Our Object of the Month for June is the AS90 Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH). The current heavy gun of the British Army has recenty been in the news as the Government gifted 30 of them to Ukraine as part of the UK’s long-term commitment to support Ukrainian forces in their ongoing conflict against Russia.
The AS90 (Artillery System for the 1990s) was designed and built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering to replace the 155 mm M109 (SPH), the 155 mm FH-70 and the 105 mm Abbot Self-Propelled Gun – we hold examples of each in our museum collection. It first entered service in 1993 with the 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery.
The vehicle comprises a tracked steel armoured chassis with a maximum thickness of 17 mm (0.67 in). The internal space is surprisingly large accommodating the five-man detachment of a commander, driver, gunner and two loaders. Forty-eight rounds of standard NATO 155 mm ammunition are carried internally, and it is armed with either a 39- or a 52-calibre gun barrel of 155 mm. The automatic loading system permits a burst rate of three rounds in under ten seconds, an intense rate of six rounds a minute for three minutes or a sustained rate of two rounds a minute. Range attained with the standard High Explosive Fragmentation rounds is 24.7 km (15.3 miles) and 32 km (20 miles) with rocket-assisted rounds. The diesel engine is an American Cummins V8 delivering a maximum road speed of 55 km/h (34 mph) and a cruising range of 370 km at 45 km/h (28 mph).
Our AS90 was previously on display outside the Woolwich Barracks and as a result, has not been upgraded to modern specifications. However, last year we restored it to driving order and were delighted to be able to drive it around the arena at the 2022 Capel Military Show where it was awarded ‘Best in Show’. We very much look forward to attending the 2023 Show on 1 and 2 July 2023.