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Infantry Weapons

AUSA 2018: US Army Extended Range Cannon Artillery programme eyes 130 km range

10 October 2018
A US Army M109A6 Paladin howitzer conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West Airfield in Iraq as coalition forces move towards Mosul. The army's ERCA and C-DAEM projects hope to add range for 155 mm weapons as well as ‘area effects’ weapons that do not leave behind UXO. Source: US Army

The US Army aims, via its Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) programme, for howitzers to reach out to 130 km or farther in range, and several technology solutions are now emerging.

The army's Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) Cross-Functional Team recently conducted a 'deep dive' into the service's LRPF portfolio to evaluate all the investments for the next five-year funding plan, Colonel John Rafferty, director of the LRPF Cross-Functional Team, told reporters on 10 October at the Association of the United States Army's (AUSA's) annual conference.

That exercise is now informing recommendations that Col Rafferty's team will make for, among other things, how the army can get 155 mm artillery to reach the 130 km range. "I think that's entirely doable", he said, but the service is still exploring timelines and how much risk it wants to take.

"I think there are a couple of technologies out there that allow us to get to 120-130 [km]," Col Rafferty said.

"Ramjet is one," he said, referring to air-breathing jet engines to assist the artillery shells in reaching longer ranges. South Korea's Poongsan and Norway's Nammo, for example, have each recently revealed 155 mm solid-fuel ramjet propelled artillery shells.

The army may also explore trading off payload and lethality for longer ranges, an army official said, but noted that the service is still exploring what targets it would need to strike at that range and what trade-offs it might be willing to make.

The ERCA is a wider and longer-term effort to improve howitzers, and aside from range it will also consider technologies gleaned through the army's 155 mm Cannon-Delivered Area Effects Munition (C-DAEM) project.

C-DAEM is taking an incremental approach to new development, "focused on rapidly fielding disruptive capabilities while fully replacing the utility of the DPCIM", Peter Burke, deputy project manager for combat ammunition systems within the US Army's Program Executive Office for Ammunition, told Jane's in May.

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