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Feature: US Army's race for new howitzers, munitions takes off after modernisation effort scuttled

In March, the US Army demonstrated its new ERCA capability at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. (Janes/Ashley Roque)

US land forces want an artillery system that is more mobile and more lethal. While cutting-edge technology development failed to produce a production-ready system, the US Army is readjusting its acquisition approach and concepts of operations for artillery.

The army has determined that its Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) Program of Record is not an option for future artillery warfare, Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, announced in March 2024. This decision and more on advanced artillery technology stemmed from a tactical fires study that was completed in 2023 and has not been publicly released, said General James Rainey, commanding general of Army Futures Command (AFC).

ERCA was scheduled to transition to the major capability acquisition pathway after five years of research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E), according to the US Government Accountability Office. The army applied for a waiver for an additional year of RDT&E but was denied by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.

The decision was made “after an exhaustive tactical fires study that was done to revalidate elements of the requirement” led by AFC, Gen Rainey said. “The fires study validated the range and volume are still needed, so we want to find a different way to get there,” he said at the time.

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