US M109 Paladin (photo : Kentucky Guard)
SHAH ALAM: UNITED States has offered Malaysia up to 30 M109A5 Self Propelled Howitzer (SPH) under the Excess Defence Articles (EDA) programme. The M109s would be upgraded to the latest A5 standard before entering service with the Army, if the offer is taken up.
The upgrading could be done in the US or locally, industry sources told Malaysian Defence. It is likely around 20 SPH will be upgraded while the rest could be used as spares.
Malaysia has not been a keen EDA buyer previously as shown by the programme database, for reasons unknown. Therefore the likelihood that this offer being accepted remain low however even though bigger nations like Australia, Canada and even Singapore had used this route to get cheap spare parts for their assets.
Checks showed that the M109A5-standard uses the 39-caliber 155 mm M284 cannon in an M182 mount, which gave the variant a maximum range of 23,500 meters with unassisted projectiles and 30,000 meters with Rocket Assisted Projectiles (RAP Rounds).
The A5 variant can carry 36 complete rounds of ammunition and has a 440 hp engine instead of the standard 405 hp engine. The latest variant of the M109 in service with the US Army is the Paladin, referred to previously as the A6 or A7 variant.
It is also expected that SPH delivered will have upgraded fire control and other components under the deal, according to the industry sources. The deal is inclusive of in-service support which was the main reason the offer for the Mark V SOC was not taken up.
The EDA offer marked a big boost for the Army which had been wanting an SPH unit so it could stand up its first armoured brigade. On October 2, the 11 Kor Armor DiRaja – which operates the Pendekar MBTs and support tanks – were transferred to the Army’s Third Division. The unit was previously under the purview of the Army’s Field Command although it was stationed in the Third Division’s AOR. The transfer is seen as the first step towards the setting-up of the armoured brigade.
However, as reported previously by Malaysian Defence, the long-standing requirement for the SPH -either tracked or wheeled – will not be funded in the RMK11. As funds for SPH is not approved under RMK11, the EDA offer could be taken up under the Operating Expenditure (OE) budget in 2017 and 2018.
Industry sources told Malaysian Defence that despite this, the M109s faced a stiff competition, from another excess SPH, the PzH2000s, most likely from ex-German Army stocks. The PzH2000 is a more modern design than the M109s offered by the US. It is fitted with a L52 artillery gun, with a maximum range of 30 km with the standard L15A2 round,about 35 km with base bleed rounds, and at least 40 km with assisted projectiles.
However even used PzH2000s is more expensive than the M109s. It was reported that Croatia paid 41 million Euros (RM184 million) for twelve PZh2000 – modernised and overhauled with three used for spare parts together with a simulator and training and support trucks.
In 2011, Chile procured 12 M109A5s for some US$15.8 million (RM66.7 million) under the EDA programme, which covered the procurement, overhaul and upgrading as well as training and shipping costs. The Chilean already operated another 12 M109s procured separately from this deal.