Howitzer program helps strengthen Afghan self defense

By Audra Calloway, AMCNovember 8, 2011

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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Joe Kurowsky, an Armament Research Development & Engineering Center employee and D30 inspection team cannon expert from Benet Laboratories in Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y., uses a boroscope to examine the interior of the barrel for any cracks or abnormali... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J., Nov. 7, 2011 -- Picatinny Arsenal is helping the Afghan National Army develop their indirect fire capability to bolster self-defense.

Picatinny, in conjunction with the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, will support the acquisition of 194 D30, 122mm Howitzers for the Afghan National Army.

In addition to supporting the acquisition of the howitzers, the Program Executive Office Ammunition, or PEO Ammo, has also helped establish a training and mentoring program at the Central Work Shop in Kabul, Afghanistan. At the CWS, mentors/instructors are teaching an Afghan work force how to properly overhaul, repair and maintain the weapons.

To accomplish this mission, PEO Ammo has enlisted the support of the Project Manager for Towed Artillery Systems, known as PM TAS, and subject matter experts in the areas of optical fire control, canon, quality assurance and weapon systems from the Armament Research Development & Engineering Center, or ARDEC.

To date, this team has successfully delivered 85 of the required 194 howitzers.

"This program supports our country's strategy of exiting Afghanistan," said Keith Gooding, program manager, Towed Artillery Systems. "Part of that exit strategy is helping the Afghans become self-sufficient so they can support and defend themselves."

"We're training the Afghan army to use the artillery properly and we're giving them the weapons to fulfill their artillery mission," Gooding said. "The idea is to leave them in a position that they're able to sustain themselves when we're gone, so they can stand on their own once American and NATO troops leave the country."

Afghans are familiar with the D30 Howitzer capability, said Ray Espinosa, the ARDEC Project Officer for the D30 Howitzer Program.

The D30 was developed by the Soviets in the 1960s and is still the most widely used howitzer in the world today.

The Soviets brought the D30 to Afghanistan when they occupied the country in the 1980s. Even though the Soviet Army eventually left, their howitzers remained behind.

"The Afghans have been using them ever since, but have not had the resources or training to maintain them, so the howitzers have deteriorated through the years," Espinosa said.


Picatinny's PM TAS has been tasked with procuring the D30s, overseeing the refurbishing of the howitzers, inspecting them to ensure they are operable and then delivering them to troops in Afghanistan.

To achieve this, PM TAS and ARDEC employees are working closely with Eastern European countries that are familiar with and have access to D30s.

So far PM TAS has procured and delivered 44 D-30 howitzers from the Ukraine, initiated the procurement of 60 weapons from Bosnia i Herzegovina and helped the Afghan National Army refurbish 17 weapons in their Central Work Shop.

The Bosnia i Herzegovina government donated the 60 howitzers to the program.

"Bosnia has a surplus of weapons and it costs them money to maintain these weapons because they have to store them and make sure they're secure," Espinosa said. "They donated 60 howitzers whose conditions range from lightly worn to heavily used. So we decided to put the howitzers through a refurbishing program before we turned them over to the Afghan National Army," to ensure consistent quality throughout the fleet.

That refurbishing is being done in Bosnia i Herzegovina with the Bosnia i Herzegovina company UNIS Group serving as the prime contractor that oversees three component factories also within country.

The three factories disassemble the weapons, then refurbish and reassemble the howitzers. If they pass a final inspection conducted by ARDEC employees, they are sent to the Afghan National Army.

The D30 team saved around $7 million refurbishing the howitzers from Bosnia i Herzegovina.

"We had initial estimates of $12 million, but by contracting directly with the BiH firm, we were able to bring that down to about $5.4 million," Gooding said. "So we saved approximately $7 million by going directly to the firm in BiH."

To mark the first delivery of eight howitzers from Bosnia i Herzegovina, the Bosnia i Herzegovina government held a ceremony at the Sarajevo Airport on July 25 to celebrate the first shipment of howitzers to Afghanistan.

"Today is an important day for military cooperation and partnership," said Patrick S. Moon, the U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia i Herzegovina. "We stand together, as NATO allies and partner nations, in assisting the government of Afghanistan to build its security capabilities."

"I am proud to be here as the first shipment of 60 D30 Howitzers -- donated by the government of Bosnia i Herzegovina and refurbished by the U.S. government -- is sent to the Afghan National Army. The government of Bosnia i Herzegovina's donation assists Afghanistan to build a modern and well-equipped army capable of ensuring a safe and secure environment for all Afghan citizens."

Gooding said another benefit that has resulted from the D30 program is that the refurbishing contract is helping Bosnia financially recover from its civil war in the 1990s.

"It's amazing to go to BiH and see the remnants of the war everywhere," he said. "They're great people to work with and have a strong work ethic, but they're still trying to rebuild and get their economy going again."

PM TAS began delivering the Bosnia i Herzegovina howitzers to the ANA in July, and thus far, 24 have been delivered.

The D30 deliveries will continue over the next three months, with all 104 foreign sourced howitzers expected to be in Afghanistan by December.

In addition, the Afghanistan refurbishing and training facility has been established and the Afghans are showing progress in learning and refurbishing the guns, said Gooding. To date, 17 howitzers have gone through an overhaul process at the CWS and passed final inspection.

In addition to overseeing the D30 howitzer program, PEO Ammunition's Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems oversees the Non-Standard Ammunition Program.

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