by I B Greeff
During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) the Boers employed 155 mm Creusot guns which were nicknamed Long Toms. Seventy-five years later the need for a modern version of the Long Tom arose.
In 1975 the South African Defence Force found that its own artillery was being out-ranged by Soviet artillery used by the Angolan forces. The South African Defence Force (SADF) was in need of a new artillery system which would not only match the Soviet artillery used in Angola against them, but would also be superior in range and highly accurate. The SADF required a system that could deliver constant fire and could be moved quickly before the opposition could locate it. As close fire support had to be delivered, accuracy was vital.
A 155 mm howitzer was chosen as the gun that would fulfil the requirements of the SADF. One reason for this was that 155 mm is the accepted NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) standard for artillery. The 155 mm projectile is also more manageable for the gun crew unlike the 175 mm and 203 mm projectiles which are too heavy. It was also the next logical step from the 140 mm (5.5 inch) gun used by the SADF.(1)
Development of the G5
Fulltime development began on a gun in 1977 after several feasibility studies had been undertaken. Some existing designs were examined and a few designs were obtained. The artillery pieces examined were designated G4. From this examination the GC 45 was chosen for future development. One of these artillery pieces based on the SRC GC 45 was mounted on an American 155 mm M114 carriage with the designation G3. From a series of seven development models which included the G3, the G5 was developed. The G1 is the 93-pounder field gun of British origin and the G2 is the 5.3 inch medium gun.(2)
Certain problems were encountered before development on the G5 could begin. The South African armaments industry was not geared for the working methods required for the production of the G5. Therefore the correct forging methods first had to be developed in South Africa so that a forging plant for the G3 could be established. An infrastructure had to be created to manage production of the G5.(3)
In South Africa's search for suitable technology contact was established with a Canadian company called SRC-Q (Space Research Corporation of Quebec). The company had been working on the designs of new howitzers and ammunition with a view to significantly increasing the range of the artillery. Studies were made on long and very long barrels and on high slenderness ratio projectiles known as ERFB (Extended Full Range Bore). The combination of the long barrels and the ERFB projectiles produced a maximum range in excess of 30 000 m compared to the 20 000 m maximum range of the existing howitzers, unless rocket-assisted ammunition was used.(4)
South Africa could not make use of the existing 155 mm artillery systems as they did not meet certain requirements, such as firing over very long distances. It was therefore decided to convert the existing world standard of 155 mm with 39 calibers to a 155 mm gun of 45 calibers.(5)
ARMSCOR then obtained a minority share holding (approximately 25%) in SRC-Q and the two companies initiated a project to develop an artillery system for South African needs. SRC International, the marketing company of SRC-Q had 55% of its shares controlled by the Belgian ammunition firm PRB, from which SRC obtained the 'base bleed' ammunition technology originally developed in Sweden by Wallemberg. The use of the base bleed principle on ERFB projectiles increased the range of the shell to hitherto unheard of distances.
In 1979, SRC-Q manufactured two guns and trials were done on them in Canada and on the island of Antigua. After the trials these two guns were brought to South Africa to serve as production models. Through ARMSCOR's involvement in SRC International, it was able to gain access to base bleed technology.(6) The process of obtaining the necessary technical knowledge to produce the G5 and its ammunition had to be done surreptitiously due to the international arms embargo against South Africa. The embargo began in 1963 on a voluntary basis and was officially implemented by the United Nations in 1977.(7)
As a result of the arms embargo against South Africa, existing artillery systems were unobtainable and therefore South Africa had to manufacture her own artillery system. Furthermore, the other existing artillery systems did not meet the requirements set by the SADF; their range was too short and they had a lack of mobility. This forced ARMSCOR into the fifth phase of artillery development in South Africa.
