M777 howitzers constantly break down and require repair, says Ukraine

In the local context, the 152-mm D-20 howitzer gun in service with the Russians after the Great Patriotic War has the same capabilities other than ease of use

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

After complaining about insufficient and obsolete weapons being supplied by partner countries, Ukraine now says it is difficult to service them. The commander of the logistics service of the ground forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Brigadier General Volodymyr Karpenko, specifically mentioned M777 Howitzers. 

Karpenko addressed his grievance to the United States regarding the M777 howitzers they are supplying to Ukraine. As per Karpenko, the situation is extremely difficult, as these howitzers “constantly break down and require repair.” 

Frontier India has already written about the underperformance of the U.S. and NATO weapons in Ukraine, which is not just a subject of lack of training

In an interview with National Defense on June 15, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Denys Sharapov said after each “artillery duel”, on average, two of the six M777 howitzers have to be repaired because the components of these guns are damaged by Russian shells. 

The Russians have been taking special pleasure in destroying the M777s. On June 21 alone, the Russians destroyed 15 M777s as per the country’s defence ministry. 

Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation said that the 15 M-777 howitzers were destroyed in a day, most in the area of ​​​​the Druzhkovka railway station; “they did not have time to fire a single shot.”

How Many M777s does Ukraine have?

According to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, all but one of the 90 howitzers are currently in the hands of the Armed Forces. 18 howitzers were delivered as part of the security assistance announced by the U.S. President on April 13, and the U.S. Department delivered another 72 howitzers of Defense on April 21.

How does the Ukrainian Army perceive M777?

When the guns arrived on the battlefield, Ukrainian artillerymen told the media that they were more than satisfied with the M777 because it turned out to be much better than the Soviet systems. They said the howitzer guidance is performed simultaneously by two calculation teams, each on its axis, and all corrections are put in sight. Also, for convenience, everything one needs to work with M777 is already included in the software package “Nettle”.

The M795 shells, a new American 155-mm projectile that replaced the M107, have a longer range, a much higher explosive content of 10.8 kg against 6.86 kg (152 mm shell), and improved fragility. They claimed that one M795 projectile is 1.5-2 times greater than the 152-mm Soviet projectiles. In addition to M795 shells, they also use M549 active-jet projectiles, which range about 30 km. The FMTV trucks (Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle) supplied with M777 are standard vehicles in the United States and feature an armoured cab.

M795 shells for M777 howitzer
M795 shells for M777 howitzer. Image: Ukrainian Armed Forces.

However, after its use on the battlefield, criticism started emerging. The M-777 howitzers were called too “gentle” and not adapted for long-term operation. Karpenko said the howitzers, after each fire contact, a third need to be repaired.

The American howitzers faced a shortage of ammunition as Russian Kalbirs rained on Ukraine’s weapons depots in the eastern and central parts of the country.

The most notable feature of M777 guns is that they are lightweight and easy to scoot after the shoot. The Ukrainian artillerymen did not highlight this characteristic. 

Missing pieces on M777

As per the Ukrainians, the M-777 howitzers delivered by the Americans to Ukraine turned out to be without a GPS system. The first guns did come with a positioning system but without a digital fire control system. The GPS system unified the howitzers into a single circuit with drones and counter-battery radar. 

Only the Canadian-supplied guns had these systems

Russian respose to M777 howeitzers

American M777 howitzers were perceived as a miracle weapon capable of turning the tide of hostilities in Ukraine. The arrival of the guns was marked by high decibels of media attention. It was short-lived as the Russians released a video of these guns being destroyed by a UAV and then MRLS fire (according to some reports, it was by heavy self-propelled guns Hyacinth-B). 

The Ukrainian military failed to understand how the Russian army detected the M777 positions so quickly as all the conditions of secrecy seemed to be met. The transfer was carried out in compliance with all the camouflage rules.

Since then, Russians have reported the destruction of more M777s. Some media reports say Russian personnel were tasked to hit the M777 particularly.

An overview of M777

The basic M777 self-propelled guns delivered to Ukraine have a disadvantage over the self-propelled systems due to restrictions on weight, ammunition load and other features. It has a longer deployment time to a combat position. It requires numerous calculations, and at least seven people are needed to fire it. It cannot be used from cover, and the maximum firing range of 40 kilometres is achieved only with active-reactive type projectiles which were not delivered to Ukraine. The firing range of conventional projectiles is 20 kilometres. In the local context, the 152-mm D-20 howitzer gun in service with the Russians after the Great Patriotic War has the same capabilities other than ease of use. Modern guns of the Russians, like self-propelled guns “Msta Howitzer”, are far superior to the M777s. 


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