The AHS Krab is a self-propelled howitzer designed to a NATO-friendly standard for the Polish Army. As an indigenous product, the Krab relies on proven components borrowed from the PT-91 Twardy Main Battle Tank (a highly modified Soviet/Russian T-72) and features a turret based on the British AS-90 Braveheart self-propelled gun series as well as a barrel from French-based Nexter. Design work on the vehicle began in 2000 and has been ongoing since, producing at least three prototypes as of this writing, the first being completed in 2008. The effort is being headed up the Polish concerns of OBRUM (Osrodek Badawczo-Rozwojowy Urzadzen Mechanicznych) and CPWHSW (Centrum Produkcji Wojskowej Huta Stalowa Wola).
While guided and homing missiles tend to receive much play on the modern battlefield, ranged artillery support is still called upon but all armies of the world. The self-propelled gun or self-propelled artillery system has long held a place in war and systems such as the American M109 Paladin, the British AS-90 Braveheart and the German Panzerhaubitze 2000 carry the tradition of long range barrage support to further offensive ground actions at distance. When used collectively, self-propelled guns can provide relatively accuracy fire of large-caliber rounds (High-Explosive, Chemical, Fragmentation or otherwise) against enemy positions to soften resistance or dislodge enemy concentrations. In essence, self-propelled guns are nothing more than self-transporting versions of field artillery systems - the 155mm being the standard caliber of choice for all militaries today. Such systems - either tracked or wheeled in nature - rely in multiple crew, ammunition vehicles and coordinated firepower to showcase their true effectiveness (usually helped by specialized command vehicles fielding extra communications).
Design of the AHS Krab centers around its 155mm main gun barrel which was completed by CPWHSW. The barrels were then installed into AS-90 turrets as supplied by the British concern of BAe Systems. Firing trials were undertaking in 2011. To date, the Polish Army is intending to build up an inventory of seventy-two Krab gun systems divided into three 24-strong squadrons. As can be expected with technologically-heavy programs such as the Krab, development has been costly and rather ponderous but all current details point to the Krab as being a formidable battlefield system when completed.
The AHS Krab exhibits a completely conventional design though no less intimidating compared to her contemporaries. The design is essentially a turret mounting a large caliber main gun with a tracked chassis. There are seven road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the front and the track idler at the rear. The road wheels are lifted from the PT-91 Twardy Main Battle Tank of the Polish Army. The glacis plate is well-formed and sloped to the hull roof line for basic ballistics protection. The sides of the hull are vertical with the hull roof being completely horizontal. The driver is situated in the front left hull with the powerpack to his right while the turret is set to the rear of the hull roof with full 360-degree traverse. The turret showcases well-sloped facings and, along its forward plate, sports the heavy duty gun mount and recoil mechanism to manage the 155mm main gun barrel. The gunnery crew and vehicle commander take their place in the turret which features a flat roof and rounded access hatches. Storage compartments are fitted to the turret sides while "pioneer tools" can be affixed to the hull roof and sides. The upper track sections are lightly protected over in armor skirts. There is a travel lock at the extreme front edge of the glacis plate for containing the main gun during travel. The crew of five consists of the driver, vehicle commander, gunner and two ammunition handlers. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection is standard as is night-vision equipment.
The Krab is to be powered by an S-12U diesel engine of 850 horsepower, the same as on the PT-91 Twardy Main Battle Tank which makes logistical sense and fields a proven powerplant. The engine is aspirated through the hull roof while it exhausts along the right side of the vehicle. Maximum speed is listed at 37 miles per hour with an average road speed of up to 20 miles per hour in ideal conditions. Operational range is estimated to be in the vicinity of 280 miles (450 kilometers) if taking the PT-91 Twardy engine and weight of the AS-90 turret into consideration. Suspension is of the torsion bar variety and allows for good cross-country mobility. Fording is up to 1 meter of water. All told, the Krab weighs in at 115,000lbs and sports a running length of over 38 feet with a width in excess of 11 feet and a height to the turret roof of 12.5 feet.
Primary armament of the Krab is its 155mm /52 caliber, twin-baffle main gun barrel that is designed to fire all manner of NATO-cleared projectiles. A trained gunnery crew can let off some six to ten rounds per minute and "smart" munitions are currently in development that will increase range, effectiveness and accuracy on the modern battlefield. Sustained rates of fire are approximately 18 rounds in three minutes. Range of the 155mm main gun is just under 20 miles while assisted projectiles can reach out to 25 miles which put her on par with her contemporaries. There is to be a 60-round storage capacity for the 155mm ammunition throughout the turret and hull. Self-defense against both infantry and low-flying enemy aircraft will be via a single 12.7mm heavy machine gun, also firing NATO standard ammunition and mounted to the turret roof. There are two banks of four electrically-operated 81mm smoke grenade dischargers to either side of the main gun mount on the turret.