During the first phase ARMSCOR had bought existing artillery systems, during the second phase artillery systems had been put together locally, during the third phase artillery systems had been made in South Africa under license and during the fourth phase artillery development had begun in South Africa with the development of the G3. The fifth phase of development was the production phase.(8)
The G5 and its crew in the African bush
Development began in 1977 on the first prototype nicknamed Susie, which was the Experimental Development Model. This gun underwent firing tests at Schmitsdrif in November 1977 and from the input obtained, three Advanced Development Models were built during 1978. After these three were tested one further Advanced Development Model was built and tested during 1979 and 1980. This led to the development of four Pre-Production Models which were built during 1981 and 1982 and tested by the SADF. Series production of the G5 began in 1982 and this gun was known as the Mk 1. The Mk 2 was built in 1985. The main differences between the Mk 1 and the Mk 2 were that the position of the driver was moved forward and the drive as well as the gear box were optimized.(10)
Problems arose owing to the fact that the G5 was ARMSCOR's first own development of such an artillery system. The necessary skill, knowledge and technical personnel were not at hand. A further complication was that it would be the first time that the type of ballistic system designed for the G5 would be used. As with any technical development, mechanical failures did arise. The original muzzle brake did not function properly and had to be changed. The hydraulic drive of the auxiliary power unit had a tendency to overheat as the engine was in an enclosed compartment. The location of the exhaust system and the air flow through the engine was altered to alleviate this problem. At first, structural problems were encountered regarding the body and the trails. Due to the terrific recoil, the trails had a tendency to form cracks. Structural changes were immediately introduced which remedied this tendency. New, easy-to-weld steel, developed and tested by ISCOR (Iron and Steel Corporation) was also incorporated. Metallurgical difficulties of withstanding the tolerances were overcome as the material of which the G5 is made had to handle a tremendous amount of stress when the gun was fired. This was especially the case with a base bleed round with a full charge (propelling explosive). The forces generated are far greater than those experienced by normal artillery. The fact that this has been overcome is regarded by ARMSCOR as a triumph in itself.(11)
The G5 Artillery System
The 155 mm G5 is produced by Lyttelton Engineering Works near Pretoria. High grade steel billets are used which are manufactured at the Union Steel Corporation mill in Vereeniging. The monobloc (a loose barrel fitted inside a full length jacket which provides additional strength) autofrettaged (forging of steel to withstand firing stresses) barrel consists of a single-baffle muzzle brake and a breech mechanism hinged block that swings over to close breech) similar to the American 155 mm M109. The G5 has a 45 calibre (6.975 m) barrel which has been designed for the ERFB round. Behind the breech is a pneumatic piston-type ramming mechanism which positions the shell uniformly at whatever elevation and the charges are loaded by hand.(12) This obviates the necessity for lowering the barrel between shots to ram the shell.
The barrel is rifled at a pitch of 1 in 20 calibers (3 100mm), which is a 8deg 55min, pitch, and it has 48 grooves. The hinged breech has interrupted screw thread with a cam-operated, semi-automatic action. After a shell has been fired and the barrel assembly has returned to its normal position, the breech opens automatically. The rammingand loading system consists of a loading tray that swings aside and is affixed to the rear cradle of the recoil system, and moves in elevation with the gun. The pneumatic ramming device mechanism obtains its power by means of an air bottle carried on the right trail leg. For the elevating system, two pneumatic equilibrators (which hold up the muzzle-heavy gun) are positioned on each side of the barrel.(13)
When the G5 is to be fired, the carriage is lifted by means of a hydraulic firing platform with a wishbone and piston arrangement. This cannot be fouled by debris and can be raised when the gun is moved cross-country. The auxiliary power unit provides the power for the firing platform hydraulics. An air-cooled 57 kW diesel engine based upon a Magirus-Deutz design is the basis for the auxiliary power unit. This power unit supplies hydraulic power which is used to raise and lower the trail wheels, to open and close the trail, and to raise and lower the firing platform. The seat for the operator or driver is mounted at the front of the gun.(14) No spare tyres are carried on the G5 itself as the tyres are of a standard size as are those on the gun tractor. The tyres on the trail wheels are the standard size of any small vehicle. Therefore if a puncture occurs, a spare tyre is easily obtain able.(15)
The split trail carriage has a walking-beam suspension (the carriage has four wheels and the axle tree acts as a fulcrum on which the gun can pivot) and with its large wheels the carriage obtains high towing speeds on and off the road. The trail can be spread apart to 84deg, trail wheels are fitted which also eases the spreading of the trails, the spades are self-digging and have four pre-set positions. An electronic gun display unit can be added to the gun and this is linked to the fire-control computer. The optical-mechanical sight is fixed onto the trunnion (the barrel and cradle are pivoted centrally at the point of balance at the trunnions) and is compensated for trunnion cant.(16) Trunnion cant occurs when the trunnions are not aligned horizontally and therefore the barrel will be misaligned at the target.
