GC-45 howitzer
The GC-45 is a 155 mm howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

 designed by Gerald Bull
Gerald Bull
Gerald Vincent Bull was a Canadian engineer who developed long-range artillery. He moved from project to project in his quest to launch economically a satellite using a huge artillery piece, to which end he designed the Project Babylon "supergun" for the Iraqi government...

's Space Research Corporation
Space Research Corporation
Space Research Corporation was a corporation founded by Gerald Bull, after the budget for his research at Project HARP for the United States and Canadian federal governments was cut in 1967, in order to commercialize the technology of long-range artillery. Project HARP's assets were then given to...

 (SRC) in the 1970s. Versions were produced by a number of companies during the 1980s, notably in Austria and South Africa. The most notable use of the design was in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, where it formed the basis of their artillery units and was cause for considerable worry on the part of the allied forces in the Persian Gulf War.

Design history

The general design follows several decades of work by Bull with fin-stabilized artillery shells, starting at the Canadian Armament Research and Development Establishment
DRDC Valcartier
DRDC Valcartier is a major Canadian military research station at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, Quebec, one of nine centres making up Defence Research and Development Canada ....

(CARDE) and later at Project HARP
Project HARP
Project HARP, short for High Altitude Research Project, was a joint project of the United States Department of Defense and Canada's Department of National Defence created with the goal of studying ballistics of re-entry vehicles at low cost; whereas most such projects used expensive rockets, HARP...

. In these projects accuracy was not a huge concern, the objective was muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity is the speed a projectile has at the moment it leaves the muzzle of the gun. Muzzle velocities range from approximately to in black powder muskets , to more than in modern rifles with high-performance cartridges such as the .220 Swift and .204 Ruger, all the way to for tank guns...

, and the test articles were finned darts representing missiles. Yet with the removal of the rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

 and the soft-metal driving band
Driving band
The driving band or rotating band is part of an artillery shell, a band of soft metal near the middle of the shell, typically made of gilding metal, copper or lead...

 on the shell itself, the shell could be designed purely for ballistics, as opposed to having the external constraint of the driving band. A system combining some sort of rifling for accuracy without a driving band would result in a much longer ranged weapon.

After years of research at his Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 firing range, Bull eventually settled on a solution. The resulting Extended Range, Full Bore (ERFB) ammunition was key to SRC's designs, a "pointy" looking shell with much lower drag
Drag coefficient
In fluid dynamics, the drag coefficient is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment such as air or water. It is used in the drag equation, where a lower drag coefficient indicates the object will have less aerodynamic or...

 at supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 speeds. For longer range applications he added a base bleed
Base bleed
Base bleed is a system used on some artillery shells to increase their range, typically by about 30%.Most of the drag on an artillery shell comes from the nose of the shell, as it pushes the air out of its way at supersonic speeds. Shaping the shell properly can reduce this greatly. However,...

 system that could be screwed onto the standard shell, as well as an even longer-ranged system with a rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...


Now all that was needed was the weapon to fire it. The new ordnance had a 1400 cubic inch chamber, a 45-calibre rifled barrel with 1/20 right hand twist fitted with a conventional muzzlebrake. Its breech was a conventional screw with interrupted thread.

Key performance data, from the Firing Table are:
  • ERFB-BB shell, weight 105.9 lbs, M11 Zone 10 muzzle velocity 897 m/s, QE 898 mils, time of flight 112 secs, range 39600 metres (129,921.3 ft). Probable error
    Probable error
    -Statistics:In statistics, the probable error of a quantity is a value describing the probability distribution of that quantity. It defines the half-range of an interval about a cental point for the distribution, such that half of the values from the distribution will lie within the interval and...

     in range 212 metres (695.5 ft), in line 36 metres (118.1 ft).
  • ERFB shell, weight 100.4 lbs, M11 Zone 10 muzzle velocity 897 m/s, QE 881 mils, time of flight 99 sec, range 29900 metres (98,097.1 ft). Probable error in range 189 metres (620.1 ft), in line 42 metres (137.8 ft).
  • HE M107 shell, weight 95 lbs, M119 Zone 8 muzzle velocity 675 m/s, QE 764 mils, time of flight 65 secs, range 17800 metres (58,399 ft). Probable error in range 59 metres (193.6 ft), in line 12 metres (39.4 ft).

