Making its first appearance during Russia’s 2015 military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany and its European allies, the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV represents a formidable new mobile artillery piece which is set to revolutionise fire support for the Russian ground forces.
Unveiled alongside the T-14 Armata fourth generation battle tank and T-15 armoured fighting vehicle, the artillery piece represents part of a new generation of combat vehicles for the Russian Army and a key part of its modernisation program. Russia currently has by far the largest self propelled artillery force in the world with approximately 6000 pieces, more than the two runners up China and North Korean combined, and the new Koalitsiya-SV is set to cement this quantitative advantage with a considerable qualitative edge.
With the artillery piece currently undergoing testing, the Russian Ministry of Defence has pledged that the new weapons system will be fully ready for frontline service by 2020. Several dozen initial production variants have entered service since 2015.
The Koalitsiya-SV’s capabilities surpass all rival platforms, including the lethal South Korean K9 Thunder which was previously very likely the most capable in the world, and a single platform is expected to have the same firepower as several older artillery pieces combined. The heavily automated 152mm self propelled gun can reportedly fire up to up to 20 rounds per minute, far surpassing its U.S. analogue the M109 Paladin which can fire just 6 rounds per minute.
Not only does the new Russian artillery piece have a considerably greater rate of fire than rival platforms, but it also far surpasses their range. The Koalitsiya-SV can strike targets as far as 43 miles away, giving it a significant advantage over Western made pieces such as the Paladin, restricted to 18 miles – a range 58% shorter. Even the South Korean K9, far more sophisticated than Western analogues, is restricted to a range of 35 miles when using specialised extended range shells.
The North Korean Koksan, previously a record holder with a 38 mile firing range, is also surpassed by the new Russian platform. High levels of automation, with fully automatic ammunition handling, loading, targeting and charge selection systems also allow the Koalitsiya-SV to operate with just a two or three man crew – the Paladin requires six while the K9 requires 5.
The Koalitsiya-SV is highly versatile and capable of firing a variety of rounds depending on the nature and distance of the target, including standard, rocket assisted, high explosive, fragmentation, cluster, and jammer projectiles. Only precision guided shells can be fired at the gun’s full range however. Guns are designed specifically to avoid overheating, minimise maintenance retirements and extend the weapon’s service life – for which the use of twin barrels firing in quick succession rather than a single one is key.
While initial variants on display at the 2015 Victory Day parade used a six wheel chassis derived from that of the T-90 battle tank, future variants are expected to use the same seven wheel chassis as the next generation T-14 and T-15 armoured vehicles, which will give the new Howitzer greater mobility.
With twice the rate of fire of any rival self propelled artillery piece, and the ability to fire at simultaneous targets at different angles with several different types of specialised munitions, the Koalitsiya-SV will be a highly formidable presence on the battlefield – one which will pose a major threat to Russia’s potential adversaries and be a game changer in the European theatre.
Much like other Russian and Soviet artillery pieces, the Koalitsiya is likely to see high levels of demand from abroad and deployments to a number of contested fronts around the world. It could well find its way into the hands of the Syrian Army and possibly Hezbollah, an invaluable asset against neighbouring Israel to complement older artillery systems and ballistic missile forces. India could also very likely deploy the weapons system to its borders with Pakistan and China, a formidable asset Delhi has much need of in light of the questionable performance of existing artillery pieces.