The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced a new deal with Sweden to acquire 14 Archer 155mm self-propelled artillery systems to replace the AS90 guns that were donated to Ukraine last year. The Archers will be delivered this month and will be operational by April 2024, according to the MoD.
The Archer is a modern and highly mobile artillery system that can fire up to eight rounds per minute at ranges of up to 40 km. It is based on a Volvo 6×6 all-terrain chassis and has a fully automated turret with a 52-calibre gun. The system can also use precision-guided munitions such as the Excalibur and the Bonus.
The Archer was developed by BAE Systems Bofors in collaboration with Norway and Sweden, but Norway cancelled its order in 2017 due to delays and technical issues. Sweden currently operates 48 Archers, of which six to eight will be transferred to the UK under a government-to-government agreement.
The UK decided to donate 30 AS90 guns to Ukraine in November 2022 as part of its support for the country’s defence against Russian aggression. The AS90 is a tracked vehicle with a 39-calibre gun that can fire up to three rounds per minute at ranges of up to 24 km. It has been in service with the British Army since 1993 and was due for replacement by the Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) project.
However, the MFP project has been delayed by budget cuts and technical challenges, leaving a gap in the UK’s artillery capabilities. The MoD said that the Archer deal was an interim solution until the MFP delivers a new system in the late 2020s. The MoD also said that it was exploring further purchases of Archers from Sweden as well as potential collaboration on future artillery development.
The Archer deal is part of the UK’s efforts to modernise its land forces under the Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper published in March 2021. The documents outlined plans to invest £3 billion over four years in new equipment, including Boxer armoured vehicles, Ajax reconnaissance vehicles, Challenger 3 tanks, Protector drones and Sky Sabre air defence systems.