The Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) weapon system has demonstrated it can get the job done. In previous tests and demonstrations, the ERCA has fired twice as far as any currently fielded Army cannon and has proven to fire pre-loaded rounds from a limited capacity autoloader magazine 2-3 times has fast as a gun crew. The autoloader’s speed was demonstrated once again during a test March 30 at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG).
The autoloader, designed by the Army Futures Command’s (AFC) Armament Center at Picatinny Arsenal, performs cannon loading tasks mechanically – setting the fuze, loading the projectile, propellant and stub charge, closing the breech – in sequence with barrel pointing to enable cannon firing at unprecedented rates.
Army Future’s Command Brig. Gen. John Rafferty Director of the Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) Cross Functional Team (CFT) traveled to YPG to see the demonstration first hand and to meet the team who is behind all the work.
He told the team, “The Army is watching what you are doing and they are impressed.”
That team consists of the Yuma Test Center (YTC) workforce at YPG, Armament Center employees from Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. and Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y, and Project Manager Combat Ammunitions Systems employees, also from Picatinny Arsenal.
The demonstration involved the Armament Center’s 31-round full-capacity autoloader using different types of charges, and the goal was to obtain data on how to increase the rate-of-fire in ERCA, and to verify the technical maturity of the major autoloader system subcomponents: projectile magazine, propellant magazine and transfer mechanism.
Rafferty explained, “We know that eventually we are going to have to improve the rate-of-fire of the system to deliver lethality against our adversaries in the volume that we need but also increase the survivability of our Soldiers and system. Allowing them to shoot quickly and move —because as soon as we put an ERCA battalion on the battlefield they will become the enemy’s number one priority target because the capability that it delivers is so significant.”
Chris Smith, Cannon Integrated Product Team Lead from the Armaments Center, whose team is in charge of cannon performance, added “With artillery when you are manually loading it, they can do it quickly in the beginning but then they get tired it slows down. This automated process will help keep that rate going by taking the user out of it and also keeps them safe.”
After viewing the inner workings of the weapon system Rafferty along with YPG and YTC leadership and the ERCA teams viewed the live firing of three inert rounds from inside of blast protected workspaces at the gun position. There was little time between each round and the work was, “Seamless” said Smith, “Today was very successful. Today’s demonstration was a culmination of a lot of hard work by the Armament Center and the industry partners to assemble and demonstrate an autoloader for ERCA against the requirements that were given a few years ago,” explained Senior Executive Service Anthony Sebasto, Armaments Center Executive Director for Enterprise and Systems Integration Center.
Rafferty told the crews on site, “With what we saw today, I don’t know how you could not be incredibility impressed.”
Now the data collected from this demonstration will be reviewed, analyzed and applied to the system.
“Today we demonstrated the firing rate. It gave the Army one more data point in terms of building confidence in ERCA ammunition handling capabilities and possibilities for the future,” said Sebasto.
Rafferty explained, “We are going to get range and lethality first and then when we are ready we’ll increase the rate-of-fire.”
Soon what was learned during this demonstration will be put into action once again with higher stakes.