calibre gun barrel. In trials, two AS90 howitzers were able to deliver a total payload of 261kg onto a single target in less than ten seconds. An automated loading system enables the gun to fire with a burst rate of three rounds in fewer than ten seconds, an intense rate of six rounds a minute for three minutes and a sustained rate of two rounds a minute.
The gun, which does not require stabilising spades, is equipped with a recoil and hydrogas suspension system, which allows the turret to traverse and fire through the full 360°.
A dynamic reference unit (DRU) and electronic compensation for tilt of the vehicle are used for accurate orientation of the weapon system.
The range is 24.7km using conventional ammunition. The AS90 also fires assisted rounds, which provide an extended range to 30km. Fitting a 52-calibre barrel instead of the standard 39 calibre extends the range beyond 40km. An automated ammunition handling system is included in the current upgrade programme.
The AS90 features a seven-compartment automatic fire detection and suppression system.
AS90 fire control and observation
The layer’s station is equipped with a direct fire sight from Avimo (now part of Thales Optronics) for direct day and night firing. For indirect firing an automatic gun-laying system (AGLS) with electronic elevation and traverse drives provide laying to an accuracy of 1 mil (angle 3.375 minutes) and rapid target engagement. The layer’s display unit (LDU) was designed by VSEL. The commander’s station is equipped with a separate sight.
A barrel cooling system to provide higher maximum firing rates and a ballistic computation system are being developed.
The AS90 has been upgraded with BAE Systems laser inertial artillery pointing system (LINAPS) digital gun sight. LINAPS provides the gunner with the position of the gun and the exact bearing and elevation of the barrel. It includes the FIN3110 ring-laser gyro based, strap-down inertial navigation unit (INU) with embedded military global positioning system.
Self-protection and propulsion of the British Army’s 155mm howitzer
The vehicle is of all-welded steel armour construction, which is rated to withstand impact by 7.62mm and 14.5mm armour piercing shells and 152mm shell fragments.
A system for increased ballistic protection against top attack by current generation anti-tank missiles is being developed.
The Desert AS90 has a thermal cover installed on the turret roof and solar reflective paint. The thermal blanket provides protection for the crew against hot metal burns.
The vehicle is powered by a 660hp V8 diesel engine from Cummins, coupled to a ZF Gears Ltd automatic transmission with four forward and two reverse gears.
The Desert AS90 features enhanced engine, transmission oil and auxiliary power unit cooling systems, plus a Diehl 940-pin track for better handling in sandy terrain.
The hydropneumatic suspension is supplied by Horstman Defence Systems of the UK. The vehicle can traverse gradients up to 60%, vertical obstacles to 0.75m and trenches to a width of 2.8m, and is able to ford water to a depth of 1.5m.