The Australian Department of Defence has announced the transfer of six 155mm towed M777 howitzers to Ukraine. This is Australia’s latest expansion of their military aid to Ukraine, following the recent transfer of 20 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles. The announcement of the transfer follows a major summit held yesterday in Germany where representatives from over 40 countries discussed how best to provide the military supplies and equipment Ukraine needs. The delivery of the howitzers comes as Ukraine’s partners make a renewed push to enhance the embattled country’s long range precision fires as the latest phase of the war in Donbas evolves.
The Australian Government is providing the battery of six 155mm lightweight howitzers and an unspecified amount of 155mm howitzer ammunition for the guns. Images have been released of the guns being loaded onto Royal Australian Air Force C17A Globemaster IIIs at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. This comes as the US has also pledged to provide 90 155mm howitzers and 184,000 shells.
Information release by the Department of Defence stated that:
“the provision of this additional defensive military assistance is in addition to the gifting of 20 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, including 14 protected weapons systems, anti-armour weapons and ammunition, military equipment, combat rations, medical supplies and financial contributions to NATO’s trust fund for the Ukraine. This additional military assistance brings Australia’s total contribution to-date to over A$225 million.”
The M777 howitzers entered Australian service in 2010, following a 2008 foreign military sales procurement from the US, the guns are capable of firing up to five rounds per minute and have an effective range of 24km for conventional rounds or up to 30km for improved rounds. It isn’t clear if the ammunition provided for the M777s include guided munitions such as the M1156 Precision Guidance Kits which Australia has procured from the US.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement that “the Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” and that the “Australian government reiterates our strongest support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the people of Ukraine.
Over 30 of the M777s have been purchased by Australia since 2010, with the guns being transferred being taken from 1st Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. The guns were seen being loaded onto a truck at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane. Photographs released by the Department of Defence show that, like the Bushmasters sent to Ukraine, the guns have had Ukrainian flag markings and Australian solidarity motifs added.
In addition the the 155mm howitzers the airlift of Australian-built Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles to Ukraine has continued with images released on 22 April of Bushmasters being loaded onto an AN-124 cargo aircraft operated by Ukrainian-based cargo aviation company Antonov Airlines. The AN-124 cargo aircraft is one of the largest commercially-produced aircraft in the world and is routinely used by Australia and its partners to move oversize or large consignments of military supplies. Australia has gifted 20 Bushmasters, including two ambulance variants, following a direct request from President Zelensky.