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Kaimo Kuusk, the Estonian Ambassador to Ukraine apparently announced that:

We are giving all our 155mm howitzers to Ukraine.

I can't see how an army would agree to give all their artillery in that caliber (which is fairly important) to another country. So is there some caveat to this announcement? Are they getting newer ones as replacements?

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    FWIW, Denmark is doing just that, on all their current and future 19 French Caesars, so not their old gear, their yet-to-be-delivered gear. My guess is that they will rebuy a lot at first opportunity (and probably got themselves moved to head of queue). They're gambling - probably correctly - that Russia is not going to be busy in W Europe any time soon during/after Ukraine so they don't have an urgent need for them. thedefensepost.com/2023/01/19/denmark-caeser-howitzers-ukraine They are in the $8-10M range, so the cost itself is absorbable in future budgets. Jan 23, 2023 at 23:36
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    I did not claim it was the only 155s they had, only that it was all of the new incoming gear. What I am saying is that a temporary capability gap, for a small European nation expected to fight within a NATO coalition, against pretty much only Russia as a plausible near-term scenario adversary would likely not keep military planners from a good night sleep. Because Russia will have to nurse its wounds for a while after UA. You asked how it could be done, this a partial example. Jan 24, 2023 at 0:01
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    Ah, didn't know that bit. I am wondering if this war isn't making artillery sexy again. Somewhere some think tank was saying the US was quietly reconsidering if they could always expect to have air superiority against a peer-ish enemy. Knocking out all of Saddam's SAMs might be different than achieving the same against China in 2035. So they're thinking (a very little bit, I'd guess) about operating in an Ukraine like environment where they don't dominate. Shoot-and-scoot 155s and HIMARS may make more sense than A-10s then. Jan 24, 2023 at 0:15
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Artillery has always been "sexy", although a more arcane term may be more apposite. Israel rather forgot that prior to having to deal with vast numbers of Syrian tanks. They are unlikely to do so ever again. Jan 24, 2023 at 8:32
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    Estonia is part of NATO, and so can count on the support of the remaining NATO members if it is attacked. Jan 24, 2023 at 21:14

4 Answers 4

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The ambassador's promise is referring to the donations set out in the recent Tallinn pledge. The UK government has summarised the contents of the donation package from each country involved here. For Estonia's part, this is as follows:

The Estonian package consists of tens of 155mm FH-70 and 122mm D-30 howitzers, thousands of rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, support vehicles for artillery units, hundreds of Carl-Gustaf M2 anti-tank grenade launchers with ammunition with the total replacement values of approx. 113 million euros. In addition, Estonia will continue to provide both basic and specialist training to hundreds of Ukrainian Armed Forces members in 2023.

The press release on the package from the Estonian Ministry of Defence is fairly clear that this promise does not include the K9 155m howitzers that they're transitioning to:

Military aid to Ukraine does not reduce Estonia's defense capability, the lack of combat readiness of the donated artillery will be fully restored in the near future. A planned transition to K9 mobile artillery is underway, and in addition, Estonia's defense will be strengthened by the presence of allies, including the recently added US HIMARS.

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    Thanks for finding the official confirmation for what I read on that Bulgarian website. Jan 23, 2023 at 23:22
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Apparently, I guess correctly. They are giving all their existing, towed 155mm howitzers and getting self-propelled ones instead.

As it turns out, Estonia is giving Ukraine all 24 FH-70 howitzers from the army, especially since these guns are being removed from Estonian artillery and replaced with South Korean K9 Thunder self-propelled guns. Estonia purchased 39 units of the South [Korean] self-propelled howitzers.

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According to Wikipedia

Fire support for infantry units is mainly provided by towed howitzers, including the lighter 122mm D-30H63 and heavier 155mm FH-70 field howitzers.[23] However, in recent years, Estonia has started to procure increasing numbers of self-propelled artillery vehicles to provide fire support for its increasingly mechanized infantry, reducing the role of towed artillery. Estonia donated at least nine D-30s as well as an unspecified number of FH-70 howitzers to Ukraine as part of its military support to Ukraine's defence against the Russian invasion of 202

So maybe Estonia is donating equipment that would soon be retired from service or placed in reserve.