When being towed by the gun tractor, the barrel of the G5 is held by means of a barrel clamp which is mounted on the trails. A crew of five is used to bring the gun into action, although two men can do it. The gun layer's position is to the left of the breech and he uses an upgraded metricated No 9 dial sight as well as a direct-fire telescope which can be used up to 5 000 m.(17) A fire unit of up to eight G5s can be handled by the AS80 Artillery Fire Control System. This system can handle four engagements simultaneously. For each engagement, four separate phases are provided for; the initial orders, the definition of the target, adjustment of fire, fire for effect where gun data is calculated for each gun, and end mission. The system offers alternatives to the crew whilst in action and the dialogue conforms with normal fire control procedures.(18)
The fire control system includes gun display units which display the firing data at the gun. Between the fire control centre and the gun, communication is done by means of radio or land line. The fire control system also includes an EMVA Mk 108 Muzzle Velocity analyzer which measures muzzle velocities. Furthermore there is the S700 Meteorological Ground Station. This unit which is transported on a trailer, tracks, receives and processes radiosonde data from the launching of the shell until its flight has ended. This data is turned into meteorological information which is supplied to artillery units. A meteorological balloon is also used which is filled by a mobile generator.(19)
A gun tractor based on a SAMIL 100 (6 x 6) chassis is used to tow the G5. The gun tractor accommodates the crew of eight, although only five serve the gun when in action. Fifteen projectile pallets, each weighing 189 kg, are carried by the gun tractor and a hydraulic crane situated at the rear of the vehicle is used to lift these.(20)
The G5 proved itself in action when it was deployed in Angola. Military successes during November 1987 by Jonas Savimbi's UNITA forces against the Soviet-supported FAPLA forces were aided by the employment of the G5 which was used at critical stages in the conflict.(22)
Iraq obtained 100 G5s in 1985. With the Iranian breakthrough in the Fao Peninsula during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Iraqi artillery units fired an average of 750 rounds per gun per day. This led to a shortage in shells which was alleviated by shells which were obtained from South Africa. The G5 has been aimed primarily at export, with interest received not only from Iraq, but also other countries, such as Somalia and Thailand.(23)
The G5 is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, 155 mm artillery systems in the world and was for some time the forerunner of its kind especially in regard to accuracy and ergonomics (the science of adapting things to fit the human body) (24)
The 155 mm Ammunition
The ammunition of the G5 is of the ERFB type. Several different types are manufactured by ARMSCOR for the
(1) High Explosive (HE) : This projectile is effective against targets such as soft skin military vehicles and personnel, whether standing or lying down.
(2) HE Base Bleed : This projectile has the same effect as the HE shell but its range is increased by 30%.
(3) White Phosphorous : This is an HE shell adapted for white phosphorous and is used to throw a smoke screen or for gun ranging.
(4) Illuminating : This projectile has a burning time of 90 seconds.
(5) Base Ejection Smoke : This projectile is used as a smoke screen or for spotting and signalling. The smoke colours are white, red and blue.(25)
(6) Red Phosphorous : This projectile has two functions. Firstly it has an incendiary function and secondly it is used to throw a smoke screen.
