In Afghanistan, BAE Systems’ M777 lightweight towed howitzer, developed out of a joint US Marine Corps and Army programme, was used very effectively for both point and area defence by US and Canadian forces. In the former role it was used to fire the Excalibur round, co-developed by BAE Systems, with ranges of up to 40km with extreme precision, reducing the chance of innocent casualties and allowing supporting fire to be brought down much closer to friendly troops.
A new generation of longer range smart ammunition promises to make the M777 even more effective. The Multi-Service Standard Guided Projectile (MS-SGP) is designed to enable the M777 to achieve ranges approaching 100km, with greater accuracy and lower cost than existing smart munitions. MS-SGP uses tested component designs derived from the highly successful 155mm Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) being codeveloped by BAE Systems for the Advanced Gun System to be fitted to the US Navy’s DDG-1000 ships.
The MS-SGP employs a sub-calibre 127mm rocket-assisted projectile fitted with sabots to enable it to be fired from the M777. Firing trials last year at the White Sands range in New Mexico demonstrated the accuracy of the projectile to a medium flight range of 50km and confirmed the system’s operational capability and readiness.
The M777 weighs just 4,200kg – less than half the weight of conventional 155mm artillery – with most of the weight reduction being achieved through the use of titanium. This provides exceptional mobility by medium lift helicopter, transport aircraft, on marine landing craft and over land. When deployed by air, the M777 can be brought to the theatre quickly over otherwise inaccessible terrain and above the reach of roadside bombs.