Ukraine’s Newest Howitzer Is An Antique

Plenty of old weapon systems are in use in Ukraine and artillery is no exception. This week the first footage of a batch of 105mm howitzers from Lithuania in action was shared online.

Lithuania has transferred an undisclosed number of M101 towed howitzers. While the 105mm gun lacks the range and punch of the 155mm M777s, Caesars, AHS Krabs and PzH 2000s which have made headlines in recent months, the venerable M101 is a proven weapon.

Introduced in 1941 as the M2A1, the gun has seen service around the world. First during the Second World War and later in Korea, Vietnam and in dozens of regional conflicts around the world. Now it finds itself equipping Ukrainian Army batteries.

The M101 weighs in at 2.5 tons or 2,260 kg and firing conventional M1 high explosive shells has a maximum range of 11,500 metres or just over 7 miles. The M1 round is made up of the  the M1 High Explosive projectile, the M14 Cartridge Case, the M67 Propelling Charges and the M28 Percussion Primer.

The Baltic nation of Lithuania, has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine throughout the conflict providing equipment, arms and training. Lithuania  originally received 54 of the guns from Denmark in 2002. Now, as Lithuania upgrades to 155mm systems the old guns have found a new home. While it is unconfirmed whether Ukrainian troops trained to use the guns in Lithuania, Ukrainian troops have been training in the Baltic nation.

The first guns were shipped in September, with the Lithuanian Minister of Defence announcing the transfer on his social media, but the first footage of them in action in Ukraine didn’t surface until late November.

While the M101 may be old it has the major advantage in that if fires the readily available family of 105mm NATO ammunition. This 105mm ammunition is used by a number of light artillery systems including the more modern US M119A3 and L119 towed 105mm howitzers. As of November 2022, the US has provided 180,000 rounds of 105mm. 

While the M101 may seem like a step down from the 155mm systems in use it has a number of factors which mean the guns are still effective. Firstly, they are used in conjunction with drones which help adjust fire in real time to produce improve effect on target. Secondly, they can use M927 rocket-assisted projectiles which increase the gun’s range by 40%, around 17km. M927’s were first seen in late August being used in conjunction with L119 light guns.

The M101 is certainly an improvement over the 85mm D-44 guns that some Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force units have been seen using and the venerable 100mm MT-12 which has a range of just over 5 miles. While the M101 can’t hope to go toe to toe with Russian 152mm artillery, if used in its original role as an infantry support gun the venerable M101s will prove useful. 


Update 07/12/22: Another short clip of an M101 in action was shared on the 7 December, showing the more closely than previous footage.

Update 12/01/23: Gunners of the 66th Separate Mechanized Brigade practice firing 105mm M101 howitzers.


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Bibliography:

M101s for Ukraine, Arvydas Anusauskas, (source)

Lithuania sends howitzers from its reserve to Ukraine, LRT, (source)

Ukraine Aid Fact Sheet 23 November 2022, US Department of Defense, (source)

Ukraine received 105mm M927 high-explosive rocket-assisted projectiles, Mil.In.UA., (source)

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