PzH 2000 (Panzerhaubitze 2000) History

In 1987, the German Ministry of Defense began the self-propelled howitzer development program designated as the PzH 2000 (or "Panzerhaubitze 2000"). The roots of the new gun platform stemmed from the SP70 international howitzer project sponsored by West Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy in the late 1960's. All three countries came to the conclusion that improvements had to be made in the indirect fire control system. Five prototypes were ultimately produced but the project was shelved in the 1980's because of funding, technical issues and interest in the American M109 155-mm self-propelled howitzer. The three participating countries from the SP70 program did, however, gain valuable experience in the development of self-propelled platforms and this experience resulted in the British AS90 "Braveheart", the export-minded Italian OTO-Melara Palmaria, and the German PzH-2000 artillery systems. German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and their subcontractor, Rheinmetall Landsysteme, designed the PzH 2000 in 1996 and began production in 1998. The German Army subsequently purchased 185 such units with future plans to buy 53 more examples.

The Germans proved their mastery of armored warfare in World War 2. By the end of the conflict, there were soundly-developed doctrines fielding combinations of battle tank, tank destroyer and self-propelled gun (SPG) platforms as cohesive mobile units. SPG platforms could bring their artillery-minded power to bear on fortifications and troop positions whilst battle tanks and destroyers could concentrated on enemy armor. While the end of the war brought about a divided Germany, West Germany went on to develop the impressive Leopard 1 main battle tank in 1965, leaving the East with access to a general supply of Soviet armor designs during the Cold War. The Leopard 2 was a much-improved extension of the Leopard 1 series, this follow-up German design beginning operation in 1979 and quickly established herself as one of the more potent main battle tank offerings in the world. It was only understandable that, once Germany (and thusly the German military) was again unified after 1989, the German Army would eventually turn to an indigenous self-propelled gun platform to compliment her fast-moving Leopard tanks.

Due to the rate-of-fire, a single PzH 2000 with its three-man crew can achieve the same attack performance as three individual units of previous German howitzer. Firing is accomplished through the push of a button. When the sixty rounds are sent downrange, the barrel can be auto-locked to a brace on the glacis plate in fifteen seconds. The PzH 2000 can then be on the move towards a new firing location before the launched rounds have even reached their target.

The PzH 2000 howitzer has seven bearing rolls on each track side and tracking wheels are placed along the front. The tracks are made from steel with a rubber metallic hinge while the suspension is of the torsion bar variety. For battlefield mechanical needs, the tracks are interchangeable with the "Leopard 2" main battle tank - Germany's current primary tank system for her Army. The PzH 2000 can make 60km/h on paved roads and she can reach 45 km/h cross-country. She can traverse 30-degree slopes, 1. 1 m vertical steps, 3m trenches, 1. 5m depth water obstacles and deeper if prepared.

After the sixty projectiles are exhausted, the crew is forced to reload the turret. This is a dangerous time for the PzH 2000 - sitting in place with the engine running makes her reveal a big heat signature while handling live ammunition and her crew in the open makes for a tempting target. Her crew is made up of five personnel - a commander, gunner, driver and two loaders feeding the autoloader. The two loaders can take over the duties of the autoloader if there is a failure in the field.

The secondary armament is a roof-mounted 7. 62 mm MG3 general purpose, anti-infantry machine gun operated by the commander. Front armor is of 1-inch thickness and will protect against 14. 5mm heavy caliber rounds. The sides of the hull can resist small arms fire and shell splinters, however, the best defense for systems such as the PzH 2000 is the "shoot-and-scoot" philosophy in all weather and terrain conditions. This keeps the system as a harder to track mobile target, using both weather and terrain to her advantage in the defense. Explosive reactive armor is available based on mission needs and assists in provided a retardant against armor-piercing munitions used by an enemy. If PzH 2000 sustains a hit, the cabin is equipped with an automatic fire protection system and NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection systems for the crew

Operators of the PzH 2000 system include Italy (70 examples), Netherlands (64 examples) and Greece (24 examples). Sweden evaluated the PzH 2000 but failed to act on purchases. The Germany fleet of 185 PzH 2000s will be undergoing a reduction in numbers in the near future.

First combat actions for the PzH 2000 was in August of 2006 when several Dutch Army PzH 2000 systems opened up on suspected Taliban positions in Kandahar. Needless to say, the PzH 2000 - also fielded with German Army troops - has seen consistent actions in support of coalition forces in the War in Afghanistan to date.

PzH 2000 (Panzerhaubitze 2000) Specification

BASICS

Year:
1998
Crew:
5
Manufacturing:
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann - Germany
Production:
345 Units

ROLES

- Fire Support / Assault / Breaching

STRUCTURAL

Length:

38. 06 ft (11. 6 m)

Width/Span:

11. 75 ft (3. 58 m)

Height:

10. 04 ft (3. 06 m)

Weight:

61 tons (55,300 kg; 121,916 lb)

POWER

1 x MTU 881 Ka-500 diesel engine developing 1,000 horsepower.

PERFORMANCE

Maximum Speed:

37 mph (60 kph)

Maximum Range:

261 miles (420 km)

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ARMAMENT

1 x 155mm L52 main gun.

1 x 7. 62mm MG3 general purpose machine gun.

Ammunition:

60 x 155mm projectiles w/ 288 x modular charge modules.

1,500 x 7. 62mm ammunition.

VARIANTS

PzH 2000 - Base Production Series Designation

AGM (Artillery Gun Module" - 155mm self-propelled gun platform utilizing tracked chassis of American M270 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS); similar performance to that of the PzH 2000.

"Donar" - Export variant of the AGM fitting 155mm main gun armament on the chassis of an ASCOD 2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

MONARC - Evaluation model for the German Navy for installation aboard frigates; never produced.

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