Picatinny Arsenal engineers are progressing work with their M777 extended range (ER) howitzer, based on the 155 mm M777 towed artillery system, and expect to soon test the weapon with new ammunition.
Test firings in November 2016 helped advance the M777ER programme that officials hope can "create an M777 howitzer that can fire out to over 70 km", Picatinny Arsenal said in a 27 February statement.
Modifications added 2.4 m to the cannon, but limited the added overall system weight to 454 kg. "The total length of the tube increased the chamber volume as well as the rifling length," Picatinny said. "That, in combination with the additional increment of legacy propellant, resulted in an increase in range of several kilometres."
The M777ER is part of a wider Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) project to develop technology that can extend ranges for all 155 mm artillery. It includes a XM907 cannon as well as XM1113 rocket-assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and a new fire control system.
Programme officials are to next test the M777ER to determine if it can handle "the force from the new ammunition since we would be going from a 7 km increase in range to a 40 km increase in range". If successful, those tests could lead to user evaluations or soliciting other modifications.
Testing in July 2017 will use "some new prototype hardware and new ammunition to build on the confidence we got from the November  test, but isn't a complete upgrade to the system yet", David Bound, M777ER team lead, told Jane's.
Then, around July 2018, Bound expects the final demonstrator will be fully upgraded with all of the army's latest hardware. "We are working towards getting this demonstrator to be as close to representative of the howitzer we would eventually qualify for fielding as we possibly can," he said.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options: ihs.com/contact