Army fields its first light-weight howitzer

By Edward Murray and Martin Kane, The Picatinny VoiceOctober 31, 2006

Army fields its first light-weight howitzer
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Army News Service, Oct. 31, 2006) - With the recent delivery of eighteen new M777 lightweight 155mm howitzers to the Army's 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, the King of Battle - the field artillery's nickname - took a giant step forward.

The M777 is the military's newest field artillery weapon, a lightweight 155mm towed howitzer developed jointly by the Army and Marine Corps. It will be the artillery system for the Army's Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.

The program is managed by a joint-service program office here. The weapon systems themselves are manufactured by BAE Systems with final integration and assembly occurring at the firm's Hattiesburg, Miss., facility.

The M777 is the first ground-combat system to make extensive use of titanium in its major structures to trim weight; the howitzer is 7,000 pounds lighter than the M198 weapon it replaces.

"The weight reduction improves transportability and mobility without impacting range or accuracy," said Joint Program Manager James Shields.

Shields said the system will be compatible with the entire family of 155mm ammunition, including the Excalibur precision munition when it is eventually fielded.

The 2-11 FA is part of the Army's fifth Stryker Brigade Combat Team. It recently completed new-equipment training and a live-fire battalion exercise using the basic M777 system at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Prior to receiving the M777, the 2-11 FA was an exclusively 105mm battalion that was equipped with the M119 howitzer.

The M777 has the deployability advantages of lightweight system like the M119, but the firepower of a 155mm weapon like the larger M198. Two systems can be transported on a C-130 at the same time.

The new howitzers have returned to Schofield Barracks, where they will be retrofitted with a digital fire control system (DFCS) in January to become M777A1s. The DFCS will provide the howitzer with the capability to communicate, navigate and aim, an upgrade that will increase accuracy and responsiveness.

Soldiers from 2-11 FA said they were pleased with the new weapons and look forward to the added capabilities provided by the DFCS upgrade.