(7) Propaganda : This projectile is used to distribute propaganda leaflets(26)
When ARMSCOR obtained the basic design for the G5, it also bought the design for the ammunition, as it was all part of the same package. The ammunition was obtained in the initial design stage. NASCHEM produces the projectile, in conjunction with private suppliers, and fills the projectiles with the local explosives at their disposal. During 1979 prototypes of the 155 mm ammunition were made and series production began in 1980. Initially, the basic ammunition design was only extended range and sabots were used with it. (A sabot is a lightweight carrier in which a sub-calibre projectile is centred to permit firing the projectile in the larger calibre weapon. The carrier fills the bore of the weapon from which the projectile is fired. It is normally discarded a short distance from the muzzle). The projectile was then upgraded to 155 mm and therefore became extended range full bore (ERFB). It was this ERFB design which ARMSCOR obtained through SRC-Q.(27)
The base bleed concept functions as follows: When the firing pin hits the primary cartridge this in turn ignites the propelling charge which ignites the igniter of the base bleed. As soon as the projectile leaves the barrel, the pressure is lowered and the igniter ignites the propellant in the base bleed motor. This causes gas to be ejected to the rear which cancels the vacuum behind the projectile, thereby eliminating the drag behind the projectile which then covers a longer distance.(28)
Three basic fuses are used with the 155 mm ammunition:
(a) A direct action and delay fuse. This allows the projectile to penetrate before it explodes.
(b) A proximity fuse. This causes the projectile to explode 5 - 10 m above the ground.
(c) A time fuse. This is used with the carrier shell.
Two basic types of shells are used with the 155 mm ammunition.
(a) The carrier shell which discards the base part of the projectile after travelling a certain period of time, eg for the use of smoke and propaganda leaflets.
(b) The high explosive shell, which uses the first two fuses mentioned above.(29)
Development of the G6
The G5 fulfilled most of South Africa's artillery requirements but, towed behind the SAMIL 100, it did not have the cross-country ability of the Ratel, the SA Army's infantry combat vehicle. With the G5, the projectile could be fired over a long distance and with great accuracy, but in the type of bush war fought by South Africa in Angola, mobility was essential. Therefore the need arose for a self-propelled version of the G5.
A choice had to be made as to whether wheels or tracks would be used. Wheels were opted for, due to strategic implications for the following reasons: Wheels were preferable for the long distances which were encountered by the SADF between bases, during operations and when travelling from South Africa to South West Africa. These distances had to be covered in the shortest possible time and a tracked vehicle would require tank transporters while a wheeled vehicle could simply fall in with a convoy. Wheels required less maintenance than did tracks and maintenance was less complicated. Wheeled vehicles also used less fuel, a most important factor when it was considered that operational distances could be 1 000 km.(30)
The SADF needed to provide fire support for its mechanised infantry units during raids which were carried out over long distances. This vehicle had to be able to keep up with the Ratel and Eland (armoured car) over long distances. The emphasis was therefore placed on the strategic side rather than on critical mobility. The ability to move at high speed over untarred roads and open, flat countryside without special transport equipment was therefore imperative.
The question of tactical mobility was also important due to the thick Angolan bush. The G5, towed behind the Samil 100, formed a long train which increased the difficulty in circumnavigating dense bush. This problem would be solved by a wheeled self-propelled howitzer which would be more mobile in bush and on sand. Furthermore, an armoured hull would provide protection for the crew. The only wheeled self-propelled gun/howitzer developed before the G6 was the Czechoslovakian DANA 152 mm self-propelled gun based on a Tatra 8x8 KOLOSS truck chassis.(31)
Besides the DANA, which cannot really compare with the G6, the G6 is unique. All other self-propelled howitzers are tracked vehicles which are built around the chassis of a tank. Space inside a tank is very limited and the G6 does not have this limitation. The fighting compartment is large owing to the fact that the vehicle was built from scratch and not adapted to an existing tank chassis.(32)