The dispersion of the EFRB shell is more than three times that of the FH-70
The FH-70 is a towed howitzer in use with several nations.-History:In 1963 NATO agreed a NATO Basic Military Requirement 39 for close support artillery, either towed or tracked. Subsequently Germany and UK started discussions and design studies and in 1968 established Agreed Operational...

 field howitzer at its maximum range of only 5 km less, and is twice as great as FH-70's at 20 kilometres (12.4 mi). Its maximum range with the M107 projectile
M107 (projectile)
The M107 155mm projectile is the US Army and US Marine Corps' standard high explosive projectile for howitzers. It is a bursting round with fragmentation and blast effects.The M107 is being superseded in the US military by the M795 projectile....

 is the same as any 30 calibre 155mm gun and its dispersion about the same. Note that dispersion means that 50% of shells with fall up to the stated distance either side of the mean point of impact, but 100% will fall within 4 times the probable error either side. Dispersion of this magnitude significantly reduces the tactical value of the equipment.

Bull's work put him in touch with (what is today) Denel
Denel Ltd is a South African state owned aerospace and defence technology conglomerate established in 1991. It was created when the manufacturing subsidiaries of Armscor were split off in order for Armscor to become the procurement agency for South African Defence Force , now known as the South...

 in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 in 1977. Denel designed a new mobile mounting that was able to handle the increased recoil. It used a sole-plate to lift the carriage to take the four wheels off the ground. The chassis had the option of being powered by a small diesel engine
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

 acting as an APU
Auxiliary power unit
An auxiliary power unit is a device on a vehicle that provides energy for functions other than propulsion. They are commonly found on large aircraft, as well as some large land vehicles.-Function:...

, driving hydraulics
Hydraulics is a topic in applied science and engineering dealing with the mechanical properties of liquids. Fluid mechanics provides the theoretical foundation for hydraulics, which focuses on the engineering uses of fluid properties. In fluid power, hydraulics is used for the generation, control,...

 that could set up the gun in two minutes, and move it short distances. Meanwhile Bull started production of $30 million worth of rounds, shipping them via Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 to avoid the international arms embargo against South Africa
United Nations Security Council Resolution 418
United Nations Security Council Resolution 418, adopted unanimously on 4 November 1977, imposed a mandatory arms embargo against apartheid South Africa. This resolution differed from the earlier Resolution 282, which was only voluntary...


At first the U.S. chose to overlook Bull's actions, and according to him, the CIA actively mediated the deal between Space Research and the South Africans. However, when the Carter administration
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 joined the international efforts to sanction South Africa's apartheid regime, Bull was arrested by US Customs
United States Customs Service
Until March 2003, the United States Customs Service was an agency of the U.S. federal government that collected import tariffs and performed other selected border security duties.Before it was rolled into form part of the U.S...

 agents in 1980. The investigation did not go far, and active work on the case was ended by direct intervention of the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

. Bull pled guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison, serving six months. Having expected some sort of "slap on the wrist", he was embittered and made statements to different newspapers that he would never set foot in North America again. He left Canada and moved to Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 where he continued his work.


Denel continued work on their version of the gun, and these were put into service in South Africa in 1982 as the G5
G5 howitzer
The G5 is a South African towed howitzer of 155 mm calibre designed with the help of the Canadian scientist Gerald Bull and his company, Space Research Corporation and manufactured by Denel Land Systems.-Production history:...

. They started replacing a variety of older guns, such as locally-built World War II-era Ordnance QF 25 pounder
Ordnance QF 25 pounder
The Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was introduced into service just before World War II, during which it served as the major British field gun/howitzer. It was considered by many to be the best field artillery piece of the war, combining high rates of fire with a...

s. The G5's saw service against Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

n and FAPLA forces in the Angolan conflict
Battle of Cuito Cuanavale
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1987/88 was an important episode in the Angolan Civil War . Between 9 September and 7 October 1987, the Angolan Army , in an attempt to finally subdue the Angolan insurgent movement UNITA in south-eastern Angola, was decisively repelled in a series of battles at the...

