Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Germany sent weapons including anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, machine guns, and grenades to Ukraine. However, Germany maintained its foreign policy of not sending heavy weapons and refused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for them. On April 26, the German government made a historic reversal of this policy and announced that it would send Flakpanzer Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine. While the supplying of Flakpanzers was certainly a big step for Germany, Zelenskyy maintained that his country needed other heavy weapons like tanks and artillery to repel Russian attacks.
On May 6, the German Army announced on its website that it would send self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. Seven German Panzerhaubitze 2000 155mm artillery systems, along with another five from the Netherlands, are being transferred to the Ukrainian military. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht noted at a May 6 press conference that the PzH 2000s would come from a pool of weapons in maintenance and would not affect the readiness of the Bundeswehr.
In addition to the guns, Germany is providing training on the weapon systems. The German Army announced that an initial batch of 20 Ukrainian soldiers with experience on Soviet self-propelled howitzers will be trained at the Bundeswehr’s artillery school in Idar-Oberstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Training will be conducted by both the Bundeswehr and Royal Netherlands Army. Moreover, German Chief of Defence General Eberhard Zorn confirmed at the May 6 press conference that Germany would supply an initial ammo package for the howitzers. Future ammunition purchases will bypass the German government and be coordinated directly between Kyiv and German defence manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
Entering service with the German Army in 1998, the PzH 2000 is one of the most powerful conventional artillery systems on the modern battlefield. What makes it so deadly is its high rate of fire. In burst mode, the PzH 2000 can fire three rounds in just nine seconds. This allows it to fire 10-13 rounds per minute continuously until its barrel becomes too hot. The PzH 2000’s rate of fire is due to its electrically driven and digitally controlled autoloader. Computer support also enables the gun to fire up to five rounds and have them land at the same time for a Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact.
In August 2006, the PzH 2000 saw its first combat use with the Royal Netherlands Army against Taliban fighters in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. It was regularly employed by coalition troops in Afghanistan and earned the nickname “The Long Arm of ISAF.” Although the system’s reliability suffered in the dusty environment, upgrades were made to improve the PzH 2000. Additional armor was also fitted to the roof to protect the crew against counter-battery mortar fire.
In addition to Germany and the Netherlands, the PzH 2000 has been adopted by the militaries of Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, and Qatar. Having proved itself on the battlefield already, the PzH 2000 can be a serious game-changer for the Ukrainian military as it continues to fight off Russian attacks and repel the invaders.