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US Army preparing to test future Long-Range Cannon prototype

The US Army is planning to begin a two-year test series with a new Long-Range Cannon (LRC) prototype at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California beginning in October 2023, according to a Federal Register notice and the service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted the document on 6 January, detailing test plans and the potential impact on marine mammals. However, the document erroneously stated that this testing plan was for a future iteration of the army's Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) weapon. Instead, this document refers to a science and technology initiative formally called Strategic Long-Range Cannon that is now dubbed LRC, an army official told Janes on 18 January.

Service leaders have been interested in developing an LRC that can launch less expensive munitions out towards the 1,609 km (1,000 miles) range to hit anti-access/area denial targets such as fixed-infrastructure sites, long-range radars, command-and-control locations, hardened silos and bunkers, and communications nodes. The army has begun producing various weapon parts such as the gun tube and the carriage, while the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conducted a feasibility study that has not yet been released to the public.

Brigadier General John Rafferty, head of the army's Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, declined to detail the exact state of the LRC effort during an 18 January interview with Janes, in part, because Congress has not yet approved the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget. He did note that the service has tentative plans to build an LRC prototype this year.

However, the publicly released environmental notice previews pending test plans. More specifically, between October 2023 and October 2025, the army wants to fire 77 projectiles from the cannon over the course of 51 test event days.

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