Earlier this year, Sweden promised Archer artillery systems to Ukraine. Now, video shows the system in action. Each Archer system can fire a series of rounds in rapid succession, allowing a single gun to achieve "time on target," synchronized effects like a whole battery.
These synchronized shots do greater damage to defenders than other barrages, but Ukraine faces a larger problem right now. Their soldiers must ration artillery ammunition as the West struggles to produce what is needed. The Archer, for all of its capabilities, cannot change that. For now, only Congress can likely do so.
The Archer artillery system
The Swedish Archer artillery system from BAE represents the current pinnacle of shoot-and-scoot artillery. A 155mm howitzer sits on the back of a large truck. While new buyers can use whatever sufficiently large truck they like, Sweden built theirs on a Volvo dump truck chassis.
So the Volvo pulls up to firing position, sets up within 30 seconds, fires three rounds within 15 seconds, and then can move again in only 30 seconds. So, in 75 seconds, a crew can stop, fire, and move. That makes it nearly impossible to kill an Archer system with traditional counterbattery fire.
Since a max range 155 shot can easily need to travel for 75 seconds. That means a Russian counterbattery shot could fire within seconds of the Archer's first shot and still miss the gun by over 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, the Archer's three rounds should all arrive at the target at the same moment. The Archer fires the first and second shots at higher angles and altitudes to increase their flight time so they arrive at the same moment as the third shot.
But that doesn't fix artillery ammo shortages
The highly responsive, fast-firing, fast-moving Archer artillery system is great news for Ukraine. Sweden and Ukraine confirmed its service on the frontlines in November. And the new video shows that it now threatens Russian and protects Ukrainian troops. The Ukrainian crews got training from Swedish ones, meaning they should be proficient on the gun's myriad strengths and needs.
But the Archer, like many NATO guns, uses a specialized, proprietary 155mm shell and powder charge combination. As we've previously discussed, many NATO nations do this in order to protect their defense industries. Anyone who buys their gun has to buy their shells, just like printers and ink cartridges. But in Sweden's case, the Archer's setup requires increased precision.
That's because the Archer has very long range, about 25 miles, which can only be achieved by putting the maximum amount of powder in the barrel that won't cause it to burst. And that high range is the key to getting three rounds on the target at once. Since the rounds fly about 0.5 miles per second, the first round has to travel, vertically, about 7-8 miles further than the third round. The Archer uses pre-filled, modular bags of powder to make this possible.
All of that means that the Archer needs its own ammo, and Ukraine already has a large mix of 155mm and other caliber guns in their unit. And it has a shortage of most ammo for their weapons. The massive, Soviet-era 203mm 2S7 guns likely face the worst ammo shortage. But the European Union failed to hit its target for 155 shell deliveries this year. And the U.S. is struggling to find a funding compromise that can pass Congress as leaders pull for Ukraine, Israel, and the U.S. border simultaneously.
Hopefully, the Archer's greater survivability and responsiveness will help Ukraine do more with less, but all the NATO countries relying on Russia breaking itself in Ukraine will be keeping a wary eye on Ukrainian artillery stocks.
Logan was an Army journalist and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Now, he’s a freelance writer and live-streamer. In addition to covering military and conflict news at WeAreTheMighty, he has an upcoming military literacy channel on Twitch.tv/logannyewrites.