, where they were used very effectively.

Noricum, the arms division of Voest-Alpine
Voestalpine AG is an international steel company based in Linz, Austria. The company is active in steel, automotive, railway systems, profilform and tool steel industries....

, purchased the design rights to the GC-45 after SRC moved to Europe. They made a number of detail changes to improve mass production, resulting in the GHN-45 (gun, howitzer, Noricum), which was offered in a variety of options like the APU and fire control systems. The first foreign sale was an order for eighteen guns with ammunition to the Royal Thai Navy
Royal Thai Navy
The Royal Thai Navy is the navy of Thailand and part of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, it was established in the late 19th century. Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartiwongse is "The Father of Royal Thai Navy". Similar to the organizational structure of the United States, the Royal Thai Navy includes the...

 for use by their Marine Corps. Other "aboveboard" customers included China, Singapore and Israel. All of these companies worked on local production under a variety of names, the Soltam 845P in Israel, ODE FH-88 from Singapore, and WA 021 in China.

Bull was soon contacted by Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, which was constantly on the wrong end of Iranian artillery during the Iran–Iraq War. Iraq placed a $300 million contract for 110 guns from Noricum in Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and 41,000 rounds subcontracted by SRC to PRB in Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. Deliveries were made in 1984 and 1985, eventually raising the number to 200 guns. Iran and Iraq were under arms embargo at the time, so the guns were shipped to Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, and from there to Iraq. These sales led to the "Noricum affair" in 1990, when eighteen of Noricum's managers were placed on trial for illegal arms sales. A further 100 were manufactured in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...


In Iraq the guns had a similar effect on the ongoing Iran–Iraq War as the G5 had in Angola, stopping any push by the Iranians deeper into Iraq. They became desperate to get more of these guns into the field as soon as possible, and requested that Bull improve deliveries any way he could. Bull then arranged a deal to deliver G5's from South Africa, similar enough to the GHN-45 to avoid problems while also firing the same ammunition. By the time of the Gulf War, about 124 of these weapons had been added to, forming the backbone of their long-range artillery, supplanting their older 130 mm M-46s
130 mm towed field gun M1954 (M-46)
The 130 mm towed field gun M-46 M1954 is a manually loaded, towed 130 mm artillery piece, manufactured in the Soviet Union in the 1950s. It was first observed by the west in 1954...

 and hodge-podge of other weapons. Bull and Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 became partners in a number of future ventures
Project Babylon
Project Babylon was a project commissioned by the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to build a series of superguns. The design was based on research from the 1960s Project HARP led by the Canadian artillery expert Gerald Bull...

. These ventures are generally believed to be the cause of Bull's assassination; with the Israeli group Mossad being prime suspects

During the Gulf War, however, the GHN-45s proved less effective than anticipated by either side. Air strikes had disrupted the Iraqi command and control
Command and Control (military)
Command and control, or C2, in a military organization can be defined as the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commanding officer over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission...

 facilities, and because most of their gun tractors had been withdrawn to serve with logistics units in an attempt to re-supply the front line troops, they were unable to withdraw when under fire. Immobile and unsupported the majority of the guns were destroyed at their positions either by air strikes or Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) counter-battery fire
Counter-battery fire
Counter-battery fire is a type of mission assigned to military artillery forces, which are given the task of locating and firing upon enemy artillery.-Background:...


Bull worked with NORICUM in Austria to produce a new-build version of the GC-45. The first foreign sales were 18 GC-45s with ammunition, which were sold to the Royal Thai Navy for use by their Marine Corps. NORICUM later modified the design for easier mass production as the GHN-45.

