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Italy may donate 155mm howitzers to Ukraine

16th May 2022 - 18:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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FH-70 in action during an Italian Army exercise. (Photo: Italian Army)

Ukraine could obtain more 155mm howitzers — this time from Italy — as Kyiv seeks to tip the artillery balance against Russia.

The Italian government intends to transfer of FH-70 155mm towed howitzers and other military aid to Ukraine, La Repubblica newspaper reported on 13 May.

FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS, antitank weapons, machine guns and ammunition are also included in the package.

The Italian MoD has not confirmed the plan and routinely refuses to comment on matters it deems classified. Any potential arms transfer to Ukraine is a highly sensitive political and economic issue, as Italy depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas supply.

The FH-70 was developed in the late 1960s and 1970s by OTO Melara (now Leonardo), Rheinmetall and VSEL (now BAE Systems).

While it is therefore an older system than the M777 howitzers already donated by the US and Australia to Ukraine, an automatic primer loader and a semi-automatic projectile loader with the FH-70 still enables a trained crew to fire six rounds per minute.

As reported by Shephard, the most recent Italian defence equipment modernisation plan envisages a €14 million ($16.61 million) midlife upgrade (MLU) for Italian Army FH-70s from 2021 to 2023. The MLU will include a new auxiliary power unit and a digital Laser Inertial Navigation Artillery Pointing System.

The Italian Army is understood to have received 164 FH70s between 1978 and 1982. Shephard Defence Insight calculates that about 120 remain in service.

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