"Ready to fire!"
A soldier loads shells into the howitzer's automatic shell-feeding system.
On the Kairiai military training area in Lithuania: With only moments to go until the fire order is given, the howitzers set out into the open terrain and move into their assigned firing position from their sheltered location in the forest. Now there is tension in the air. "It is unbelievable to feel how the howitzer reacts to the enormous forces unleashed when the shot is fired," says Sergeant Jana M., the commander of the howitzer's crew. Now the show begins: Over the radio, the order to fire comes in. "Go," she calls to the driver. A few seconds later all four howitzers are in their firing positions, spin their turrets in the direction of fire and get ready to fire.
The platoon's fire direction centre has already processed the target coordinates, taking into account weather data and wind speeds. This helps to calculate the right firing angle and other parameters. In the crew compartment, the gunner takes over. After the automatic loading system has fed a high-explosive shell, the loader inserts a propelling charge into the barrel and closes the breech. "Ready to fire," he yells. There is silence in the crew compartment. "Fire!" The commander presses the firing button, and the extremely heavy howitzer shakes under the pressure created by the propelling charge. It takes almost a minute until the projectile hits its target.