YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. — U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground is at the forefront of Army modernization efforts. Perhaps the highest profile test projects at YPG in recent years supports one of the Army’s top modernization priorities: long range precision fires.
The Army aspires to dramatically increase the range of smart munitions over the 30 kilometers a currently fielded 155mm howitzer shell is capable of when fired at top zone with rocket assistance. YPG testing has already achieved significantly increased distances in test fires conducted at both the proving ground and the nearby Barry M. Goldwater Range.
The effort is called Extended Range Cannon Artillery and YPG conducts developmental testing of multiple facets of it, from the artillery shells to the longer cannon tube and larger firing chamber the improved howitzer will need to accommodate them. YPG’s ammunition plant has been instrumental in building multiple experimental formulations, shapes and configurations for new propelling charges to accommodate the improved projectiles.
“It’s not a baby step, it is a big leap,” said Steve Flores, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team Integrator. “It’s a soup-to-nuts redesign of the artillery system: a new cannon, a new platform and new ammunition.”
YPG has also conducted extensive developmental testing of prototypes of the XM 1299 self-propelled howitzer and recently hosted the third Soldier Touchpoint of the system held at the proving ground. This event marked the first time that Soldiers have been able to drive the vehicle in realistic conditions in the natural environment.
“It’s meant to get equipment into the hands of Soldiers earlier,” said Flores. “It gets user feedback for the development of the weapon system and the munition.”
“They validate the Soldiers’ crew drills, get them used to it and see what they think,” explained Hector Magana, test officer. “They ask if it is going to help them or not, what about the new system that they like and don’t like. Based on that, they make changes to the vehicle before it gets fielded.”
The Soldiers who participated in the week-long event hailed from the unit that will do operational assessments of the platform in fiscal year 2024.
“Each one of them was handpicked specifically for the skills that they have shown in the line of duty,” said Giancarlo Torres, test officer. “Any recommendations they may have will be taken with high value.”
YPG support included personnel to drive and operate the weapon, data collectors, test officers and instrumentation personnel. Though Soldiers will ultimately fire the weapon, this touchpoint focused on other aspects of operation, such as breech and tube maintenance; YPG gun crews performed all firing.
“We make sure the vehicles are ready, that they have all of the ammunition and propellant they need to do live fires and make sure they have support from drivers and test officers to ensure everything is done safely,” said Magana.
“Our personnel are the ones trained on how to operate the prototypes,” added Flores. “It makes sense to bring the Soldiers here to be trained by our trained personnel as well as the developers.”