Until now, mobile and Self-Propelled Army 155mm artillery cannons had maximum ranges of 30 to 40 kilometers. By designing a first-of-its-kind Extended Range Cannon Artillery programme, the Army has significantly increased the range at which its GPS-guided precision rounds can attack in recent years.
The Army’s 155mm Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) howitzer is being maintained and upgraded for future wars due to its sustained involvement in providing the technical foundation for the Army’s new breakthrough 70km Extended Range Cannon Artillery programme.
The ERCA weapons system combines the chassis, ammo, and fire control components of a Paladin PIM with a longer 58-caliber cannon developed by the Army. The new range-doubling weapon, which has shown remarkable promise, is essentially a modified PIM vehicle.
The PIM can shoot precision shots, hold more armour, and power up more electrical systems onboard. The car has a 600-volt on-board power supply that will accept new networking technologies when they become available in the future. Interestingly, some of the technical foundations and modernization activities critical to maintaining and prepping the Paladin date back many years, as evidenced by this previously publicly disclosed Army report from several years ago, which can be viewed on their website.
The PIM’s onboard power system is based on technology created for the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C), a 155mm howitzer that was previously designed for Future Combat Systems’ Manned Ground Vehicles programme, which was discontinued in 2009.
The NLOS-electric C’s drives are faster than the preceding self-propelled howitzers’ hydraulic drives. The electric motors, according to an Army weapons developer, allow for more consistent slamming of the round, which results in more consistent muzzle velocities. Electric drives also produce far more on-board power, which is required for modern electronics, sensors, and command and control systems.
The gun of the PIM vehicle is mounted on a chassis made out of Bradley Fighting Vehicle components such as the engine, transmission, and tracks. A sustained rate of fire of one round per minute and a maximum rate of fire of four rounds per minute is included in the PIM. Hundreds of new Paladin PIM sets have been built by the Army in recent years, each with a self-propelled artillery and an ammo resupply truck.
The current fleet of M109A6 Howitzers, which were conceived in the 1950s and manufactured in the 1960s, is nearing the end of its useful life. The current fleet is overloaded in terms of weight and power, and there is little room for expansion in terms of mobility or force protection. According to Army developers, the PIM programme is required to overcome capability gaps for self-propelled artillery.
Longer-range cannons are accompanied by lethality advancements, such as the introduction of new rounds capable of attacking and destroying a larger sphere of targets. With this scenario in mind, the US Army and Raytheon are developing a tank-killing “Shaped Charge” 155m accuracy artillery round as part of a large-scale strategic effort to outrange opponents and destroy incoming enemy armoured columns at safer standoff ranges.
The new weapon outperforms existing state-of-the-art anti-tank weaponry such as the TOW and Javelin missiles; the Javelin has a range of up to 2.5 miles and the TOW missile has a range of up to 3,000 metres. The Excalibur “shaped charge” introduces a totally new anti-tank weapon with a range of up to 30 kilometres.
According to senior Army weapons developers, expanding ground-war attack ranges alters several basic features of Combined Arms Maneuver strategy.