Partner 2023 marked the first public appearance of the latest iteration of the Nora wheeled self-propelled howitzers family, the fully new weapon system being exhibited in the Yugoimport exhibition hall
Although maintaining the same number of rounds of the previous Nora-B52 M21, that is 36 ammunition and the same number of charges, The Nora B52 Next Generation has a major difference that brings the new artillery piece to allow a quantum jump in terms of flexibility and mission capacity: while the previous system had only 12 rounds in the autoloader, the 24 extra rounds being carried in stowage, the new one has 30 rounds that can be loaded automatically, only six being held in stowage.
“This increases the number of fire missions, that usually see firing six rounds, from two to five,” a Yugoimport top manager told EDR On-Line. Not only, besides firing all NATO ammunition the new howitzer can use also the NATO Modular Charge System, mono-block charges being also compatible. Charges are loaded in the left belt system in the turret, an arm selecting the right number of charges according to firing data received from the fire control system computer. On the right side we find the ammunition, which thanks to an indexing system are selected according to the mission. Maximum rate of fire is 4 rounds per minute, a manual back-up system being available in case of failure. EDR In-Line understood that the manual system might be preferable for loading special rounds such as guided ones or other which are longer than standard munitions; hence the six add-on rounds would mostly be of those types. EDR On-Line also got that six more rounds might be carried, but this would lead the vehicle combat weight at nearly 41 tonnes six complete rounds weighing close to 500 kg, preferable maximum weight being 40 tonnes.
The gun remains the same already used on the other versions of the Nora, providing a range of 32.5 km with ERFB (Extended Range Full Bore) projectiles, 41.5 km with ERFB BBs (ERFB Base Bleed), and 52 km with VLAPs (Velocity Enhanced Artillery Projectile). The Nora-B52 NG can fire three rounds in MRSI (Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact) mode, up to 30 km.
The new Yugoimport SP howitzer is fitted with an inertial navigation system, with satellite (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo) backup. From the moment the howitzer comes to a halt it needs 60 second to be ready for firing the first round, part of this due to the need to lower the hydraulic jacks that will stabilise the platform. The gun can be traversed ±30° right and left towards the rear, while elevation is comprised between -5° and +65°, all Noras being capable to be used also in direct fire missions should the need arise.
The Nora-B52 NG is installed on a MAN 8×8 truck chassis, which being a commercial product does not generate issues with export licences. The 4-man crew is hosted in the truck cabin, two at the front, driver and commander, and two more at the rear, gunner and loader, the latter entering action only when manual load is required or when the autoloader must be refilled. Reloading the full 30 rounds takes between 15 and 20 minutes, according to company sources, ammunition and charges being loaded through the side doors on each side of the turret. While the crew cabin is protected at Level 3, the level for the loading system is lower, no details being provided, a limited mine protection being also available.
In marching position the Nora-B52 NG is 10.5 metres long , 2.62 metres wide and 3.9 metres high. A manually operated self-defence machine gun is installed over the rear right seat.
The Nora-B52 NG was developed by Yugoimport based on a Serbian Army requirement, the service intending to keep in service its Noras while increasing its artillery assets; it is to note that the compatibility with the MCS can be retrofitted on previous versions. No numbers were provided, but the need for two-three more artillery battalions equipped with the most modern systems available might be realistic, which put numbers between 36 and 52, plus possible extras for schools and spares.
The latest born of the Nora SP howitzers family has not yet undergone the baptism of fire, company sources stating that first firings should take place in a few months. Full qualification will follow, in order to start production in spring 2024.
Graphic courtesy Yugoimport, photos by P. Valpolini