GHN-45 and its derivatives

Artillery developed through centuries as warfare demanded a way to deliver a powerful strike to the enemy over a long range, usualy in siege warfare. Gunpowder made a huge impact, when the first bombards were used by the Ottomans during the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. The industrialisation an the Great War that followed made clear what devastation artillery pieces of the time could cause. Second world war and manouver warfare like Wermachts Blitzkrieg made artillery mobile, so self propelled artillery pieces appeared (like SPH- self propelled howitzers that exist today in almost every countrys arsenal). All of that is the subject of history now. Most modern artillery pieces are dating from Cold War era, with the ideas of that period influencing their designs.

The basic idea of that era was to use artillery effectively against large enemy formations, especialy armored, because in case of opposed blocks confrontation in Central Europe one would face large columns of tanks and other armored vehicles rushing at their positions ( as percieved in the case of Warsaw Pact penetration of strategicaly important Fulda Gap in Germany).

In order to achieve that artillery pieces, especialy howitzers, were made to use cluster munitions which could devastate large enemy tank collumns in the mater of seconds. Some of them were capable of using even nuclear warheads ( like russian MSTA B and S). Allthough cluster munitions are banned today by the treaty, which almost every country has signed (expect the largest powers: USA, Russia, China), most of modern howitzers date back to that era.

In that era there is one howitzer that trully stands out. It stands out because it was built with primary very long range in mind. That howitzer is GHN-45, and it still influences even the most modern artillery pieces.

It alla started with Gerald Bull, a scientists working on joint Canadian-American CARDE establishment and later High Altitude Research Project HARP. The main idea was to achieve high muzzle velocity and doing that long range, accuracy was not an important issue. They achieved good results and their gun had one of the longest firing ranges in the world.

  • ERFB-BB shell, weight 48.0 kg (105.9 lb), M11 Zone 10 muzzle velocity 897 m/s (2,940 ft/s), QE 898 mils, time of flight 112 s, range 39.6 km (24.6 mi; 130,000 ft). 
  • ERFB shell, weight 45.5 kg (100.4 lb), M11 Zone 10 muzzle velocity 897 m/s (2,940 ft/s), QE 881 mils, time of flight 99 s, range 29.9 km (18.6 mi; 98,000 ft).
  • HE M107 shell, weight 43 kg (95 lb), M119 Zone 8 muzzle velocity 675 m/s (2,210 ft/s), QE 764 mils, time of flight 65 s, range 17.8 km (11.1 mi; 58,000 ft).

Bull soon got in touch with South Africans who were under arms embargo, and fighting a war against Angolan FAPLA supported by Cuban Armed Forces. It caused Bull legal problems and he was soon arrested and spent six months in prison. After that he said that he will never return to North America and left Canada to live in Bruxelles, Belgium.

From there he continued his bussines and the developement of the gun. South african company Denel, with which Bull achieved contact before made their vercion of the gun, the G5, fitted with fire control systems and APU.

 

Denel G5:

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The gun saw intensive use against Cuban and Angolan forces, stoping their every advance.

Soon after an austrian company Noricum purchased the rights to the gun and started producing it as GHN-45 (Howitzer Noricum 45).

The first orders came from Thailand, with 18 guns and ammunition for their Royal Thai Marine Corps, followed by China, Singapore and Israel. In each of these countries special companies were established for import and production of these guns. In israel it was designated as Soltam 845P, in Singapore FH-88 and PLL01 in China.

Bull was soon after contracted by Iraq, who was constantly hit by long range artillery during Iran-Iraq war for 110 guns in a deal worth 300 million $. The deal eventualy increased to 200 Guns. GHN-45 Made tromendous impact and halted every Iranian advance, especialy those in strategicaly important Al-Faw peninsula. The demand was so high that Iraq urged Bull to increase imports by what ever means necesary. Bull became a valuable partner to Saddam Husein, and the two cooperated in many future ventures. Even the self propeled version was created, the Al-Fao SPH, which was entirely produced in Europe.

 

Al-Fao SPH :

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4During the Gulf War they were less effective because Iraqi command and communications

network was devastated by coalition air strikes,and most of Iraqi artillery hauling tractors were sent to logistics duties. Left blind and immobile they were easy prey for coalition air force and MLRS counter-battery fire.

Susequently developed wit the Al-Fao was the South African version produced by Denel, the G6 Rhino.

In recent years it influenced many desingns, most notably the Chinese version PLZ-45 and more modern developement PLZ-05.