Fact file: G6 L45 self-propelled towed gun-howitzer


The 2010 edition of the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance publication lists the South African Artillery as currently employing two G6 L45 and having an additional 41 in store.

Author Clive Wilsworth in his excellent “First in, First Out, The South African Artillery in Action 1975-1988 (30 Degrees South Publishers, Johannesburg, 2010) notes the G5, properly the GV5 Luiperd (leopard) and self-propelled (SP) GV6 Renoster (rhino)was developed from a need identified in 1968 and formalised in 1973 “when the gunners set the requirements to modernise their equipment in line with the Army’s upgrading programme”. Work began in 1974 under the rubric Project Boas.

At the time, the Artillery employed a towed 88mm quick-firing gun, later renamed the GV1 (Geskut, Veld 1; Gun, Field 1), a SP version of the same weapon, named the Sexton (later the GV7) and a breech-loading towed 140mm howitzer, later the GV2. As a first step, six captured Soviet M46 130mm guns were acquired from Israel (and later returned). Next some 32 M71 155mm towed guns were acquired from Soltam and placed into service as the GV4 (Project Burrow). Six surplus US M2 155mm towed “Long Tom” howitzers were then acquired (Project Sherbet I) from the Canadian Space Research Corporation (SRC), headed by Dr Gerald Bull, as the GV3, along with a new type of extended range full bore (ERFB) ammunition (the M57) and M11 propellent charges (Projects Sherbet II and Ghost).

Wilsworth says the GV5, itself, was conceived in July 1976 (Projects Sherbet III) and later named the Luiperd (Leopard), a nomenclature never used. Neither was the “V” in the designation “GV5”. Input from Iraq, who purchased some 200 of the type, under the designation FF551, led to revisions of the design. Sherbet III also saw South Africa purchase 30 000 shells from the SRC. Project Factor saw the development of proximity fuses, Gallows the development of the M10 charge. Project Action was the development of white phosphorus projectiles by SRC and Naschem, s well as illumination and smoke projectiles by the SRC and Swartklip. Project Cabbage was the acquisition of the SAMIL gun tractors, Project Olim the industrialisation and production of the M10 and M11 charge system at Somchem (including 16 605 charges imported from Canada). Project Gong was the industrialisation and production of the M57 projectile by Naschem (including 55 792 imported from Canada), Bulb the acquisition of test equipment, Décor the development of the M82 percussion tube, Buzzard the development of the SP artillery system (G6) as well as base bleed projectiles and Project PDM572 the production of the PDM572 point detonating fuse. Project Dibula was the development of the AS80 fire control computer by Teklogic (now Thales Defence Systems), Gharra the Kentron Seeker unmanned aerial vehicle and Ignite an artillery laser range finder and night vision for mounting on Ratel forward observation post vehicles. Project Zenula was the development and production of the G6. Wilsworth notes that Armscor engineers at first believed “that a vehicle that potentially weighed 35 tonnes could not be wheeled: there were just not any tyres that can take that weight. Not so, it turned out.”

An experimental developmental model of the chassis was ready in 1980. Trouble was encountered with the rear differentials and turret recoil system. The latter was especially troubling during sustained firing in very hot conditions. “The system would overheat and destroy the oil in the recuperator thus preventing the gun from fully running up (returning to the firing position).” A new recoil system had to be developed to solve the problem and this took engineers until 1991.

All three pre-production models saw action as “Juliet Troop” during Operation Modular, seeing considerable action in November 1987.

One G6-related project that did not come to fruition was Afstof, the quest for an acoustic target acquisition systems and artillery location radar. These would have replaced and improved upon the British Green Archer and Cymbeline mortar locating radars that were always too flimsy to survive the African bush.

Post-war followed Project Klooster, a new target acquisition and fire control system that built on the lessons learnt in Angola and Namibia – “especially the problem of observation and target fixation,” Wilsworth adds. The Artillery Target Engagement System (ATES) that resulted and is only now coming into service includes:

  • the Basic Artillery Observation System (man portable observation post equipment),
  • the Enhanced Artillery Observation System (Ratel mounted sensors for day and night observation etc),
  • the Gun Muzzle velocity analyzer for G5 and 6,
  • the Vulture Unmanned Air Vehicle Observation System,
  • fire control computers,
  • artillery command computers,
  • digital communications for the artillery, and
  • and the S700 meteorological system.


Breech-loading medium self-propelled 155mm gun-howitzer.


Two in service, up to 41 in store.

Associated project names:

Boas, Zenula, Starlight, Buzzard, Muhali (See also the G5)


Denel (turret), OMC (hull).





Wheel base:


Ground clearance:

9m (vehicle), 10,355m (gun forward).









37mt (whole vehicle), 9mt (turret).


6 (driver in hull, gun captain, gunlayer/navigator, breech operator, loader and ammunition handler in turret).


700 litres.

Water for crew:

Protection levels










Proof against 7.62×51 mm AP from 30m. Frontal protection against 14.5mm HMG fire from 1000m at an angle of 30 degrees.

Proof against TM46 or 5.7kg TNT under any wheel. (Note that this is less than the 7kg of TNT (TM57) a Casspir can absorb.

Can be fitted.


Top speed:

Range on single refuelling:


Turning circle:

Ground pressure:

Power/mass ratio:

Can climb a __ vertical step:

Can cross a __ wide trench:

Can ford water __ deep:

Can climb a gradient of __ deg:

Can traverse a side slope of __ deg:











Drive train





Air cooled 518hp diesel.

Automatic, six forward, one reverse gear.

Permanent 6×6.

Fully independent swing arm with torsion bars.

Auxiliary Power Unit:

A 45-hp (34 kW) engine provides power for turret operations, recharging the batteries, and the driver/crew compartment air conditioning system when the main powerplant is shut down.


none. (A SP anti-aircraft gun – SPAAG – was once considered).


Adapted G5 (customisation includes barrel fume extractor to prevent acrid gas from leaking into the fighting compartment when the breech is opened.

Traverse is 80 degrees across the frontal arc and elevation is from -5 to +75 degrees. The onboard gyro-controlled navigation and automatic laying systems enable the gun to be brought into action independently within a minute of stopping and it can move off 30 seconds after firing, thus presenting an elusive target.

The G6 is equipped with an electronically controlled hydraulic flick rammer that provides an initial rate of fire of 3rpm.


1 x MG on turret, 8 x 81mm smoke projectors, 4 x firing ports in turret sides for self-protection.


47 projectiles (16 in vehicle front, 31 in bins in fighting compartment accessed through the rear of the vehicle from outside. Fifty charges and 64 primers and fuses are carried.

Command system:






18 in 19961 (IISS Military Balance lists 242)



The hull is divided into three compartments: a driver’s in front, an engine compartment in the centre and a fighting compartment in the rear.

As with the G5, the SA Army still uses earlier models of the system, making dangerous the reliance on data in brochures advertising later models.

In the 2005/6 period, the charge system and ammunition was updated under Project Muhali.


1As declared to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, 1994-2009.

2International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2010, Routledge, 2010.