Warren, Mich. (Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012) - Last week, the U.S. Army began the Limited User Test (LUT) of the Self-Propelled Howitzer Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) program. Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 4th Battalion-27th Field Artillery, 1st Armored Division, of Fort Bliss, Texas are set to complete a week long field exercise in simulated combat conditions, evaluating the PIM's operational capability and reliability."The LUT will prove the suitability, effectiveness and survivability of the platform with Soldiers manning the system for the first time," said Lt. Col. Dan Furber, product manager for Self Propelled Howitzer Systems.Additionally, the Army will complete the RAM Growth Curve as required prior to the Milestone C Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) decision scheduled to occur in June 2013."If the PIM meets expectations the Army will begin Low Rate Initial Production in 2013, with the full production for a total of 580 sets of Self-Propelled Howitzer and Carrier Ammunition Tracked units scheduled to begin in early 2017," added Furber.Currently, the Paladin PIM is slated to begin fielding in late FY17 as part of the Army's modernization to its Self-Propelled Howitzer fleet.The PIM modernization effort is a significant upgrade of the M109A6 Paladin which includes buying back Space, Weight, and Power - Cooling (SWaP-C). While the Self-Propelled Howitzer's cannon will remain unchanged the PIM will sport a brand new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, steering system, to go along with an upgraded electric ramming system. The new 600-volt on-board power system is designed to accommodate emerging technologies and future requirements, as well as current requirements like the Network. The on-board power system leverages technologies developed during the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) program."The 70 kW 600-volt on-board power system is a key enabler for adding future capabilities to the PIM once it's fielded. Anything new the Army gives us, we now have the power to integrate," said Col. Bill Sheehy, project manager for the Army's Heavy Brigade Combat Team.These improvements will ensure the PIM can keep pace on the battlefield with other members of the Army's HBCT formation from both an automotive and technological standpoint. PIM is engineered to increase crew force protection, improve readiness and vehicle survivability, and avoid component obsolescence.As a way of keeping life-cycle costs down, the PIM shares power train and suspension components and other systems with the Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Establishing a level of commonality between the vehicles, means increased availability and lower costs over the years.The M109 Paladin has been a staple of the battlefield for the better part of the last five decades and the improvements made by the PIM will allow the M109 to stay relevant for the foreseeable future.The PIM Program modernizes the M109 set of vehicles: the Self-Propelled Howitzer and the Carrier Ammunition Tracked. The effort is being led by Product Manager Self Propelled Howitzer Systems, which falls under leadership of the Project Manager, Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems.