An innovative 155 mm system fitted with a NATO standard 52 calibre barrel, CAESAR (CAmion Equipe d'un Systeme d'ARtillerie) stands out for its high firepower and strategic mobility. This Giat Industries private venture mounts a 155 mm/52 calibre on a modified German Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG (6 x 6) cross-country truck chassis. Compared with other self-propelled artillery systems, it has greater strategic mobility, has a maximum road range of 600 km, and can be rapidly deployed to a far off theatre of operations by transport aircraft such as the C130 Hercules.
While a trend exists to build more mobile guns that would be better suited for the fluid operations envisioned on tomorrow's battlefield, disagreement appears to exist on how to do that. On one hand some nations are seizing on the advantages of lower life-cycle costs, lower noiselevels, and greater strategic mobility to develop wheeled self-propelled artillery systems. Other states, to include the US, Britain, and Germany, opted for the tracked version. Almost without exception the trend in future guns is to build longer shooting models with most nation's experimenting with guns that fall in the 155mm, fifty-two-caliber size range.
CAESAR® inaugurates a new generation of artillery equipment through its technical innovations in terms of tactical and strategic mobility, ease of use, firing precision and protection. CAESAR® is genuinely versatile and outclasses all self-powered artillery and towed guns. Its innovative solutions satisfy operational needs regardless of the level of conflict, the operations theatre and the nature of the forces engaged. It is efficient for all firing missions including direct support firing, in-depth action firing and firing against enemy guns. The key points of this 155 mm/52-caliber weapon system are mobility, ease of use, continuous firing and survivability, it is fully interoperable with NATO 39-caliber equipment and is compliant with JB MoU 52-caliber equipment.
Following the analysis of prospective customers' requirements, and building upon the experience gained in the development of Highly Protected Armored Vehicles – VBCI (infantry armored combat vehicle) and ARAVIS®, NEXTER Systems started to develop a new cabin for the CAESAR® artillery system in 2009. The tests have been performed and validated, with support from French armament procurement agency DGA, allowing NEXTER Systems to announce that the CAESAR® and its new cabin will feature a Mine protection system at level 3A and will be capable of withstanding the effects of a 50-kg TNT IED positioned at a distance of 5 m. The new cabin will provide the crew with enhanced protection against mines and IEDs, without modifying the general characteristics and features of CAESAR® system, and will also improve the self-defense capability of the system.
The ease of implementation and low dispersion firing of CAESAR® are the result of a unique set of technical state-of-the-art solutions; three-axis inertial unit that facilitates putting into action and enables automatic aiming and reaiming between each round, onboard ballistic computer with remote display of information at the back of the gun, muzzle velocity radar. Finally, CAESAR® is fully self-contained because it does not require a firing preparation crew or a topographic crew. Obviously, it forms part of the digital battlefield and is networked with higher level command means (battery, regiment, brigade, etc.).
The simplicity of CAESAR® concept and its low weight compared with more conventional architectures offers more than operational advantages. It also optimises reliability and the cost of ownership reinforced by the use of an all-terrain truck originating from an industrial range for the mobility function, and innovative logistics support solutions. The first locally integrated systems were delivered in 2010 in accordance with the contractual calendar. The industrial organisation adopted for this contract illustrates NEXTER Systems' capacity to adapt to the constraints and requirements of its customers in terms of technology and production transfers.
Its strong points are very attractive:
- tactical mobility and maneuverability guaranteed by a 6x6 truck chassis compatible with European road gauges,
- unequalled strategic mobility, because at the moment it is the only 52-caliber self-powered gun that can be air transported by a C130 (in a single package),
- fierce and continuous firing due to its fast setting up time, high firing rate, long range (42 km instead of 30 km in 39-caliber) and its low dispersion.
- higher survivability and more stealth due to its capability of firing a 6-round salvo and being taken out of action in less than 2 minutes.
- better crew protection due to the new cab with better resistance to mines / IEDs in the MkII version (first presentation in EuroSatory 2010).
The CAESAR® 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer, deployed by the French Forces during operations in Mali, as well as in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, is recognized worldwide as striking the best balance between the simplicity of towed artillery and the mobility of a self-propelled system. Not only is the CAESAR® highly accurate and mobile, allowing it to evade counter-battery fire, it also has the lowest maintenance costs of any mobile artillery system on the market. It is in service with the armed forces of France, Indonesia, Thailand and a Middle Eastern country, and over 270 CAESAR® systems have already been produced. They have fired more than 80,000 rounds and covered a distance of over one million kilometers.
