LONDON — The British Army is buying Swedish-made 155mm Archer artillery systems to plug a gap left by the supply of weapons donated to Ukraine, the U.K. government announced Thursday.
Fourteen of the artillery systems developed by BAE Systems Bofors, the British company’s Swedish arm, are now on order as an urgent operational requirement for the Army, but there could be more weapons on the way.
A British Defence Ministry spokesperson told Defense News that procurement officials are exploring the possibility of purchasing additional weapons from the Swedish government. The governments have not signed a contract for that, but it’s expected to happen soon.
The MoD said in a statement that the first of the weapons will be fully operational with the Army by April 2024.
The recently announced deal was negotiated in eight weeks‚ mirroring the procurement process Britain used for urgent operational requirements to supply new equipment to its forces in Afghanistan.
“The first 14 Archer artillery systems will have ownership transferred to the British Army this month and be fully operational by next April, forming an interim replacement for the 32 AS90 artillery systems the U.K. gifted to the armed forces of Ukraine,” the Defence Ministry said it a statement.
Archer will do more than just replace part of the Army’s aged AS90 fleet; the wheeled vehicle will provide a substantial capability boost, including a doubling in range.
Britain said the purchase will fill a hole in capabilities until the Army buys a new weapon as part of the Mobile Fires Platform program currently scheduled for delivery at the end of the decade.
Archer is one of several systems lining up to compete for the new requirement. Other companies involved include South Korean company Hanwha Defense, French firm Nexter and German contractor Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it is imperative the U.K. continue to support Ukraine while simultaneously replenishing capabilities at home.
“This agreement with a close European ally will sustain the British Army’s requirements until the longer-term mobile fires platform comes into service — a program we are working hard to accelerate,” Wallace said in a statement.
Sweden is also donating Archer systems to the Ukraine, which is fighting off a Russian invasion. The Swedish Army has about 48 of the wheeled howitzers, and in mid-2022 the country inked a deal with BAE Systems for a further 24.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.