ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - Anniston Army Depot began a pilot program to overhaul M777 medium, towed Howitzers in September 2010.

According to Eric Bennett, supervisor over the pilot overhaul, the project is now about 70 percent complete.

The M777 artillery system, created by BAE Systems, replaced the M198, which ANAD has performed overhaul work on.

"This type of artillery is relatively new and is just now getting to the point where they're ready for overhaul," said Randy Burke, a depot maintenance management specialist.

As depot personnel prepared for this overhaul, new capabilities were gained that may benefit the installation in the future. Among them is the ability to weld titanium.

"A lot of systems are looking to cut weight and titanium is good for that," said Burke.

The depot acquired titanium welding procedures from the Hobart Welding Institute and sent three welders, David Thompson, Geoffrey Waldrop and Brian Capps, there for certification. Additionally, Bob Stockton, the depot's welding engineer, and Ron Brannon, a welding inspector went to Hobart to learn about the gas tungsten arc welding procedure used.

"Titanium is a very reactive alloy. It likes to bond with everything. So, you have to use a lot of care in terms of cleanliness in the welding and ensure there is plenty of gas coverage," said Stockton.

Because of this new welding process and its need for a clean space, a new building is being constructed. The 5,600 square foot facility will be attached to the building housing the M777 pilot overhaul program.

The $725,000 building contract has been awarded to DIC Construction.

Burke said it was vital, prior to the start of this overhaul, to send depot employees to school to learn about the weapon they would be working on.

Two mechanics, Mike Collier and Eric Mangum, leader Cory Humphries, inspector Kim Johnson and engineer Ken Nix went to new equipment training at Ft. Sill, Okla., to get hands-on training to disassemble the weapon safely.

"With some parts of the weapon, you can really get hurt if you don't disassemble it in the right sequence," said Burke.

ANAD's pilot is not the first overhaul for the M777. Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow started the first pilot overhaul for the Marines and Anniston's Richard Brummett, Technical Publications Office, has been assisting with writing the Depot Maintenance Work Requirement specifications and procedures.

The Army pilot program here will validate those specifications.

The M777 chosen for Anniston's overhaul had firing problems while in use, according to Burke. This makes it a difficult, and more realistic, overhaul situation for the depot's employees.

The weapon has been completely disassembled and its parts routed to support shops for inspection and reclamation.

During the overhaul process, the depot's new ability to weld titanium has paid off.

"One part had a crack in the weld and our new capability to weld titanium was successfully applied to it. If we had to replace that part, it would have cost over $200,000," said Burke.

After the pilot passes final inspection, there will be a joint inspection with an equipment specialist. This inspection will pave the way for future overhaul work with the M777.