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FH-70 - 155mm Howitzer

The FH70 was a towed howitzer, designed as a close support artillery weapon by Britain, Germany and Italy and was an early example of multi-national weapon design for NATO forces. Developed jointly by the British, West German, and Italian armed forces in a cooperative effort, the FH70 was a counterpart of the US Army's M198 towed howitzer, which was placed in production in 1980 at Rock Island, IL, by the US Army Armament Materiel Readiness Command (ARRCOM).

Designed to enable NATO forces to use the 155mm round which was capable of disrupting massed armored formations. The gun was normally towed into action, but in emergencies can use a small gasoline engine mounted on the gun to move short distances on the battlefield. This towed howitzer was capable of moving itself by an auxiliary power unit, and firing a shell to a maximum range of about 30 km. The fire-power, range and accuracy were good, however, irt was dangerous to manuver on flat ground, and almost impossible to drive onto gun platforms in the field.

Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, Ltd. (VSEL) has over 100 years experience in the design and manufacturer of medium and large caliber artillery systems. They manufactured the FH70, with more than 1,000 in service with six armies worldwide. The FH70 is a 155 mm towed gun, developed as a joint venture between VSEL, Rheinmetall of Germany and OTO Melara of Italy in the 1970s. VSEL is not currently manufacturing the gun but could reactivate production in response to an order. It is in service with the British Army and many other countries world-wide, and is still being manufactured under licence in Japan. Further UK orders are not anticipated.

In September 1976 formal acceptance and approval of the 155mm towed field howitzer, FH70, was agreed with the British, German and Italian partners. Main production began in 1977 and the system was then expected to enter service about the end of the decade. Meanwhile, development of the self-propelled version, the SP 70, continued.

NATO's major artillery development effort involves 155mm howitzers and ammunition. A 155-mm. field artillery ballistics development memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and the Trilateral countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Italy) was signed in March 1978. All new U.S. and Trilateral ammunition is in agreement with it. The new Trilateral FH-70 howitzer and its associated ammunition, and the US M549 (Rocket Assisted Projectile) and M483AI (Improved Conventional Munitions) projectiles would soon be fielded. They should be compatible. Initial test programs on the compatibility of new projectiles and propelling charges have been exchanged between the U.S. and Trilateral countries. They are being reviewed nationally to eliminate duplication. Tests of the United Kingdom's propelling charges and the U.S.'s rocket assisted projectiles will begin in 1979 if charges were available.

The M549A1 rocket-assisted projectile and the M203 propelling charge, developed at the US Army Armament Research and Development Command (ARRADCOM) under management of the Office ofthe Project Manager for Cannon Artillery Weapon Systems (PM-CAWS) were fired from the trilaterally-developed FH70 towed howitzer. Uniform test procedures for 155-mm ammunition were developed and adopted in 1981. As a result, separate demonstration tests and trials by the four nations, as well as all other members of the NATO planning to deploy 155-mm weapons, were no longer be necessary. Results of tests conducted by one NATO member would be accepted by the other members. Therefore, while some NATO members were planning to field the FH70 and others the M198, the ammunition and testing procedures would be interchangeable.

The 5.5-inch medium gun was first introduced into service with the British Army in 1942. It remained in service with some of artillery regiments, both regular and TAVR, in the 1970s. It was replaced by the 155-mm FH70 towed gun. The first equipment was delivered about three years later than was envisaged in 1967 when the decision was taken to commence negotiations for development on the basis of international collaboration. The FH–70 entered service with the Royal Artillery in December 1979. First delivered to the British Army in 1978, the howitzer was in service with two British regiments, and was also used by Japan. In 1991 it was decided that two TA Royal Artillery regiments were to be equipped with the 155mm FH70 towed howitzer.

The trinational MOU with Germany and Italy for FH70, which was signed in 1970, covered the development, evaluation and production of a towed 155 mm howitzer and its ammunition—comprising the L15 HE shell, charges and primers. The MOU allocated work between the three Governments, giving responsibility for production of primers to Rheinmetall of Germany. In fact, there was no alternative source of supply for these primers. Stocks of the same 155mm ammunition were also purchased for use with the M109 gun and there was no differentiation in the holdings of 155mm ammunition between that originally procured for the FH70 and M109 guns.

Deliveries of FH70 ammunition began in 1978 and procurement of certain kinds continued into the 1980s. The allocation of work on the FH70 program was governed by a memorandum of understanding agreed by the participants to the program. Some FH70 ammunition, which was due from Germany at the beginning of December 1984, was delayed, due to problems in the Defence Procurement Executive of the German Government, not within German industry. Had this work been awarded in full to the Royal Ordnance Factory [ROF], in contravention of the relevant memorandum of understanding, it is estimated that it would have given rise to 640 man years of work. In this instance the product had to come from the German factory. Over three quarters of the ammunition planned for delivery in 1985 was delivered in 1985. In accordance with international obligations, the majority of this order was placed with Germany, with the remainder in the United Kingdom.

The FH70 howitzer in United Kingdom service had no nuclear role and was not intended to be a nuclear delivery system. Although the W82 nuclear shell was the same calibre as the FH70 howitzer, the UK made no attempt to ascertain whether in fact the shell is suitable for use with the FH70.

After the Cold War German artillery modernization plans centered on the PH2000, the army's planned family of howitzers, and the MLRS. PH2000 replaced the FH-70 and M-109G 155mm howitzers beginning in 1995 and 2000, respectively. PH2000 will replace the latter only after an upgrade program in the early 1990s. The total German requirement for the PH2000 was more than 1,000 pieces.

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