Almost two decades of Paladin work
June 7, 2012
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- What looks and sounds like a tank, but isn't a tank?
The answer, which many employees at Anniston Army Depot know very well, is a Paladin.
The M109 Self-Propelled Howitzer was first introduced in the 1960s. Since that time, the weapon system has seen a number of upgrades until it reached its current configuration -- the M109A6 Paladin.
The U.S. Army and BAE Systems, the original equipment manufacturer for the Paladin, signed a memorandum of understanding a few years ago to upgrade the system one more time -- to the Paladin Integrated Management program, or PIM.
The upgrade will replace the vehicle's chassis, give it an all electronic drive system where it currently has a hydraulic drive system and upgrade the powertrain and the track, according to Joey Baker, Anniston Army Depot's maintenance management specialist for the Paladin and PIM.
The depot has been the primary location for repair and overhaul of the Paladin since the late '90s, when it inherited the system as part of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure actions.
"We have really become the center for knowledge with Paladins and Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles," said Baker, adding he regularly receives phone calls from throughout the U.S. requesting troubleshooting assistance.
Currently, the depot is performing maintenance swaps on all Paladins within the Army National Guard -- sending overhauled and maintained vehicles to the units in exchange for their current stock of Paladins in need of overhaul.
"All of these assets will come back to the depot and we'll eventually overhaul them as part of our core workload," said Baker. "It's a great program. The units receive upgraded equipment and we receive their old equipment to work."
In addition to the National Guard workload for the M109, the depot currently has a direct sales contract with BAE Systems to support the PIM program, an overhaul program for 35 Paladins and 35 FAASVs and a demilitarization program for 36 vehicles.
Under the demilitarization agreement, select components that can or should be repaired or overhauled are removed from the vehicle in disassembly and the remains are sent to DLA Disposition Services for destruction.
Baker has a great deal of pride in the Paladin program, having seen the quality of the final product and the care taken by the workforce at every step.
"Soldiers' lives depend on this equipment, and we realize that," said Baker. "The whole Paladin community -- between Anniston, the program manager and BAE Systems -- we really work well together as a group."
The quality, according to Paladin supervisor Lavone Stephens, comes in part from the fact that one cost center in the Directorate of Production has handled all of the M109A6 overhauls and repairs for the approximately 13 years of production here.
"We have built more than 600 Paladins and have had less than six major write-ups when they were fielded," said Stephens. "I probably have the best group of mechanics -- term and permanent -- on the installation."