Those FH-70 155 mm howitzers are presumably to be replaced in Estonian service with "self-propelled artillery vehicles".

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Bit of a frame shift, since we already know the Estonian particulars - this gear is older gear (towed 155s) Estonia's doctrine is de-emphasizing and replacing (with self-propelled 155s).

So, let's talk about Denmark, which is donating all of their 19 Caesar 155mm towed artillery, new and yet to be delivered equipment.

How can a NATO nation "donate all of its XYZs"?

First, let's consider the size of the nation in question.

A nation like Denmark, or Estonia, will be fighting within the NATO structure for any critical national emergency. By itself, it really can't do all that much against a large size adversary. Unlike say Greece, Denmark/Estonia also doesn't have to worry about a near-peer traditional adversary (Turkey) that NATO might sit out.

That means that their, temporary, capability gap can and will be plugged by other NATO members.

Germany donating all its artillery? Not so much.

Related, what's their EQ (Expeditionary Quotient)?

It is hard to envision Denmark or Estonia, with no ex-colonial ties sending their troops abroad on their own or within a small coalition (yes, yes, I know, Afghanistan). This would also be true of Germany. Contrast that with France, with its missions in the Sahel. Or the UK in Lybia. So that weapon class will not be needed by Danes or Estonians abroad.

What kind of weapons are involved?

Being heavy weapons, the Danish 155s are in a discrete spot in the Danish Army in 2020. The 1st Artillery Battalion (400-500 men sized unit), Danish Artillery Regiment, to be precise, within one of its brigades (4000 men sized unit). All of its gear. They are not an organic part of more numerous units. In other words, it's not like Danish infantry throughout the army is suddenly going to say "why did we donate all of our squad heavy machine guns?". Again, NATO trains constantly to integrate multinational units within the brigade level (which is all that up to now was going up in the Baltics).

The one drawback with the Danish donation seems to me that this now an artillery unit without even any guns to train with. This kinda sucks with artillery, it would definitely render an air force impotent for decades if all its fighter pilots ceased to have planes for 5 years.

Budget weight, ease of replacement, political will to replace.

Caesars are $8-10M so 19 of them aren't huge in Denmark's $4.9 military budget. They are still being built. And a big part of military procurement is deciding what to buy, which is typically a multi-year process. IF they re-buy Caesars, that easy enough to do. And since they donated all of them, they can be replaced with an equally coherent set of Caesars. Or another gun type.

In contrast, Challenger 2s aren't being built anymore (I think). Donating 14 out of 200+, UK will either do without or will have to buy 14 different MBTs to fill the gap.

Canada was more in the Denmark end of things with its park of 37 777s. They could have been replaced en bloc. And Canada could have been more generous.

But they donated only 4. An opportunity missed. Being Canadian, this is one reason I wrote this answer.

I assume Danish people will be fine with repurchases, but I am willing to bet the Estonian public won't be too critical on re-purchasing replacements.

Will they be needed in the short/medium term?

Last, but not least, NATO is largely oriented towards Russia, in Europe. Nuclear worries aside, Russia is currently about as unthreatening as it has ever been right on the Baltics/Danish end of things.

Not because Russia is a peaceful country, no. But because it has committed most of its best combat troops to the "special military operation" in Ukraine. They've suffered tremendous losses in men and equipment.

Even if Russians can't/don't see the benefit in voting out, or deposing, their warmongering government, the Russia bear will be licking its wounds for years to come, especially as a lot of the gear they have, and lost, is Soviet-vintage and their ability to build new stuff at scale is questionable. It will be a loooong time before they consider taking on NATO conventionally. Plenty of time to replenish those stocks.

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