The idea for a self-propelled howitzer by South Africa and other interested parties originated during 1978. During that same year the first users determination of requirements was established and a mandate was obtained in 1979 for local development. During 1983 a users determination of requirements for a self-propelled artillery system was obtained from the SADF. During 1985 a project study report was approved as well as orders for continued development and industrialisation. The SADF approved the plans in 1986 and in 1987 the G6 was operationally employed for the first time. Fulltime production began in 1988 and during 1989 the production G6s were delivered to the SADF. During the development phase the following prototypes were built: two Experimental Development Models (of which No 2 is displayed at the South African National Museum of Military History), two Advanced Development Models and four Engineering Development Models. These eight models were given to the SADF for testing and the input received from the SADF was used to bring about improvements.(33)
Certain problem areas were encountered during the development of the G6. Time scales for development were very tight, there was a shortage of funds and development phases had to be done in parallel due to the time factor. Furthermore the G6 was, except for the G5, the first complete artillery weapon system made in South Africa, that required so much logistics, had so many component parts and was so large in size From the development phase through to the production phase, members attached to the project had to teach themselves what to do as there was no existing technology to learn from. One of the reasons for its success was the close co-operation and contact between ARMSCOR and the SADF.(34)
The G6 Artillery System
The first G6 prototype was completed during 1981 and the first advanced development vehicle was completed in 1984. As with the G5, the G6 is a complete system. The same ammunition is used as in the G5 as are the S 700 meteorological station, EMVA Mk lOB muzzle velocity analyzer, AS 80 fire control system and a helmet radio for communications. The G6 is used in batteries of eight with each artillery regiment having three batteries. Batteries can be split into two troops, each consisting of four G6s.(35)
The G6 is a self-propelled gun/howitzer which is mounted on a 6x6 chassis. The G6 is currently the largest wheeled artillery gun in existence. To distribute the weight of the vehicle evenly and to ensure a low ground weight, which allows easy mobility over sand, large 21x25 tyres are used which are fitted with run-flat inserts. The tyre pressure in the tyres can be controlled by means of a centralised pressure control system. This means that the driver can control the pressure of the tyres from inside the vehicle. The 155 mm gun is identical to the one on the G5 except that it has a fume extractor.(36)
The fighting compartment is situated at the rear of the vehicle, two axles are situated at the rear and one is at the front. The driver is separated from the rest of the crew and is seated in front of the engine which is a 386 kW air-cooled diesel power unit. The G6 has a crew of six members and during action two of these crew members are on the outside of the vehicle handling the ammunition.(37)
As there is no armour above the front wheels should the vehicle hit a mine, the blast is dissipated upwards and away from the driver. Bullet-proof windows are situated in front of and on each side of the driver providing good visibility through 180°. The front window can be covered by an armoured shutter by means of a lever. The driver then observes through a periscope. A roof hatch is situated above the driver and opens to the left. The dashboard is fitted with comprehensive instruments which are easy-to-read when negotiating rough terrain. Critical vehicle characteristics are monitored continuously (such as low oil pressure or fuel status). In the event of any problems the driver is warned by means of visual and audible alarms before any damage occurs.(38)
The G6 has power operated steering, and a permanent 6x6 drive. A fully-automatic or semi-automatic drive can be selected which provides six forward gears. In front of the driver's compartment is a wedge-shaped box that holds sixteen projectiles and acts as a bush fender. The engine compartment has air-inlet louvres, on top, in front of the engine. The engine compartment contains a fire detection and suppression system. The commander, gun layer, loader and ammunition handler are seated in the crew compartment. On prototypes, such as the example at the Museum, the crew entered the turret from the rear of the vehicle. Production vehicles are entered at the rear right-hand side of the turret or through the two roof hatches. An escape hatch is fitted into the floor.(39)
