Nexter Caesar (photo : norev)
PETALING JAYA: Foreign arms manufacturers are eyeing a possible tender to supply the Malaysian army with up to 18 self-propelled howitzers (SPH). An SPH, or artillery, is mounted on a tracked or wheeled motor vehicle. An armoured tracked SPH usually resembles a tank.
The Malay Mail was informed by defence industry sources that at least four manufacturers were eyeing the programme which is expected to be funded under the 10th Malaysia Plan.
The SPH programme was included in the two previous Malaysian plans but procurement was never finalised due to budget cuts and other priorities. However, there has been no official word from the Defence Ministry or the army on the matter.
BAe-Bofors Archer (photo : bofors)
The lack of official announcement has not stopped manufacturers from promoting their products, leading to speculation that a tender will be called soon.
At the recent Eurosatory land defence exhibition in Paris, a Malaysian army delegation was extensively briefed by exhibitors displaying their SPHs.
Our army, which operates up to 30 G5 and FH-70 towed 155mm howitzers, purchased some 30 years ago, reportedly hoped to procure 18 SPHs to form a single battalion for its armoured brigade.
Among the four interested manufacturers reportedly eyeing the SPH tender were Sweden's Bae Systems Bofors Archer, France's Nexter Caesar, Germany's KMW PzH 2000 and South Korea's Samsung Techwin K9 Thunder.
Both the Archer and Caesar are truck-mounted SPHs while the German and Korean contenders are tracked vehicles.
K-9 Thunder (photo : military today)
In recent years, the trend for SPHs has progressed towards truck-mounted vehicles as exemplified by Archer and Caesar as they are considered more mobile than their tracked counterparts. Being truck-mounted, these vehicles also offer lower maintenance and life-cycle costs, and an extended service life.
The Archer has a combat weight of 30 tonnes while the Caesar has a relatively lower weight of 17 tonnes. The PzH 2000 combat weight is 53 tonnes while the Korean entry comes in at 49 tonnes.
Although both the Archer and Caesar may suit the Malaysian army requirements better compared with tracked vehicles, they reportedly cost US$10 million (RM32 million) and US$5 million each, respectively, mostly due to the limited number of units.
Only 48 Archers have been procured so far, all of which were ordered by the Swedish and Norwegian armies, while up to 200 units of the Caesar have been ordered by the French, Thai and Saudi armies.
PzH 2000 (photo : military pictures)
The PzH 2000 reportedly costs US$4.5 million each although the ones being offered to Malaysia are completed vehicles which were used by the Dutch army may have brought down the price.
The Thunder is probably the cheapest contender with a reported per unit cost of US$3 million although it also comes with supply vehicles designated K10 Armoured Resupply Vehicle (ARV). The ARV, which uses the same chassis, is responsible for re-arming the K9.
South Korean SPH battalions with 18 Thunder also operate 18 K10s. Some 550 K9 Thunder have been procured by the South Korean and Turkish armies. Turkey locally manufactures the Thunder under the designation T-155 Firtina.
Denel G6-52 (photo : military today)
Apart from those four manufacturers, Denel of South Africa is also expected to enter the fray when the tender is offered. The South African firm is expected to offer its G6-52 wheel chassis SPH. The G6 reportedly costs around US$4 million per unit.