Many modern armies revolve around the tried-and-true doctrine of strong artillery and air support to accompany the spearhead of mechanized vehicles and troops. Most of these forces therefore rely on a large-caliber field weapon to fulfill the artillery portion of the requirement - which involves a massive exploding shell lobbed at range from behind the frontline. Such artillery is useful in damaging key enemy defenses and dislodging concentrations of troops while also posing a threat to armor. As such, the Turkish Army received the 155mm "Panter" ("Panther") towed artillery system in 2002 to replace its elderly stock of American-originated weapons which themselves were modernized as far as possible. The Panter began its design phase in the 1990s (assisted by ST Kinetics of Singapore), headed by the MKEK concern (Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation), to which the piece entered the requisite trials and was formally adopted into service at the turn of the century. To date (2012), 255 systems have been procured with a total of 400 expected to fill the Turkish Army inventory. Pakistan has also ordered some 30 units for its own military. Despite the involvement of ST Kinetics, the Panter is largely considered the first "all-Turkish" towed artillery gun design. The Singapore Army's "FH-2000" gun is of a similar design and fields the same function as the Turkish Panter, the former having been introduced in 1993 and no doubt influencing the Turkish derivative.
The Panter is a complete towed artillery system weighing in at 18,000 kilograms with a running length of 11.6 meters. She is crewed by six personnel required to manage her various functions - from sighting to loading to firing. The weapon is loaded through the breech end of the barrel utilizing a semi-automatic interrupted screw action with an electrically-actuated rammer feature. The weapon is braced by a recoil system fitted at the carriage. The carriage itself is a twin axle split trail design utilizing four rubber-tired road wheels (to per side) while the trail doubles as the tow arms during transport and as recoil-reduction arms when set up to fire. A large double-baffle muzzle brake is added to barrel to further dampen the violent recoil action. A rather unique function of the Panter carriage is its auxiliary power unit (APU) - a DEUTZ air-cooled diesel motor of 160 horsepower - which enables the weapon to traverse terrain under its own central power (not entirely reliant on a mover vehicle), useful in relocating the weapon to another position without need for a dedicated mover vehicle. In this transport mode, the artillery system becomes its own vehicle and can move up to 20 kilometers per hour across ideal surfaces. Beyond its self-propelled nature, the Panter can be transported by a mover vehicle in a traditional fashion.
Like other modern battlefield artillery systems, the Panter is charged with firing a massive 155mm projectile to which it can reach ranges out to 40 kilometers depending on ammunition type being utilized. Furthermore, range can be increased through the use of rocket-assisted munitions. The Panter is cleared to fire all supported NATO projectiles in inventory while the principle shell is High-Explosive (HE) in nature. A trained gunnery crew can fire up to 6 rounds per minute under normal circumstances. The gun barrel can maneuver 20-degrees to the left or right and elevate from -3 degrees to +65 degrees. The Panter does not carry its own ammunition supply, relying instead on an ammunition resupply vehicle stationed near the gun. Ammunition handlers move the large shells into position near the breech.
The dedicated self-propelled artillery components fielded alongside the Panter in the Turkish Army is the T-155 Firtina ("Storm"), this based on the South Korean K9 "Thunder" SPG/SPA.
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