WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- The Arsenal announced this month that it received a $7.8 million contract to provide the Australian Army, via BAE Systems, with 19 M776 155mm cannons as part of the U.S. State Department's Foreign Military Sales program.

"This multimillion dollar order will add to our current workload more than 16,000 hours of direct labor," said Jake Peart, the Arsenal's chief of Production Control & Program Management. "We will begin shipping in the fall of 2013 and we will complete our production in the spring of 2014."

Hugh McNamara, the Arsenal's program manager for the 155mm cannon, said that this is a follow-on order for the Australian Army as the Arsenal had previously worked with BAE Systems to manufacture 35 tubes and subassemblies for the M777A2 howitzer in 2011.

The M777 howitzer, which was fielded in the U.S. military in 2003, is replacing the much heavier M198 155mm towed howitzer system currently in use by the Royal Australian Artillery, McNamara said.

"This order will require a wide variety of specialized machining skills because the order is for the complete cannon system, which includes such parts as the 155mm barrel, breech block, breech ring, and muzzle break," McNamara added.

This is the second multi-million dollar contract awarded to the Arsenal in the last month. In October, the Arsenal received a $4.2 million contract for a new lightweight 60mm mortar baseplate for the U.S. Army.

According to BAE Systems:

The revolutionary M777, weighing in at less than 4200kg (about 9259 pounds) is the world's first artillery weapon to make widespread use of titanium and aluminum alloys, resulting in a howitzer which is half the weight of conventional 155mm systems.

The M777 can fire the "smart" Excalibur round, co-developed by Global Combat Systems up to 40 km (25 miles) accurately enough to target individual rooms within a building, reducing the chance of innocent casualties and allowing supporting fire to be brought down much closer to friendly troops.

It can hurl a standard 43.5 kg shell almost 30 km (21 miles) at 2.5 times the speed of sound. The projectile takes just over a minute to fly this distance and reaches a maximum height of 12km. The shell reaches its maximum speed of 2900 kph (1800 mph) by the time it exits the muzzle of the gun.