The first Archer Mobile Howitzer 6×6 gun for the British Army has arrived at Marchwood Military Port in Hampshire.
The UK government had granted 32 AS90 self-propelled guns to Ukraine, which left a gap in the Army’s 155mm Close Support capability. To meet the UK’s commitment to the NATO New Force Model, the Ministry of Defence quickly procured an interim solution from Sweden through a government-to-government acquisition. This was one of the fastest procurements of a complex system due to necessity.
Colonel Stuart Nasse, Assistant Head of Military Capability Delivery, said: “It is one of the fastest procurements of a complex system that’s ever been conducted through necessity.”
“We had an intolerable gap which needed to be closed, and we were fortunate our Swedish Allies had an opportunity for us to purchase some of the Archer artillery system. That meant we could move quickly, to seize the opportunity and buy the new capability.”
“In February I was given orders by the Army Headquarters to go after Archer and 48 days later we were on contract, thanks to a joint team that was established with Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), our delivery agent.
“We worked collaboratively at some significant pace to achieve this acquisition in record time.”
The first Archer gun has arrived on UK soil after being contracted six months ago. This gun is the first of 14 that have been purchased for the Royal Artillery, along with logistic support containers, an initial ammunition suite, a training package, and an initial support package.
The DE&S, which manages defence contracts for the UK Armed Forces, will conduct tests and trials with the ARCHER Project Team to ensure compliance with UK legislation and a smooth start into the Field Army. The platform offers new ways to fight and will be used by 1 Deep Recce Strike (DRS) Brigade Combat Team.
Initially, it will be housed within 19 Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners) at Larkhill, Wiltshire, as a reference gun for the trial. The Archer gun was designed and built by BAE Systems Bofors in Sweden. Four more guns will arrive in the UK by the end of the year, with the rest arriving by spring 2024.
These will undergo trials and evaluation for approximately six months, and artillery soldiers will start training on them from next spring. The guns will be fired in the UK next summer.
Colonel Nasse explained: “These will be undergoing trials and evaluation for approximately the next six months; artillery soldiers will start training on them from next spring and we will be firing them in the UK next summer.
“They will be with the Field Army immediately after that first firing, so by next autumn they will be with the Field Army and used on operations as soon as possible. As the project matures and the doctrine for operating develops, the systems may be reallocated elsewhere to maximise their effect on the battlefield.”
“We’ve procured 14 Archers because that was what was available at the time, we have an aspiration to buy another ten which will bring us up to a full regiment of capability.”
Colonel Nasse, concluded: “The Archer is an interim solution until the delivery of Mobile Fires Platform Project at the end of the decade, a separate programme which is the replacement programme for the heavy artillery, this is not the replacement for the AS90.”