By: Michael Tobolo, Junior Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History




During the South African incursion into Angola in 1975, The South African Defence Force (SADF)

realized that their 88 mm G2 (25 Pounder) and 140 mm (5,5 inch) field gun of the second world war in (1939-1945) vintage was unable to match the Soviet modern equipment used by the Angolan forces.

The South African Artillery required a weapon that could deliver constant and accurate fire and at the same time be flexible enough for deployment in the conventional and unconventional roles necessary for artillery in modern warfare.


Such a weapon also had to combine the characteristics of various types of guns in one versatile system. As a result, a new gun system was developed, and the new 155 mm (G5 Howitzer) replaced the 88 mm (25-pounder) and the 140 mm (5.5-inch) weapons which had been in use since the end of the Second World War.


                 Figure 1. A 155 mm G6 and G5-Howitzer on display at DITSONG: National Museum of Military History.



 Development history of the 155 mm G5 towed howitzer


 ARMSCOR (Armaments Corporation of South Africa) commenced with the development of the G5 in 1977. Lyttelton Enineering Works designed the G5 with Denel Land Systems as Manufacturer. After the completion of extensive tests on various prototypes and pre-production models, based on a Canadian GC-45, ARMSCOR procured barrels, 30 000 rounds and design specifications for the GC-45 from Gerald Bull. One of the GC-45 test pieces was mounted on a US 155mm M59 carriage and a further six GC-45s had changes made to internal ballistics, barrel construction and carriage and cradle fixtures to become a prototype model and eventually leading to the G5. The operational G5 was finally combat-tested and introduced in 1986. The G5 is extremely versatile combining field gun, howitzer, mortar, and anti-tank characteristics. It is fitted with an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which provides hydraulic power for ease of deployment and handling in the gun position. Lowering the firing platform, spreading the trail, raising the bogey wheels, and operating the pneumatic rammer are all done with the aid of the APU which gives the gun a self-propelled capability of 16 km/h. The G5 has a manual backup system which enables the crew to operate the gun in the event of hydraulic failure. The detachment of five, first-line ammunition and basic equipment needed in the field is transported in a ten-ton vehicle capable of 90 km/h. The detachment can deploy the gun within two minutes after arrival in the gun position. The barrel of the G5 can be transversed through 82 degrees and elevated from minus 3 to 75 degrees providing increased flexibility.



        Figure 2. South African soldiers setting up a 155mm G5 towed howitzer. (Source: Chris Baxter).


The propellant charges for the ammunition are packed to provide for six different range capabilities enabling this flexibility to be exploited fully, making it possible for a G5 to command an area of 1000 square kilometres.


There are two versions of the 155 mm gun: the towed version, which is the G5 and the self-propelled version, the G6, which is the G5 placed on an OMC 6X6 chassis. The G5 and the G6 have similar parts – the barrel recoil mechanism and train which are interchangeable. The guns can use all standard 155 mm ammunition including that of NATO. ARMSCOR had produced a comprehensive range of ammunition to meet all the requirements.


Later models of the gun that were put into operational service have certain minor modifications. These are: a more powerful motor, a different pattern muzzle brakes and the elimination of the fume extractor (the prominent collar on the barrel). Up to 5 variants were produced, which is G5 MK I, G5 MK II, G5 MK III, G5 MK IIIA and G5 MK-2000 which is a 52-calibre gun.


       Figure 3. A 155 mm G5 Towed Howitzer during an operation in Libya.


Technical data of 155 mm g5 towed howitzer

Range……………: Standard 30 km (19mi).

                             : Base Bleed 40 km (25 mi)

                             : VLAP: 50 km (31 mi)

Traverse……….: 15º: 82º(Up)

                              Above 15º: 65º

Mass……………: 13 750 kg

Length………….: 9,5 m

Width…………….: 3,3 m

Height……………: 2,1 m

Barrel Length….: 7 m

Elevation…………: – 3 to + 75º                       

Ammunition………: High Explosive (Mass 45,5 kg)

                                High Explosive Base Bleed (Mass 47 kg)


                                White Phosphorous


                                   Armour Piercing (Mass 45

 Rate of fire……….: 3 Rounds per minute for the first 15 minutes

                                  And thereafter 2 Rounds

 Muzzle Velocity….: 897 m/s

 Breech…………….: Semi-automatic

 Detachment………:  Between 8 and 13 Soldiers


 Operational history


The South African Defence Force used the G5 Howitzer in its operations during the South African Border War in Angola and Namibia between 1986 and 1989.


The G5 first saw action during operation Alpha Centauri in 1986, a South African military operation during the Angolan Civil War.


The aim of the operation was to stop the People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) to proceed with an offensive attack on Cuando Cubango, a province of Angola and advance to Jamba the strategic town/capital of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The G5 also saw action in the Iraq-Iran War between 1980 and 1988.


Current operators

  1. Libya (Donated by the United Arab Emirates)
  2. Malaysia
  3. South Africa


Previous operators

  1. Iraq (Destroyed after Iraq invasion)
  2. United Arab Emirates (Donated to Libya)
  3. Qatar



As with the G6 the G5 has been continually updated and now has a 52-calibre barrel and can fire a large range of extreme long-range shells. Despite these updates the gun still has a relative low number of shells it can fire sustained which in some way explains the relative low export success of the system. The South African Army however expects to field the gun, as with the G6, for a very long time into the foreseeable future.



1.DITSONG: National Museum of Military History archives.

  1. Kinard, Jeff (2008). Artillery: An Illustrated History of Its Impact(2007 ed.). ABC-CLIO Publishers. pp. 301–476. ISBN 978-1-85109-561-2.
  2. ^“G5 155mm Towed Gun/Howitzer”(PDF) (Press release). Denel. 3 September 2004.^ The Encyclopaedia of World Military Weapons 1988ISBN 0-517-65341-9

4. Jane’s Armour and Artillery 1996–97. Janes Information Group. 1996, p. 697ISBN 9780710613745.

5.^ Janes (1996), pg. 645

6.^LLC, Books (2010). Modern Field Artillery: G5 Howitzer, G7 Howitzer, Type 60 122 Mm Field Gun, 152 Mm Field Gun-Howitzer M84 Nora-A. General Books LLC. ISBN 9781158580255.

  1. “South Africa’s Modern Long Tom”. The South African Military History Society. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
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