New howitzer breaks the artillery mold.
The U.S. Marine Corps expects to begin operating a new 155mm towed howitzer howitzer: see artillery. next spring. The M777E1, made by BAE Systems BAE Systems
British manufacturer of aircraft, missiles, avionics, naval vessels, and other aerospace and defense products. BAE Systems was formed (1999) from the merger of British Aerospace (BAe) with Marconi Electronic Systems. , was selected in 1997 to replace the existing inventories of M198 155mm towed howitzers both in the Marine Corps and the Army.
The new howitzer is lighter, more accurate and easier to operate than existing artillery weapons, said Frank Hoerster, director of fire support systems for BAE.
Lessons from recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, prove that artillery is gaining relevance.
"I think there is some controversy that artillery is obsolete, that it isn't high-tech enough," Hoerster said, noting that the M777E] can hit targets with an accuracy of within 10 meters. "In the urban arms, the jungle or mountains, infantry needs covering fire right away."
Unlike other weapon systems, he said, artillery is "available 24 hours a day and it doesn't care about the weather."
The M777E1 weighs less than 10,000 pounds, or approximately 6,000 pounds less than the system it is replacing. It achieves its lightweight status from a novel production process; it is the first land-based armament system to use investment-cast titanium. During the process a destructible de·struc·ti·ble
Breakable or easily destroyed: destructible glassware.
de·struc ceramic mold is created, into which the molten metal is poured. It is not unlike emptying wax into a glass bowl, cooling it, and then cracking apart the bowl to reveal the form within.
The gun employs 28 of these investment-cast titanium parts. By using casts, fewer employees are needed to weld parts, and the manufacturing time and costs are reduced.
"The cannon's barrel is not made from titanium, but it's a traditional steel barrel from the U.S. Army arsenal," Hoerster said. "We're not shooting anything from a titanium barrel; that wouldn't work so well."
Parts are cast in facilities in 10 states and shipped to Hattiesburg, Miss. Low-rate production will continue until early 2005, when frill-scale manufacturing will begin.
The gun can be towed by a Humvee for short jaunts, or by 5-ton or 2.5-ton trucks for longer distances. It can be transported on a variety of fixed wing aircraft or helicopters. Two M777E1s can fit in a C130, whereas only one M198 could be stowed in the same space.
In 2003, a series of airlift tests with the Marine Corps' MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft were conducted at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) is a United States Army facility located near Aberdeen, Maryland (in Harford County).
The Army's oldest active proving ground, it was established on October 20, 1917, six months after the United States entered World War I. , Md., and Marine Corps Air Station New River Marine Corps Air Station New River (ICAO: KNCA, FAA LID: NCA) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter base near Jacksonville, North Carolina, in the eastern part of the state, at . Its ICAO airport code is KNCA. , N.C. During the tests, the howitzer's digital fire control system was operating while the MV-22 maintained speeds of up to 130 knots. The demonstration illustrated that the howitzer is ready to fire as soon as it arrives in a landing zone.
Like the Paladin Paladin
archetypal gunman who leaves a calling card. [TV: Have Gun, Will Travel in Terrace, I, 341]
See : Wild West and Bradley fighting vehicle, the M777E1 uses a ring laser gyroscope A ring laser gyroscope uses interference of laser light within a bulk optic ring to detect changes in orientation and spin. It is an application of a Sagnac interferometer. to fix its position, but it also backs up its location with a global positioning system Global Positioning System: see navigation satellite.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Precise satellite-based navigation and location system originally developed for U.S. military use. . "When it moves the navigational system is live," Hoerster said.
General Dynamics Armament Systems has been selected to develop a towed artillery digitization system for the M777E1. The digital fire control system will provide the capability to fire quickly and accurately, Hoerster said.
The weapon can send four rounds per minute downrange down·range
adv. & adj.
In a direction away from the launch site and along the flight line of a missile test range: landed a thousand miles downrange; the downrange target area. for two minutes of intense fire, and half that for sustained fire. The M777E1 was designed to fire GPS-guided 155mm shells that are now in development by Raytheon.
"This is the first howitzer that is able to shoot that," Hoerster noted.
In Army and Marine war games, nearly twice as many M777E1s survived the mock battle as M198s, according to BAE Systems. The ability to fire and move quickly enhanced the gun crew survivability sur·viv·a·ble
1. Capable of surviving: survivable organisms in a hostile environment.
2. That can be survived: a survivable, but very serious, illness. rating. At the same time, the new howitzer knocked out five rimes as many opposing artillery pieces, and generally registered 25 percent more kills.