French CAESAR, Indian ATAGs To Bolster Armenian Defenses; Paris, Yerevan Sign New Military Deal

France and Armenia signed a contract for the supply of French self-propelled guns (SPG) CAESAR, which has wreaked havoc on Russian troops in the Ukraine War. The French big guns, along with the towed 155/52 Advanced Towed Artillery Guns (ATAGs) and mounted MArG 155/39, were procured from India to fortify against Azerbaijan.

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French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu broke the news on X.

“We continue to strengthen our defense relations with Armenia. I had a warm and productive conversation with my colleague, Suren Papikyan. The signing of a contract for the purchase of CAESAR guns is a new important milestone,” he wrote.

He did not say how many systems Armenia would acquire. France has a large Armenian diaspora and is traditionally one of Yerevan’s strongest allies in Europe.

The Caesar is a self-propelled gun mounted on a Renault Sherpa 10 truck chassis with an armored cab. The Ukraine war showed the vulnerability of artillery guns to drones. The French artillery engineers devised a simple solution—they took the big gun and mounted it on a truck. The self-wheeled guns are low-cost and have high mobility, increasing their survival odds in the face of drones.

Systems like the Caesar can pull into position, fire multiple rounds, and race off in a few minutes – a tactic known in military parlance as “shoot and scoot.”

In Ukraine, the omniscience of drones requires gun operators to hide their positions well and shift positions immediately after firing to avoid retaliatory strikes. Ukraine war has seen an increased leaning of the world’s forces towards wheeled and self-propelled howitzers instead of towed ones.

The French have claimed that leaks from Russian soldiers on Telegram indicate that Caesar is well-feared. According to spokesman Guillem Monsonis, Russian military bloggers on Telegram in April 2024 described Caesar’s range, accuracy, and mobility, saying the system killed numerous Russian artillerymen with counter-battery fire.

Caesar’s USP is its agility, which doesn’t give Russian forces enough reaction time to locate and target the Ukrainian crews, an artilleryman told French broadcaster TF1 last year.

Russia joined the trend towards wheeled howitzers in 2023, citing greater maneuverability. Another advantage is the lower cost of wheels over tracks.

The French shift in strategy towards Armenia came in 2023 as Yerevan sought to diversify its arms imports after Russia failed to provide the country with ordered weapons worth around US $400 million (it has not yet returned the money). The failed arms deal was an additional trigger in the worsening Russia-Armenia relations, which made Armenia seek to diversify the sources of its arms imports, looking at the West and India.

France and Armenia have shared strong diplomatic ties, as the former is home to a large Armenian diaspora. In 2001, Paris was among the first Western capitals to recognize the Armenian genocide, two decades before the United States did. Till 2023, France had backed Armenia only politically in the conflict.

A Danish CAESAR SPG in service with Ukraine. Source: Ukrainian Military Photo/X (formerly Twitter).

Indian Guns For Armenia

As reported by the EurAsian Times earlier, in March 2024, Armenia placed an order for the ATAGS from India. These guns are considered to be the best in their category and can be deployed at high altitudes.

This procurement report has come even as the Indian Army is yet to finalize the contract for these guns that will be deployed along its border with China, an official confirmed to the EurAsian Times.

The guns have been the result of collaboration between the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Bharat Forge Limited, and Tata Advanced Systems Limited. Armenia had ordered an MArG 155 wheeled self-propelled howitzer from Kalyani Forge India. In 2023, Armenia ordered six of these ATAGS. Now, it wants to procure 84 more ATAGS under US $155 million.

These ATAGS are designed for high mobility and rapid deployment. They have advanced communication systems and automatic command and control systems.

The ATAGS will replace the obsolete Soviet-vintage D-30 towed 122mm howitzers and 2A65 Msta-B 152 mm towed howitzers. Its high-altitude operability makes it ideal for Armenian forces. Armenia will be the first export customer of the ATAGS.

The Indian Army has already field-tested these guns in Pokhran, Balasore, and Sikkim, with temperatures ranging between -15 degrees Celsius and 50 degrees Celsius. The 155/52 mm caliber towed gun is an all-weather and terrain system.

These howitzers can strike targets up to 50 kilometers, making them the best guns in their class. They can fire a burst of 5 rounds in 60 seconds and at a sustained rate of up to 60 rounds in 60 minutes.

Armenia has almost doubled its defense investments over the last year. In 2022, the spending was around US$700 million to US$800 million; now, in 2024, it will be US $1.4 billion or US $1.5 billion. The defense contracts with India alone account for a billion dollars.

Enhanced PINAKA rocket, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight-tested from Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, in Odisha on November 04, 2020.

Armenia has equipped itself with Indian-made Pinaka MBRLS (considered at par with American HIMARS) and an anti-drone system. The Pinaka was delivered to Armenia via Iran in 2023.

Pinaka Mk-1 is a free-flight artillery rocket area bombardment system with a range of 38 kilometers, quick reaction time, and a high rate of fire. A single Pinaka system fires a salvo of 12 rockets from a multi-barrel launcher in 44 seconds, while a battery can fire 72 rockets.

Armenia has also purchased an Indian-built surface-to-air missile (SAM) Akash. Akash is a short-range SAM system manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) to protect vulnerable areas and points from air attacks. The Akash Weapon System (AWS) can simultaneously engage Multiple Targets in Group Mode or Autonomous Mode.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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