In December 2004, the French DGA awarded the company a contract covering the supply of 72 CAESAR 155 mm/52 calibre self-propelled artillery systems for the French Army. It is expected that deliveries will run from 2007 through to 2011. Total value of this contract is EUR300 million, which includes ammunition, a five-year logistic support package and the upgrade of some CAESAR systems already delivered to the French Army. Under the terms of this contract, the company committed to ensure an 80 percent rate of operational availability of the system with full responsibility for the spares and repair management. The French Army continued with the AUF1 upgrade for the 70 systems but will not at present move to the 155 mm/52 calibre unless funding becomes available in the future. While the weapon system wase manufactured at the Bourges facility, integration of the complete weapon with the chassis took place at Roanne. Production CAESAR systems are based on the new Renault Trucks Defense Sherpa chassis (6 × 6) which will be fitted with a fully armour protected cab also supplied by Renault Trucks Defense. The first production verification CAESAR system on the Sherpa chassis (6 × 6) was completed in mid-2006. Apart from the new chassis and cab this had only minor differences when compared to the first CAESAR systems. The muzzle velocity radar, for example, is now on the right side of the ordnance rather than above the ordnance. It was expected that the French Army will have a total of eight field artillery regiments with each of these having three batteries each with eight weapons with two troops of four guns. Four regiments will have two batteries with a total of 16 upgraded tracked SP AUF1 TA weapons and one battery of eight CAESAR with the remaining four regiments having two batteries with a total of 16 TR F1 towed guns and one battery of eight CAESAR. In the longer term additional CAESAR are expected to be procured. In April 2006 the company announced that Thailand had placed a contract with the company for an initial six systems with the total requirement understood to be for at least 18 units to enable a complete CAESAR regiment to be formed. In July 2006 the company announced that an undisclosed export customer had placed a contract with the company for 72 CAESAR systems. These systems are for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and will be integrated onto a SOFRAME-UNIMOG (6 × 6) chassis and fitted with a Thales ATLAS computerised fire-control system. [some sources place the Saudi order at 80 CAESAR 155mm wheeled self-propelled howiters] By 2010 a total of 183 CAESAR® units had been ordered in two different versions (in France, Middle East and South-East Asia on Renault Trucks Defense or Soframe-Unimog chassis), and it is already a commercial success.
It should be noted that while all early examples of the CAESAR built had been based on a Mercedes-Benz (6 × 6) truck chassis, all production CAESAR systems for France and Thailand are built on a new Renault Trucks Defense Sherpa (6 × 6) truck chassis. CAESAR is based on a 6 × 6 truck chassis which, as well as providing good cross-country mobility, provides good strategic mobility as it can be rapidly be moved around without having to rely on tank transporters and semi-trailers. Nexter, the leading French land defense company and part of KNDS Group, has been a longstanding partner supporting the modernization of the TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia) since entering into an initial contract in 2012 to supply 36 CAESAR® artillery systems. On On February 20, 2017 at the IDEX 2017 trade show, Nexter announced the signing of a new contract to supply a further 18 CAESAR® systems to the Indonesian National Armed Forces. On 14 March 2017 the Danish Ministry of Defense announced the choice of 155-mm / 52 self-propelled howitzer of the French CAESAR production association Nexter Systems in the tender for the purchase of new artillery systems for the Danish Army to replace the US 155-mm / 39 self-propelled howitzers M109A3DK. The total purchased were 15 new ACS CAESAR wheeled chassis, with an option for another six. The cost of the purchase and delivery terms were not disclosed, and indicated that the parameters of the contract was still to be determined. Denmark will acquire CAESAR system chassis Tatra T815 8x8 and equipped with an automated system of charging tools, becoming the first customer for this variant, first demonstrated in 2015. SAU in this version has an armored cab and a total weight of 32 tons, equipping diesel engine Tatra V8 capacity of 410 hp The calculation is reduced to three. The plant is located in the ammunition rounds 30.
In the long running tender for a new 155-mm / 52 self-propelled howitzer for the Danish army in the final stages also participated South Korea tracked ACS Samsung Techwin K9 Thunder (not available at a later stage) and the Israeli Elbit / Soltam Systems ATMOS wheeled chassis (it was the only competitor SAESAR at the last stage). Denmark thus became the sixth customer SAU CAESAR after the French army (set 77, planned to order another 64), Saudi Arabia (put 132 or 136), Indonesia (set 37, and another 18 ordered), Thailand (set of six) and an unknown customer (made 18, possibly destined for Lebanon at the expense of Saudi funding).
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