The Rwandan military has acquired ATMOS 2000 155 mm self-propelled howitzers from Israel’s Soltam, which were revealed for the first time during a live fire exercise attended by President Paul Kagame.
Exercise Hard Punch took place on 4 November at the Rwanda Defence Forces Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, Eastern Province and was conducted by the 1st division of the Rwanda Defence Forces.
The main purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how various military capabilities are integrated and synchronised to deliver combined effects by a Rwanda Defence Force infantry division in a combined arms environment, Kagame’s office said. “The exercise is part of RDF ongoing structural transformation aimed at building an increasingly capable and professional force, able to achieve its mandated mission.”
“The military drill also sought to demonstrate the joint planning, synchronisation and coordinated employment of air power, Special Forces and offensive support group capabilities in supporting an infantry division to achieve a combat mission.”
It is not clear how many ATMOS 2000s Rwanda has acquired – only one was seen during the exercise and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has no record of the type being delivered to Rwanda.
Rwanda has, however, in the past received other military equipment from Rwanda, including five Israel Military Industries Lynx 160 mm self-propelled multiple rocket launchers in 2008 and ten Ti-67S main battle tanks in 2012. The Ti-67S Tiran is a modified T-54/55 tank with a 105 mm L7-type gun and Blazer explosive reactive armour.
The ATMOS 2000 is made by Israel’s Soltam Systems (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems). It mounts a 155 mm artillery piece on a 6×6 truck chassis that is armoured to protect against small arms fire and shell fragments. Range varies between 24 and 41 kilometres depending on the ammunition, with the 155 mm/52 calibre barrel. A total of 27 rounds and charges are carried on the truck, which is operated by a four to six man crew. Firing rate is between four and nine rounds per minute. The system is air transportable in a C-130 Hercules as it weighs just over 20 tons.
Although designed as a private venture, the system is in service with the Israeli military and export customers such as Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Thailand and Uganda.
Other equipment seen during Exercise Hard Punch included a Narda STS IDA handheld signals direction finder, an aerial target drone and Mi-17 helicopter. Rwanda several years ago upgraded six of its Mi-17s and bought two new ones.