The Chinese armed forces also used the NORICUM version, producing it as the Type 89 starting in 1986. They also mounted it on a locally-designed tracked chassis to produce the PLZ-45 (also known as the Type 88), along with an ammo-carrier based on the same chassis. Interestingly the PLZ-45 did not enter service with the PLA due to costs, primarily because their existing artillery was all based on Soviet-standard 152 mm ammunition. However two major batches of PLZ-45's were sold to the Kuwaiti Army in 1997 and 2001.

Subsequent development

Bull continued work on the GC-45, producing a much more practical version known as the FGH-155. In addition to a number of detail changes and deeper rifling, the FGH-155 allowed standard M-107 ammunition to be fired using a plastic adaptor ring. Bull also felt that the FGH-155's carriage was suitable for a larger gun, and worked on the FGH-203, an 8" calibre gun adapted from U.S. standards in a fashion similar to the original GC-45 work. The increase in projectile weight gave the new weapon a range of over 50,000 meters with normal ERFB-BB ammunition, making it one of the longest ranged artillery pieces in the world. The gun was also purchased by the Iraqis, who mounted it in a self-propelled form to create the Al-Fao
Al-Fao is a self-propelled artillery system designed for the Iraqi Army by the late Canadian weapons engineer, Gerald Bull. It is one of the world's most powerful artillery pieces, with a caliber of 210 mm and a range of 56,000 metres...


The Chinese
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 armed forces also used the Norinco version, producing it as the Type 89 starting in 1986. They also mounted it on a locally-designed tracked chassis to produce the PLZ-45 (also known as the Type 88), along with an ammo-carrier based on the same chassis. Interestingly the PLZ-45 did not enter service with the PLA
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

 due to costs, primarily because their existing artillery at the time was all based on Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

-standard 152 mm ammunition. However two major batches of PLZ-45s were sold to the Kuwaiti Army
Military of Kuwait
Under the constitution of Kuwait, the Emir of Kuwait is the supreme commander of the armed forces with a Minister of Defence who directs the Military of Kuwait through the Chief of the General Staff. The National Guard has its own commander, who reports directly to the minister of defence. Public...

 in 1997 and 2001.

The Denel G5 version has also seen continued development. The gun has been placed on an OMC 6x6
Four Wheel Drive
The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, more often known as Four Wheel Drive or just FWD, was founded in 1909 in Clintonville, Wisconsin, as the Badger Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company by Otto Zachow and William Besserdich.-History:...

 chassis as the G6 howitzer
G6 howitzer
The G6 self-propelled howitzer is a South African artillery piece, developed around the ordnance of the G5 howitzer. It is one of the most powerful self-propelled guns on a wheeled chassis....

, and won major export sales to the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 and Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

. In response to an India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n requirement, the G5 was mounted on a 4x4 truck, resulting in the T5, though as yet no orders for this variant have been forthcoming. It is also fitted into a turret that can fit on any suitable vehicle. The turret is marketed as the T6 which has already been fitted on the T-72
The T-72 is a Soviet-designed main battle tank that entered production in 1970. It is developed directly from Obyekt-172, and shares parallel features with the T-64A...

. Denel also used the basic ERFB ammunition concept to develop a new 105 mm gun, the G7 howitzer
G7 howitzer
The G7 is a South African 105 mm howitzer, produced by Denel. With a maximum range of it outranges all existing 105 mm howitzers, as well as most current 155 mm howitzers...

, which has become more interesting as forces look to downsize their artillery to improve mobility.

The 155/52

The dominant artillery system in the "Western World" remains the U.S. 155/39 as used in the M109 howitzer
M109 howitzer
The M109 is an American-made self-propelled 155 mm howitzer, first introduced in the early 1960s. It was upgraded a number of times to today's M109A6 Paladin...

. When it was first introduced, the ERFB concept was rejected for NATO service, but a slower post-Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 upgrade series led to it being re-evaluated when new purchases started in the mid to late 1990s. Out of these efforts an even longer 52-calibre version of the basic GC-45 system appears to be becoming a de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

standard for these newer designs, and most examples with the exception of the Chinese have moved to this larger gun (for instance, the G5-2000). With ranges of up to 75 kilometres (46.6 mi), Bull's basic design now dominates all future artillery systems.

External links

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