Delving into the Armenia-France CAESAR Howitzer Deal

Delving into the Armenia-France CAESAR Howitzer Deal



France and Armenia have agreed on a contract for the delivery of CAESAR self-propelled howitzers to Armenia. In December 2023, the French Senate recommended a prompt review of the CAESAR artillery systems' delivery to Armenia. They also urged a quick response to all requests from the Armenian authorities, especially concerning their artillery needs. The Senate called the distinction between "defensive" and "offensive" weapons impractical.


The CAESAR agreement demonstrates France’s preparedness to extend its support to Armenia beyond providing radar detection systems, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, sniper rifles, and military training programs.


Furthermore, since France has advanced technology in air defense systems and anti-tank missile systems, progress in this area is expected. The Armenian army may soon acquire the latest generation of anti-tank systems and air defense missile systems, ranging from very short to long-range.


France’s supply of CAESAR howitzers could complement the Indian howitzers that Armenia is already acquiring. These include the towed ATAGS 155/52 of the same caliber, which have a firing range of over 40 km, as well as the self-propelled MArG 155/39, similar to the M777 howitzer, with a firing range of 24 km.


For cost-effectiveness and ease of maintenance, it would be practical for the Armenian artillery arsenal to include self-propelled versions of the Indian ATAGS 155/52 howitzers. These are known as MGS (Mounted Gun Systems) and are mounted on an 8x8 armored vehicle. The towed versions of these howitzers will soon be adopted and integrated into the Armenian army. While these have already passed fire tests at Indian ranges, their adoption is still under consideration.


According to Indian experts, the main reason for delays in the serial production of the MGS 8x8 is bureaucratic red tape.


The French CAESAR howitzers have been tested under real combat conditions and are currently employed successfully in Ukraine. These howitzers provide high mobility, rapid deployment and readiness to fire, along with a long firing range.


The howitzer is compatible with the entire range of 155 mm artillery ammunition. This means it won’t solely rely on France for ammunition supplies, except for some specific types of ammunition (guided and corrected) produced in France.


Regarding barrel artillery, Armenia continues to steadily transition from the Soviet 152 mm caliber to the globally adopted 155 mm caliber.


However, questions arise regarding the number of CAESAR howitzers being purchased. If more than 18 units are being bought, enough for at least one battalion, it suggests that the army command has a certain vision for the development of Armenian artillery. If the deal involves fewer units, it will echo past practice, where buying a single battery of Smerch MLRS or TOS 1 Solntsepyok was more about showcasing the presence of such weaponry in the Armenian army's arsenal rather than considering how many units would be adequate for the front line.


There are also questions concerning the models that will be supplied to Armenia. It would be preferable if these were CAESAR Mk II 6x6, also known as CAESAR NG (New Generation), which was introduced by the French company Nexter Systems, a subdivision of the KNDS Group, in February this year.


Judging from the photographs taken at the contract signing ceremony, there is a clue: after signing the contract with KNDS, Suren Papikyan and French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu are seen holding a model of the CAESAR howitzer with a 6x6 wheel configuration. 


Eduard Arakelyan is a military expert at the Regional Center for Democracy and Security.


Article was initially published on Civilnet