Although current military operations are much different from those of the past, where concentrating indirect firepower on enemy formations was part of the routine, artillery has not lost any of its importance. However, while the number of systems involved is obviously smaller, as artillery fire missions are mostly aimed at small targets which have to be hit with surgical precision in order to limit collateral damage as much as possible, the mobility requirements have sky-rocketed.
Ease of deployment, and therefore mobility in today's context, does not only mean to be able to move quickly from one point to another (not the least to evade counter-battery fire), but also do this 'properly' without unnecessarily destroying existing infrastructures. Forces now have to deal with the constraints of current theatres of operation which often feature narrow roads and bridges that are unable to withstand heavy loads. The fast thing peacekeeping forces need is to be treated as destructors by a powerless and often 'set upon' local population.
The above-mentioned considerations have certainly had an impact on the development of a series of new truck-mounted artillery systems that not only improve tactical mobility on the field but also the conveyance of such systems on board tactical transport aircraft, something that is not possible with heavy tracked self-propelled howitzers which, on the other hand, ensure a much greater protection to their crews.
Some intermediate solutions, consisting of turreted systems on wheeled chassis, already existed during the Cold War, as evidenced by then Czechoslovakia's pioneering system first spotted in 1980. This was based on a Tatra 815 8 x 8 truck chassis equipped with a turreted 152/37mm gun. Designed by Konstrukta and produced by ZTS, both companies located in Slovakia, it was known as the Dana, from the initials of self-propelled auto-loading gun in the Czech language (Delo Automobilni Nabijene Automaticky). It entered service in 1977 and had a combat weight of 29.5 tonnes. Admittedly not easily air transportable, it however provided a high mobility on road, as it was able to speed up to 80 km/h. Moreover the Dana was equipped with an autoloader which rammed round and cartridge at any elevation of the gun, something unique at that time, and thereby provided a high sustained rate of fire of three rounds per minute for 30 minutes. Its only limitation was the traverse of the turret, which was of [+ or -] 45[degrees]. The Czechoslovak Army deployed 408 such howitzers, which were then split following the separation of the Czech and Slovak republics, the former getting 273 Danas (164 still in service) while the latter got 135.
Following the end of the Cold War and the subsequent access to Nato by both countries, Slovakia redeveloped a new version known as the Zuzana (see author's title photograph), which is a Dana equipped with a 155/45 mm gun firing Nato-standard ammunition. The Slovak Army acquired 16 systems in 1998, and plans to increase that number to 76 while phasing out the remaining 32 152-mm systems. Greece was the first export customer for this model. In 2003 a new version known as Zuzana Al was introduced, with a 152/52-mm gun. The Dana is also fielded in the Libyan Army (120), Polish Army (111) and Georgian Army (originally 47); the latter nation is the only one to have fired them in anger, when they were used against the Russian forces in Southern Ossetia in August 2008. Some of them have supposedly been destroyed by Russian forces, while others may have been captured. Two new versions have also been developed, the Modan, an upgraded Dana with increased accuracy and rate of fire, and the Himalaya, which mates the Zuzana turret...