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US Army secretary: welding issues hinder Paladin howitzer production

29 August 2018
BAE Systems' first seven Paladin PIM prototypes - one of which is pictured here - were delivered to the army in May 2011. Upgrades and design changes have since added capability, but pushed production out considerably. Source: BAE Systems

The M109A7 Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) programme, a long-running effort to field significantly updated 155 mm self-propelled howitzers (SPHs), has been set back by some manufacturing issues, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper told reporters during a 29 August breakfast meeting.

The vehicles are based on a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle chassis, power train, and suspension, with a modified turret and electrical system. Contractor BAE Systems and the PIM programme have been awaiting approval from the army to enter full-rate production.

Government quality control inspections had “discovered that there was insufficient welding happening on the vehicles, on the chassis” at BAE Systems’ manufacturing facility in York, Pennsylvania, Esper said, adding that he thinks “we have it under control now; they have it under control”.

Bloomberg News first reported in July that the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) had found the company was experiencing supply-chain, part quality, and delivery issues, and that 50 howitzers that had been delivered to the army were recalled for inspection because of possible welding issues.

Esper said, “There were management issues there” at York. The facility also builds the US Army’s upcoming Armored Multipurpose Vehicle (AMPV) that is to be rushed to units in Europe to meet a need there.

The secretary said he plans to travel to York “in the coming weeks” to see what BAE Systems is doing to improve its management and quality control, and to ensure that quality control issues on PIM are addressed and are not also impacting the AMPV programme.

“In close co-ordination with the army customer and DCMA, we have taken corrective actions to improve our manufacturing process moving forward,” a BAE Systems spokesperson told Jane’s . “While there was no material impact to the vehicles’ performance, survivability, or lethality, we modified aspects of our welding practices.”

The spokesperson added: “BAE Systems is investing heavily in its production and manufacturing network to include its York facility as well as the supplier base.

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