The commander has braking controls from inside the turret, should the driver become disabled. Emphasis has been placed on crew protection. The hull and turret is made of armoured steel and the shape and armour at the bottom of the vehicle can withstand the detonation of two mines. The turret is fitted with firing ports so that the crew can use their individual weapons for close defence, a unique feature when compared to tracked self-propelled artillery systems. Up to forty-seven projectiles are carried in the G6. Before firing, four outriggers are lowered hydraulically. To prepare the G6 to fire takes only about 60 seconds, and only 30 seconds are required to raise the outriggers and disengage from action.(40)
On either side of the turret there are four electrically-operated 81 mm smoke-grenade launchers. The gun layer is seated to the left of the breech and has the use of a direct and indirect sighting system. The commander is seated to the right below the cupola which provides all-round vision. A machine gun is situated at the left cupola. An auxiliary power unit is situated to the rear of the turret which charges batteries and powers the air conditioning. This system could be developed into a complete BC (biological, chemical) system if the need arose. The barrel points forward when travelling and held in a lock which can be unclasped without anyone having to leave the vehicle.(41)
The turret can be traversed through 80° (40° to the left and 40° to the right). The turret is traversed by means of electro-hydraulics and manual controls can be used in an emergency. The rate of fire is 3 rounds per minute for 15 minutes. A thermal warning system alerts the crew of high barrel temperatures. A semi-automatic hydraulic flick rammer is situated to the left of the breech and the projectile is placed on the rammer tray by hand. This is aligned with the breech and rammed. The rammer is used at any elevation angle and the propelling charges are loaded into the breech by hand.(42)
The G6's projectiles and charges are fed from the rear into the fighting compartment by means of conveyerbelts. During action the G6 will use the ammunition from its support vehicle, therefore retaining its basic ammunition load.(43)
Like the G5, the G6 was used in combat during the conflict in Angola. The G5 obtained by Iraq was used during the Iran-Iraq War.(45) Both the G5 and the G6 were used in Angola in conjunction with South African Air Force strike aircraft. The G5 and the G6 have been used primarily in battlefield interdiction roles and have been very accurate due to coinputerised firing calculations. Artillery observers were deployed on the front line and targets which presented themselves were exploited immediately. When the Cubans wanted to launch an air strike from the Angolan airfield at Cuito Cuanavale, artillery observers on one occasion called for G6 fire support and destroyed four Russian MiG 21 jet fighters as they taxied for take off.(46)
The G5 shelled the runways and associated infrastructure of the airfield at Cuito Cuanavale over a long period of time and this prevented the enemy fighters from taking off to participate against South African forces. The G5 played a primary role in destroying the enemy, including aircraft and tanks. The fact remains that the G5 played a critical role during this campaign and without it the war in Angola would have run a different course. The G5 proved to be the backbone of the South African forces during the conflict. The G5 was a great psychological booster for the members of the SADF operating on the ground. The role that the G5 fulfilled should therefore not be underestimated under any circumstances.(47) Before being operationally employed the G6 was evaluated, amongst others, during Exercise Zenula in May 1986 at Omuthiya, the base camp of 61 Mechanised Battalion. The G5 was used operationally for the first time by the SADF on 9 August 1986 during Operation Alpha Centauri. This operation lasted until 16 August 1986. One battery of G5s (a battery consists of eight guns) was employed in conjunction with one battery of multiple rocket launchers (MRL). The operation was an artillery attack against Cuban and FAPLA formations concentrating in Cuito Cuanavale for their 1986 offensive against UNITA. The 25th Cuban-FAPLA Brigade was situated east of Cuito Cuanavale near Tumpo. The 13th Brigade was situated in Cuito Cuanavale and the 8th Brigade operated between Menongue and Cuito Cuanavale, the former being a large logistics depot. Convoys regularly travelled from Menongue to supply Cuito Cuanavale.(48)
The G5 assault began at last light, about 18:00. By 23:00 the back of the opposition was broken. Heavy fire was brought down upon the enemy in the first five hours resulting in large scale destruction. This destroyed the 1986 Cuban and FAPLA offensive against UNITA and showed the tremendous destructive force that lay within one battery of G5s. Owing to the long range and the accuracy with which the G5 could fire and the effect of the ammunition, authority was forced upon the enemy.
