(Reuters) - Russia will soon deploy its newest howitzers to its Northern Military District which borders Finland and Norway, the head of the Rostec state defence conglomerate said in remarks published on Wednesday.
The testing of the new Coalition-SV self-propelled artillery units has been completed and their mass production has already started, Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec told the state RIA news agency in an interview.
The first pilot batch will be delivered by the end of 2023, he said.
"I think they will appear there (in the Northern Military District) soon, since howitzers of this class are needed to provide an advantage over Western artillery models in terms of firing range," Chemezov said.
In 2021, Russia's President Vladimir Putin changed the status of the Russian Northern Fleet, whose zone of responsibility was chiefly the Russian Arctic, to the Northern Military District, incorporating into it also the Murmansk region, which shares borders with Finland and Norway.
Since launching a full-scale invasion in Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has accused "the collective West" of staging a proxy war with Russia and warned that Moscow will build up forces at its western borders following Finland's accession to the U.S.-led NATO alliance.
Earlier in December, Russia's TASS state news agency reported that single Coalition-SV howitzers had already been deployed to the frontline in Ukraine.
The howitzers, with a range of up to 70 kilometres (44 miles), are equipped with a modern 2A88 cannon of 152 mm caliber with a firing rate of more than 10 rounds per minute, as well as a modern system for automating the processes of gun pointing, target selection and navigation, according to TASS.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Stephen Coates)