HELSINKI — The Archer mobile artillery system is the focal point for Nordic development of a weapon that can be used in close-quarter combat but also could spur cross-border industrial cooperation.
“In my view, Archer is the best artillery system in the world,” said Col. Anders Callert, the commander of the Swedish Army’s A-9 Artillery Regiment, which has been final-stage field testing the Archer since 2011. “There are no competitors to date. It has the capability to enter an area, fire six high-precision Excalibur artillery shells and be on the move again, and out of the area, in 90 seconds.”
The exactness of high-precision munitions used by Archer ensures reliable and sustained on-target strikes, said Col. Tor Øen, commander of the Norwegian Army’s Artillery and Air Defenses.
“This is a remarkable high-precision strike system,” Øen said. “It will be a significant addition to our capability, and on international missions.”
An enabler to securing precision strikes, Excalibur shells used on Archer can be corrected in flight toward a preprogrammed trajectory using built-in GPS guidance.
“It’s not difficult to see why the Swedish and Norwegian armies are excited about Archer,” said Markus Vetter, a Berlin-based industry analyst. “It fits neatly into their urgent need for a mobile sustained strike and high-precision weapon that can also be used at close quarters in support of infantry engaged in combat situations in open terrain, or in urban areas where soldiers on the ground need accurate and sustained firepower against a well-concealed enemy.”
Adding to Archer’s suitability as a weapon that can be deployed against an elusive enemy, the system’s platform is protected from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and cabin and engine compartments are fully armored, officials said.
Archer, which delivers a maximum rate of fire of nine rounds per minute and is capable of multiple-round, simultaneous-impact firing, provides the ideal platform for broader Nordic military collaboration. This includes not just expanded unit production as the number of user countries increases, but establishment of cross-border projects to produce precision-strike munitions that can be used by Archer and by the next generation of modified armored vehicles and battle tanks, Vetter said.
“Nordic defense industries are keen to become more involved here, and precision munitions is being mentioned more regularly during meetings between defense company chiefs and defense ministry officials,” Vetter said. “Industry channels have also opened with the interstate Nordic Defense Cooperation group. The most likely route is joint precision munitions development and acquisition projects that would involve big regional players like Nammo, Kongsberg, Saab and Patria.”
The ongoing reorganization of Nordic armed forces into modular rapid-response brigades and battalions has heightened the need for a common infantry support artillery system that can operate in extreme weather, such as Archer.
The BAE Systems, Bofors-developed Archer system will also become standard equipment in joint Nordic infantry units, as well as the Swedish-led EU Nordic Battlegroup’s mechanized infantry battalion, which is next due to be placed on operational standby in the first half of 2015.
Reduced defense spending combined with the need for new types of high-precision weapons capable of reducing collateral damage and loss of civilian life are primary drivers increasing Nordic defense industrial collaboration and procurement policy, said Frank Bill, the head of Forvars & Aerospaceindustrien, the Danish defense and security federation.
“The Archer project is one example, and Finland’s acquisition of [Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air System] II from Norway is another, of how Nordic defense cooperation can succeed,” Bill said. “There is much more potential for cooperation between governments and industry here, and precision munitions is one area with such potential.”
The Archer’s gun range is extended to 37.5 miles with precision-guided Raytheon/Bofors XM982 Excalibur rounds capable of precision strike on enemy positions and vehicles in rough, open countryside terrains or city streets. Archer’s gun can also fire Bonus anti-tank rounds, developed by Bofors and Giat (Nexter), over a 22-mile distance.
Nammo, jointly state-owned by Norway and Finland, recently started development of next-generation, high-precision munitions for Archer. ■