As a result of the daylight activities of the MiG jet fighters employed by the enemy, artillery fire missions could only be executed at night. As it was the first time that the G5 was used operationally there was great cause for concern that the MiGs would spot the G5s. The MiGs were continuously in the air trying to locate the G5s and bombed the surrounding area at random in the hope of hitting the artillery.(49)
This operation proved to the SADF that survival was possible despite an unfavourable air situation. As a result of the enemy's air superiority, great attention was given to passive defensive measures such as camouflage, track discipline and the concealment of movement. Special techniques of concealment were practised beforehand which prevented the enemy from observing the artillery. Before the operation was undertaken these techniques of concealment were also tested under conditions similar to those that the artillery would experience during the operation. Another factor in favour of the artillery was the unprofessional manner in which the enemy employed its air force. The MiG fighters flew at a very high altitudes, making observation very difficult for the pilots. The apparent reason for this was to avoid being shot down by UNITA's Stinger missiles. In addition, the many bush fires in the area, owing to the dryness of the season, created a lot of dust and smoke in the air. During this operation approximately 2 500 MRL projectiles and approximately 4 500 G5 projectiles were used.(50)
During 1987 Cuban and FAPLA forces were concentrated in the east of Angola known to them as 5th Military District. Operations launched by them were aimed at destroying UNJTA, including their main base at Jamba. As a counter-measure, the SADF undertook Operation Modular in aid of UNITA which lasted from 1 July to 15 December 1987. This was followed up by Operation Hooper and culminated in Operation Packer which ended in March 1988. During this period two G5 batteries were employed, playing a prominent role in destroying enemy forces. During these operations it was found that the HE projectiles of the G5 could be used to great effect against the T-55 tanks employed by the opposing force. Between 20 and 30 tanks were in this way put out of action by the G5s. It was also found that when an HE projectile hit the ground and detonated 15 in from a tank, chances were good that the tank concerned would be disabled. The enemy had no tactical equipment that could withstand the 155 mm shell of the G5. After Operation Packer, a further operation took place in south eastern Angola. This was Operation Displace during which the G5 was also used.(51)
The artillery found that the G5 was flexible owing to its long range and the convenient top traverse of the barrel for the arc of fire. When the top traverse was impeded by trees, the gun crews would use, amongst others, chain saws and explosives to remove the trees, but this was not done to the detriment of camouflage. It was also found that the G5 gave tactical advantage owing to its mobility. During the above-mentioned operations, the MiGs again took to speculative bombing of the area in the hope of flushing out the G5s. As in 1986 the G5s were regarded as the prime target. One of the factors causing the MiGs to be unsuccessful was the discipline shown by the SA troops in adhering to passive defensive measures. As a result of the prolonged duration of these operations, gun unservicibility started becoming more of a problem. This resulted in greater logistical problems for the SADF as even large components such as barrels had to be replaced in the field. Special hoisting apparatus and tools were needed to replace the barrels but in spite of this no great problems were experienced in changing the barrels in the field. This experience proved that the G5 was technically maintainable in the field.(52)
Under the prevailing, difficult cross-country conditions the auxiliary power unit proved to be of tremendous assistance to the gun tractor. The gun tractor and the G5 formed a long train in the bush and the trees and thick undergrowth stripped certain equipment off the G5 when it turned. The bush-breaking also caused some damage to the gun tractor as well as to the G5 and certain modifications were therefore made, eg the battery box which was situated on the outside of the trails is now situated on the inside of the trails.(53) Some of these modifications were not introduced on G5s which were destined for the international market owing to the difference in terrain.(54) The last operational deployment of the G5 in Angola was during Operation Prone near Tchipa, during June 1988.(55)
The G6 made its operational debut in December 1987 during Operation Modular. The mobility of the G6 in dense bush proved to be highly successful. The greatest cause for concern was whether the tyres would stand up to the rugged conditions, especially while breaking the bush. Fortunately there was no cause for concern as the tyres gave very few problems. They proved to be very robust and survived very well during Operation Modular and were found to be more robust than those of most other operational vehicles.(56)
In terms of mobility, range and accuracy the G6 is still in the forefront of technology. Other systems have been built which claim higher rates of fire than the G6 due to automatic loading mechanisms, but these are troubled by mechanical stoppages and are unreliable. The G5 and the G6 have shown that ARMSCOR, and therefore South Africa, is a credible provider of weapons which uses the latest technology to produce weapons which are on the forefront of the world market. Furthermore they have helped to neutralize the arms embargo against South Africa. At weapons exhibitions, the G5 and the G6 have reflected the image that ARMSCOR is a manufacturer of high technology weapons. The G5 and the G6 have pushed South Africa ahead in terms of defence and many enquiries have been made about them as sought-after products. Through exports a valuable contribution is made to earn foreign currency for South Africa. The manufacturing of the G5 and the G6 also creates large scale employment owing to the fact that many private companies in South Africa are contracted out to manufacture component parts for these weapons.(57)
From a cultural and historical viewpoint it is regarded that the G5 and the G6 helped South Africa halt the tide of what it regarded as the communist onslaught against it. In retrospect it can be said that the G5 and the G6 helped South Africa hold out long enough during the conflict in Angola until the collapse of the Communist ideology.(58)
1. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990.
2. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), pp 524, 653.
3. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 14 May 1990.
4. F Bosignore, 'G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, p 10.
5. Interview Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990.
6. E Bosignore, G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, pp 10, 11.
7. J P Mc Williams, ARMSCOR: South Africa's Arms Merchant (London, 1985), p3.
8. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 14 May 1990.
9. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), p 163.
10. Interview Personnel of ARMSCOR, 3 August 1990.
12. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), pp 653, 654.
13. E Bosignore, 'G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, pp 11, 12.
14. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1 98 7-88 (London, undated), p 654.
15. Interview: Personnel of ARMSCOR, 3 August 1990.
16. H-R Heitman, South African Arms and Armour (Cape Town, 1988), p 80.
17. C F Foss (ed). Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), p 654.
18. N C Dodd. 'South African Artillery Re-equipped' in The Journal of the Royal Artillery, 1983, vol CX, no 2, p 127.
19. Ibid, pp 128, 129.
20. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), p 655.
21. Combat Proven Reliability Weapons: G5 Towed Gun Howitzer, ARMSCOR pamphlet; E Bosignore, 'G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, p 14.
22. J P McWilliams, ARMSCOR South Africa's Arms Merchant (London, 1989), pp 72, 73.
23. R Matthews, 'The Armscor Paradox' in The Rusi Journal, 1989, vol 134, no 4, p 44.
24. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990.
25. W A Darning & A C Lillie, New Artillery Systems in the Eighties (Ultima Ratio Regum, Pretoria, 1987), p 399.
26. Combat Proven Reliability Weapons: G6 155mm Self-propelled Gun Howitzer, ARMSCOR pamphlet.
27. Interview: Personnel of NASCHEM, l0 July 1990.
30. G Derant & M Bell, 'Rhino: South Africa's G6 Self Propelled Gun' in Military Modelling, 1989, vol 19, no 7, p 439; Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990.
31. E Bosignore, 'G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, p 16.
32. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990.
35. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), pp 524, 525.
36. E Bosignore, 'G-S and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, pp 16, 17.
37. G Derant & M Bell, 'Rhino: South Africa's G6 Self Propelled Gun' in Military Modelling, 1989, vol 19, no 7, p 441.
38. C F Foss (ed), Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), p525.
39. Ibid, p 525.
40. E Bosignore, 'G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, p 17.
41. C F Foss (ed) Jane's Armour and Artillery 1987-88 (London, undated), pp 525, 526.
44. Combat Proven Reliability Weapons: G6 155 mm Self-propelled Gun Howitzer, ARMSCOR Pamphlet: E Bosignore, 'G-5 and G-6: South Africa does it (almost) by itself' in Military Technology, 1983, vol 7, no 1, p 17.
45. J P McWilliams, ARMSCOR: South Africa's Arms Merchant (London, 1989), pp 19, 73.
46. J Ethell, 'Close Air Support, South African Style' in Armed Forces Journal International, 1988, September, p 100.
47. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990, 14 May 1990.
48. Interview: Col J A Laubscher, Director of Artillery, SADF, 2 August 1990.
54. Interview: Personnel ARMSCOR, 3 August 1990.
55. Interview: Col J A Laubscher, Director of Artillery, SADF, 2 August 1990.
57. Interview: Personnel of Lyttelton Engineering Works, 3 May 1990.
58. Ibid, 3 Mar 1990. 14 Mar 1990; Interview: Personnel of ARMSCOR, 3 August 1990.
Return to Journal Index OR Society's Home pageSouth African Military History Society / email@example.com